Jess Weiss 16/06/2008
Laura Marling's enchanting debut album, 'Alas I Cannot Swim,' has been lauded as one of the best records in 2008; the saviour of new folk; a classic to stand the test of time. After creating this fervent reaction, it seems like a lot for one 18 year old to live up to. With the chance to talk to Laura as she embarks on a tour of British churches, I had to ask how she copes with the pressure of such a positive reception and how it all started.
So you've chosen rather unusual venues for your next tour, how do you hope this will enhance the show?
Well the churches we're playing in are obviously very beautiful buildings with great atmospheres, which I really think lend themselves to our kind of music. I've not managed to visit them all yet, but I'm sure the acoustics will be important; we'll try to work out how to use the space best at each sound check and try to adapt and things, so I'm hoping they will be really exciting, memorable shows.
You seem to have a knack of doing things your own way, for example the special release 'Songbox' version of your album. Tell me about that?
It was another dimension for people to be part of the album as it were. It had a board game in it and things which represented each song, and a gig ticket.. it worked out better than I could have hoped really, cos the gigs were brilliant. Such a nice atmosphere. The box and the artwork, which tied it all together. That's what i always love about albums, the completeness of it all.. and I love reading the credits and the thankyous. I wanted to do something nice and luckily I had the means to do it.
How do you find being a solo artist different to playing in bands, do you find there's a lot more pressure?
I was in noah and the whale for nearly 2 years and I loved it so much- there was no pressure, I didn't write the songs or have the responsibility, I just had to stand at the side of the stage and sing whatever they gave to me, and they were so, so good.. but they're both fun in different ways. I love being able to play my music to people. I also will miss being in a band as well, though I tend to have a full band for me now, though they also play in other bands.
Which has been your favourite shows and why?
The first proper tour I did with a full band was called the and glock Noah and the Whale, Jesse Quin and the Mets, Mumford and Sons who are all people I've grown up with, so that was pretty cool. It was right at the beginning and none of us had any money whatsoever. There were ten of us in a six seater van, which was pretty smelly. We were sleeping on people's floors and stuff and we all played in each other's bands and it was so fun it all went into some massive ho-down ,as it were.
How do the people you're close to feel when they hear your songs? Do they see themselves as the characters you sing about?
The things I write about are based on experience but there's a storytelling edge to it. I don't want to wear my heart on my sleeve and bare my soul to the world; that would be far too difficult! I don't think people (I've written about) have ever been able to identify themselves in my songs.
How do you feel about the prospect of your second album?
I'm actually terrified thinking about the next album, because it feels like you can't remember... I was so happy with the last album, and it was everything I wanted it to be and it was complete and it fitted together. I just can't remember how I did it! I'm writing still but I can't remember how I became so content with the album so it's tricky..
Do you feel rushed?
I don't think I feel rushed because that's just not helpful at all but I do have something to live up to and there's no way of judging it. I think I'm just going to do what my gut tells me and listen to my heart.
Which of your collaborations have you enjoyed most?
Noah and the Whale have always been my passion. I love them and I have so much faith in them. I'm pretty sure they're going to take over the world! I hope to be able to work with them forever. I can't play with them anymore which is kind of heartbreaking, but it was just too much. I hope to be part of them forever. It's a really great time to be in music I think; there's so much going on, everyone's part of everyone else's band.
The Mystery Jets single was lots of fun too, they're cool boys. Have you known them for a long time?
A couple of years, since I've been living in London. I love their new album, I've been listening to it a lot. It's great cross over indie pop.
Where do you feel you fit in between indie pop and folk?
I don't know it's difficult.. nobody wants to be pigeon holed. I don't think i am so much now, but i think when the album was starting I was getting put in with this group of female songwriters who are fuck all like me. It was so frustrating! I started off saying 'aaah I'm not like that at all!' but that's a negative thing to do and not always helpful. Everyone has to have a reference I guess... I'm not really folk. I'm not really pop.
Have you found it difficult being classified as specifically a female artist?
I have found it so difficult! I mean if someone said to me female singer songwriter I'd be like 'oh god! Boring..' I am just cynical in that way which is why I am so aware of it. It is difficult, but there are lots of good female songwriters out there.. strong women doing cool things.
Who in particular has inspired you in that way?
My all time hero is someone called Diane Cluck, who is still around. In fact she never ever plays in London, and the one night she is, she's playing a gig on the same night I am so I'm going to miss it! Everyone should go see her, she's awesome. She's a proper strong woman and she just records albums and puts them out herself, she doesn't do any press or promotion. That's something I really respect about her, that's she's been doing it for years and years too.
How do you feel your songwriting's developed over the years?
When I first started writing they were pretty abysmal. They're still floating around somewhere on the internet. They're just shockingly bad, but i had to learn to forgive myself for being a teenager, for being young. I did grow up a lot in the last few years... In lots of ways I had to. I'd say I first started writing songs worthy of being listened to in the last two years, and that's where the first album really starts from.
Laura Marling appears to be such a genuine, charming music fan that both her enthusiasm and fears in life spill over into her music in a compelling and acutely honest way. If you've not already been bewitched by Miss Marling and her disarmingly graceful music, underpinned by a hint of spiky melancholy, you soon will be. I don't wish to echo common opinion and heap pressure on the young talent, but she's certainly something special, and I have confidence she will be around for many years to come.