A Mercury nominated debut, album two about to drop, and a third already on its way, Laura Marling is living The Good Life.
A few months ago, Laura Marling had her hand up a ewe’s bottom. That’s the way she puts it anyway. It’s become a bit of a passion, a dream of post-pop star living. Not so much the exploration of woolly animals’ intimate areas, but life on the farm, something she’s been experiencing during working holidays on a small holding somewhere in rural Somerset. Her last visit was during lambing season, when she got her hands dirty in a very literal sense.
While west London is most definitely home for Marling, she craves the countryside, that smell of fresh air, eggs collected in the morning with feathers still attached and muddy puddles to stamp in.
“I just go there and hope someone gives me a job,” she says, sitting in front of a smouldering fire in a friend’s beautiful Victorian home, a temporary comfort while the boiler in her own place across the road is fixed. “I don’t know anything about farming, but my boyfriend is a farmer so I thought I’d better learn. It seems so logical to me.”
This is an excerpt from an article that appears in the April issue of Clash Magazine. Pick it up in stores from March 4th. You can read the full issue online HERE and subscribe to Clash Magazine HERE.
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“I love good meat” seems a strange phrase to come out of this young woman’s mouth, an artist whose sound is delicate and folky rather than raw and bloody like a slab of beef, but she’s actually talking about her love for organic produce and her fear of the convenience on her doorstep. “Surely no one really benefits from that. Farmers seem to have it just right.”
But while worried that I have laid the foundation of future headlines about how Marling has turned her back on music to become a farmer’s wife, she quickly says, “I knit”, and tells me about a collection of children’s stories she has started to write.
Not only this, but just as her second album, ‘I Speak Because I Can’, is released, she’s already talking about her third, and there’s an air of excitement in her voice.
In fact, there is already talk of this third album being released this year, but Marling only says it will be a lot less than the two-year wait her fans had to endure this time round.
Laura Marling ‘Rambling Man’
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‘I Speak Because I Can’ has been hailed as having a ‘new sound’ in some of its early reviews, but Marling doesn’t see that much of a progression.
“I’d be surprised if my new sound alienated anyone because it’s just not far enough in a different direction,” she says. “It’s more upbeat so I think people will enjoy it.” Upbeat doesn’t quite capture it. It’s more mature, it’s harsher, it’s more traditional and it’s definitely more challenging.
Marling has produced more folk pop, but her voice has an edge to it now, her lyrics hark back to tales of wives and widows, maids and babes, and there aren’t as many sing-alongs. It’s beautiful, but it’s not as easy.
A toe still remains dipped in ‘Alas I Cannot Swim’, but Marling admits that many of the songs she wrote in the months after her debut were scrapped to make way for news ones.
“I’d been writing since I finished the first album but only ‘Blackberry Stone’ made it on,” she says, “even though it was a bit of an arse fitting it in.”
‘Blackberry Stone’ is one of the real pleasures on this album, among many. One of the biggest highlights has to be ‘Goodbye England (Covered In Snow)’, a beautiful sweeping song with a big Mumford finish and showing off Marling’s voice to the best of its ability. It stands out on the album, making it the ‘Cross Your Fingers’ moment and, therefore, will probably be the song Marling gets sick and tired of first.
The song also seems to be a bit of a missed opportunity following Britain’s big freeze at the end of 2009.
“It was actually released as a single just before Christmas as the country was covered in snow, but very quietly and a bit last minute. It was so fitting for the weather we had,” she says, a little disappointed that, on reflection, it could have been the best promotion for her new album, but pretty much went unnoticed apart from the occasional play on 6 Music.
Unfortunately, the same snow scuppered her own plans for what sounded like a gorgeous and very personal gig.
“We were going to do a gig at Eversley Church in Hampshire near where I grew up,” she says, reminiscing about her early days in a picturesque rural village. “My dad took me up there when I was eight or nine. I remember him saying I had to bring him back there before he was too old.” It wasn’t meant to be this time, but some smaller, more intimate gigs, are definitely on the cards.
“My favourite place to play is the Highlands,” she says, after proclaiming an ‘academy’ gig wasn’t her cup of tea. “We recently went to the Isle of Mull and played the arts centre. Folk music is still the original meaning of the word up there and people would come to the gig just because it was a gig. It still has that community feeling, which I think is a little lost in England these days.”
What’s certain is that, ornate chapel or major venue, her gigs will be full of adoring fans of all ages, from angsty teens singing every word to a beardy folky in his ’60s who saw early Joni, Joan or Sandy first time round.
Marling just hopes they will stick around to listen to an album she describes as “more optimistic with more of a fighting spirit”, unlike her first, which she says is a little “self-obsessed”. And she hopes she can be around along enough for “at least a couple more albums before moving to the countryside will her chickens, lambing ewes and vegetable patch…and a miniature dachshund called Potter.” How ideal.
Words by Gemma Hampson