INTERVIEW

“Female, alternative singer songwriters are not exactly thin on the ground of late. And it is easy to lump the young Laura Marling in with the likes of Kate Nash, Lily Allen and George Pringle – if you are entirely ignorant. Owing more to “old folk and old punk” than to the attitude-pop of the […]

“Female, alternative singer songwriters are not exactly thin on the ground of late. And it is easy to lump the young Laura Marling in with the likes of Kate Nash, Lily Allen and George Pringle – if you are entirely ignorant. Owing more to “old folk and old punk” than to the attitude-pop of the above, Marling compares more to the likes of Patti Smith, Vashti and Nico.

Marling’s first gig was little more than a year ago, at West London’s indie night Way Out West, two days after her 16th birthday. “”It was terrifying,”” she admits “”but great fun – always fun.”” A year on and the 17-year-old is signed to Virgin Records, with two major festival appearances, an EP and some pretty impressive support slots under her belt; “It was amazing – a proper honour,” she says of supporting Rufus Wainwright earlier this year “but I was too shy to speak to him. I walked past him a few times but I just couldn’t do it.”

With an ability to captivate an audience with a simple acoustic performance that most can’t achieve with a light-show and pyrotechnics, it is of little surprise that her enthusiasts include the likes of Wrainwright, Jamie T (whom she also recently supported on tour) and Alan Donohoe of The Rakes. Despite the many devotees and general awed atmosphere of her gigs, she states that “”I read a review of me the other day that said I performed well, but my stage presence was ‘somewhat – how do I put this? – retarded.'”

Having played guitar since the age of three, and beginning her song-writing in earnest around the age of 14, Laura does lay claim to a musical background of sorts in her songwriter father. “He used to sell songs to people but it never really went anywhere. He’s always played guitar though, and he actually owned a studio when I was young. There are some sweet old recordings of me as a baby while my Dad plays guitar, sort of‚”gurgling. He was incredibly useful at the start of my career.

“I grew up listening to the standard parent music that you end up loving when you’re a bit older – Bob Dylan, Carole King; my Dad really liked Steely Dan and James Taylor. I’ve recently got into stuff I only really knew existed, like Neutral Milk Hotel, who were around Nirvana-time, and Bonnie Prince Billy. The whole New York anti-folk scene is really interesting – there’s a woman called Diane Cluck who’s amazing; there’s also Jeffery Lewis [of New York’s Jeff Lewis Band].”

With a lyrical gravity far beyond the average teenager, Marling is influenced by everything from her own life to literature. “It’s a mix really, of experience and influence. I couldn’t write anything without knowing about it, but then, I couldn’t think about things in a certain way without having been influenced by what I’ve read or seen before. I do read a lot – at the moment I’m reading – oh God, it’s really pretentious – ‘The Outsider’ by Albert Camus.”
A book of illustrations, stories and a code to download tracks from the ‘My Manic and I’ EP will be released in October. “When you download, you don’t realise or think about how much work has gone into that track. With the loss of CD and album artwork my manager tried to think of something really interesting – so it wasn’t really my idea. We thought as well it would be nice to do something about the band. Because the name is Laura Marling and not a band name, people forget the band have a lot to do with it. I write the songs but they help with arrangements. So we put in a bit about the band in and also try to illustrate what I think the songs are about.” Fans have also been asked to add their interpretations of the songs, which has received quite a response on Myspace – “I had some brilliant ones on the blog. People put so much thought into it, it was amazing.”

Laura’s vocals have recently been adopted by Noah and the Whale – “kind of new-grunge folk, though they’d kill me for saying that” – but will next be touring with her band in September, proving live that she ain’t no ‘Lily Nash!’ “

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