Image Courtesy of Marlon Williams
When I was at BIGSOUND last month the folk artist with the biggest buzz by far was the gorgeous Marlon Williams. Originally from New Zealand, Williams now calls Melbourne home and has been wowing music lovers across the country with his golden voice and old school approach to country music. Marlon Williams is wrapping up his tour supporting Justin Townes Earle and Lindi Ortega in Brisbane tonight and has already been announced for a bunch of upcoming festivals including JamGrass, AWME, Mullum Music Festival and Port Fairy.
We sat down with Marlon Williams at BIGSOUND to talk about his whirlwind year, his recent tours and his upcoming album.
Gareth Hugh Evans: First of all I want to say congrats for scoring the Justin Townes Earle support. To me that means you’ve made it. Were you pretty stoked when that phone call came through?
Marlon Williams: Yeah. I’ve played with Justin twice before back in New Zealand and really enjoyed it both times. To be able to go and do a whole tour and take my whole band on tour is going to be amazing.
GHE: So you won’t just be doing the solo thing?
MW: Justin’s got his band, Lindi Ortega’s got her’s and I’ve got mine.
GHE: That’s awesome. I’ve been to see Justin Townes Earle on pretty much all of his Australian tours and he’s very particular about who he gets to support him and he really invests in the support artists as well. I feel like it’s going to be a boost for you as well to raise your profile and have him listening to your stuff every single night.
MW: Yeah it’s the nice thing about doing more than three shows in a row with someone. I always find that even if you don’t really like the person’s stuff the familiarity of it rides through and you end up liking it anyway.
GHE: You seem to be everywhere at the moment as well. I’ve seen your name on a number of festival lineups. You’re playing at JamGrass, you did the tour with Melody Pool. You’re popping up everywhere. Is there a concerted effort at the moment to get your music out there as much as possible?
MW: I guess so. It’s sort of how Alastair, my manager, is booking it. Ever since he’s been looking after me for the last year and a half it’s just been busy. He asked me how I wanted to do it at the start and I said “I like playing shows a lot” and he’s certainly taken that on now. I’m tired now [laughs]
GHE: So are you based in Australia now fulltime?
MW: Yeah, in Melbourne.
GHE: Is there much of an acoustic and singer-songwriter scene back in New Zealand?
MW: I’m from a place called Lyttelton which is just outside of Christchurch. It’s a town of about 3,000 people but per capeta it’s got the most country music of any place I’ve ever been to. Inexplicably – I don’t know why there would be country music there. Before we had the earthquakes there were about six or seven really good venues in a town of 3,000. Now there’s two or three.
GHE: I’ve never really associated New Zealand with country music. I know it’s got a big soul scene and a big reggae scene. But when I stumbled across your music I was surprised to learn that country music was a thing too.
MW: Loosely country music.
GHE: Roots based music.
MW: Let’s go with that. There are pockets all over the country but Lyttelton’s quite a big one.
GHE: We’re at BIGSOUND. Do you find these sorts of events useful? Are you meeting a lot of people?
MW: I’m meeting a lot of people. I’m really not…
GHE: You’re not that guy who networks?
MW: I’m not that guy. My manager’s here doing all of those things. I don’t go to the meetings or anything. I just sort of float around looking lost. I’m happy to do that.
GHE: Can I ask you about the recent tour with Melody Pool. The first time I saw you perform was in my local pub and then a week later you announced that you were doing the joint tour with her which I got super excited about. It looked like it was awesome – how was it for you? You were co-headlining right?
MW: It was great. We just did a split of 11 shows for her and 11 shows for me. It could have gone horribly wrong for sure, we didn’t know each other beforehand. Putting us in a car together for six weeks, six and a half thousand kilometres of driving, it was suicide. But we didn’t have a single fight on the road and we found while we’ve both got very different tastes when it comes to what we like to do we found common ground. She grew up singing country harmonies for her dad and I love that brand of folk music that she plays. So we found ourselves somewhere in the middle – we did a set together at the end of the shows too.
GHE: I watched the videos you guys put out covering each other’s songs which were really nice. I think your voices complimented each other.
MW: It was the best part of the shows.
GHE: What’s next on the agenda for you after the Justin Townes Earle tour and your upcoming festival appearances?
MW: I’m hoping to put out an album in February. It’s all recorded and we’re just doing mixing right now. I’ll put that out and do a tour with that. I’ve got a lot of other little festivals as well. Quite a lot coming up.
GHE: Is the album with the full band?
MW: It’s a lot of things. There’s some stuff that’s just me and the guitar and there’s some full on avant garde noise stuff and everything in between. I’m still working on gluing it all together but I’m hopeful.
GHE: When you’re performing do you have to manage your set differently if it’s just you compared with a full band set?
MW: It’s very different. The solo sets, the brand of songs are completely different. It’s a completely different approach for me.
GHE: Which one do you prefer?
MW: They’re both different. I grew up playing in bands so I miss having the camaraderie, especially if you’re touring – it gets pretty lonely if you’re doing it by yourself night in night out. But then by the same token things are a bit easy solo.
GHE: It’s probably cheaper to travel with just you and a guitar.
MW: It’s much more the guerilla way of doing it.
GHE: Cool – well that’s all we have time for today. Thanks so much for chatting with me today.
Marlon Williams plays tonight at The Tivoli in Brisbane with Justin Townes Earle and Lindi Ortega.