Laura Marling - Interview
Who's saying what
“I’m a mental Joni Mitchell fan,” Marling tells me the next day. “You know, I couldn’t ever even think about covering a Joni Mitchell song. That would just stick the nail in the coffin.”
It’s the day after the Factory Theatre and Laura Marling’s in Melbourne, on the eve of her show at the Corner Hotel. She’s in the country to perform at winter’s most prestigious festival, Splendour in the Grass. Off the back of her appearance in Byron Bay, the eighteen year old songstress is traipsing down the eastern seaboard, performing a handful of sideshows in her first ever visit to Australia.
Her journey to this point is an oft-spun yarn. Leaving her home town of Reading when she was only sixteen, Marling absconded to London with a guitar on her back and stars in her eyes. She knew she wanted to be a musician - problem was, she’d never played a gig in her life, and had only started writing songs about twelve months previous. “I didn’t think I’d be doing it professionally,” Marling says of her musical ambitions. “Well, I knew I wanted to, but I wasn’t sure it was going to happen.”
No one could have predicted Marling’s rapid jettison to fame. It took only two shows before she was noticed by local Jamie T, who consequently offered her a spot on his national tour. It was while touring that Marling encountered local outfit Noah and the Whale, which she remembers “that feeling of ‘Oh God I wish I was in that band, I’d definitely be a lot cooler if I was in that band’”. She joined the four-piece as a backup singer, driving around the country alongside the whole band “in a Ford Fiesta with, like, a drum kit and all our gear”. Two years later, and Noah frontman Charlie Fink was producing Marling’s debut solo album, Alas I Cannot Swim.
It’s a record steeped in reverence for Sixties folk troubadours, echoing the sounds of Fairport Convention and, of course, Joni Mitchell. “I think it’s always been the honesty of it,” she considers when I ask her about her love of folk music. “It feels so personal. I know it’s not Sixties, but what I love about Bonny Prince Billy is that it almost feels like you shouldn’t be listening to his music because it’s so personal, but it really strikes a chord with I think anyone who has a soul, and that is what I love about music.“
So is honesty an important attribute in Laura Marling songs, I ask. “Honesty is something I think is very important,” she replies. “But I write at arm’s length, so I would never write so personally that I couldn’t perform it because my little heart can’t take too much of that. I am quite conscious of not wearing myself out in that way.”
She’s funny in that way, Laura Marling, as if she’s acutely aware of her own mortality. She fears complacency and thinking about the future. “If I think too much,” she begins, before continuing: “I mean, I’m on the other side of the planet at the moment. I’m enjoying myself immensely but if I think about it too much I’ll freak out so I try and just concentrate on now, but I know what I want in the future but I don’t want to think about it.”
What does Laura Marling want from the future, then? “I just want to be as happy as I am now,” she answers, “and as relaxed and I just don’t ever want to be complacent. It just ruins so many wonderful things.”
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