Photo by Lucy Hamblin
UK folk musician Laura Marling released her first EP back in 2007, when she was only 17 years old. Her songwriting chops grow sharper with each subsequent release, and last year’s A Creature I Don’t Know was arguably Marling’s strongest outing yet. Her cathartic lyrics were as potent as ever, the arrangements jagged and heavier.
This week, Marling returns to North America for a month-long tour in support of that album, starting with a performance at this weekend’s Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival. From the sunny garden of a London café, she briefly chatted with Consequence of Sound over the phone about the record, her creative process, and her recent Brit Award for Best Female Solo Artist.
It seems like your age is always a point of emphasis for interviewers and writers, even though you’re 22—a prime age for a singer-songwriter such as yourself. How do you feel about that?
I suppose now it seems a bit strange, because 22 is neither here nor there. If it’s still being brought up, it’s a bit strange. But age is such a strange thing.
As a songwriter, how are you different from your 17-year-old self?
In a practical way, I’m better at my instruments. I’m probably less self-aware, but more guarded than I was at 17.
Your latest album, A Creature I Don’t Know, sounds more complex than your earlier output. I hear some jazz in there. What was it like to compose these songs as opposed to the songs on previous albums?
The jazz was quite a surprise to me. Around two or three years ago, I played with the idea of being “cool” with music. That’s certainly not what it ended up sounding like on the album—it’s not a cool, jazz-y sound.
I don’t feel like I can change the way I write. I can only write in one way, whereas when I was a bit younger, I was more focused on being different. Now I don’t really care about being different, because I understand that I have an identity, and it’s the only identity I’m capable of having.
Can you talk about your creative process a little? What motivates you to pick up your guitar and write new music?
I play everyday—and I have guitars lying around everywhere I go—so to me it’s more of a relaxing process, sitting down and playing the guitar. And sometimes writing a new song takes me by surprise. I never really intend to sit down and write. The closest thing I can ever put it to is, like, something that needs to be sacrificed. There’s some kind of thought process that I’ve been thinking about for a long time that needs to be exorcised. That’s how it feels.
Is there an environment conducive to your songwriting?
There’s definitely an environment where I write most, and that tends to be late at night when I have the propensity to write poetry. I rarely play guitar right in front of people. The circumstance defines that.
Do you ever feel pressure to produce new material?
I feel it constantly. It’s what I do. It’s very much a part of my life, so I don’t really think about it like that anymore.