Cate Le Bon’s third album, Mug Museum, inspired by the death of her grandmother, takes an even more personal look at the Welsh singer-songwriter’s life. While working on the album, Le Bon began rethinking her family structure, specifically the female dynamics.
“I felt a very palpable shift in the maternal line of the family,” Le Bon said over the phone in October. “It got me thinking about these relationships, how your relationships change, and [how] your roles within relationships change over the years. You exist within a framework of people,” she explained. “I have an auntie, who was my mom’s kid sister and was the apple of my eye growing up. Now, I’m an auntie to my eldest sister’s children, and I know how it feels for them to look up to me. I know the weight of that kind of relationship on both sides.”
The album explores the different relationships that she has, whether it is with her family, friends, or even herself. The "mug museum" is “the place where you go to contemplate and resolve all of these relationships with yourself,” she said. It was also the nickname of her bedroom; she would always leave cups of tea in there. To Le Bon, mugs represent something domestic and normal, which comforts her: "As a family, we drink a lot of tea,” she said, “and it would be the one time that everyone would come [together].”
As an added bonus, Le Bon made about 100 mugs to sell along with the album (which of course are all sold out). She was looking to create something tangible to pair with something as intangible as music. “Whenever I see a piece of something that’s been handmade, I’m always fascinated by the artist’s thoughts and everything that they were thinking whilst they were making it that are trapped inside this creation,” she said.
The creation of the mugs were a much-needed break after recording the album. She threw herself into learning the skill. “I think, more than anything, it’s just nice to take the time to make something that is completely unique.” She laughed and added, “They’re not perfect.”
Cate Le Bon’s Mug Museum (Wichita Records) is out today.