Quite often these days, Laura Marling takes the bus from her home in North London halfway across the city to the British Library — a long journey, filled with many stops and much traffic, and one she has come to regard as an opportunity to begin writing a journal. “But I find it hard to think of myself as a subject,” she says. “I really struggle to write ‘I’.”
The subject of who Laura Marling is might seem a simple one: six albums, Grammy nominations, Brit Awards, Mercury nods, a steady path from a childhood in Berkshire, via the noughties nu-folk scene, to an esteemed and familiar musical presence. Still, the peculiar truth after all this time, is that Laura Marling is perhaps not quite who you might think she is.
She was just 18 when she released her debut album, Alas, I Cannot Swim, and the records that followed, from I Speak Because I Can in 2010, through to 2017’s Semper Femina, captured a young songwriter exploring both her craft and identity. Her voice — a supple, mesmerising thing, evolved too: richer, harder, smokier when called for, while the songs spoke of wisdom and worldliness and womanhood. But youthful success has a habit of crystallising its subjects, and for many, Marling remained forever the naive, clear-voiced folk singer of her earliest days.
But she is 30 now, and her seventh album, Song For Our Daughter, finds her a wholly different proposition: an artist whose gifts are diverse and accomplished, her interests broad, her talent at its most powerful. She is today a quite singular voice in the recording industry.
The route to this exceptional new collection of songs began in the wake of touring Semper Femina, when Marling stepped away from both her record label and her management, and for the first time in many years found herself without any firm idea of her future.
Instead she chose the unexpected: she collaborated with the theatre director Robert Icke; she formed a duo called LUMP with Mike Lindsay from Tunng, recording and touring an album of dissonant melodic beauty. Then she enrolled in a masters degree in psychoanalysis.
For a time she distanced herself from the idea of being Laura Marling — all of the connotations and associations her own name conjured, and began to explore something new. She realised that the songs she wrote after Semper Femina “felt too much like similar rewritings of other ones — like a writer who’ll write the same book over and over again,” and pushed herself to write beyond the known edges of herself. “And that was quite painful for me actually,” she says. “It’s the first time I’ve made a concerted effort to not just keep writing the same song again.”
The effect of exploring beyond her familiar world — her collaborative experiments and academic studies particularly, has been to liberate her. The next twelve months will also bring a new album from LUMP, and Marling credits the experience of working with Lindsay for a new perspective on songwriting. “Lump gives me a totally different space,” she says, “it’s just so much easier for me to have a really differentiated persona and the outcome is such a surprise to me.”
She and Lindsay are, she says, “polar opposites” but it is a collision that works well: “I think that juxtaposition of personality is really vital,” she says. “We’re pals, obviously, but we don’t talk about really in-depth things. I still wouldn't say that we know each other that well.”
It has freed her too from the precision and distinct narrative of her solo work: “A lot of the vocal takes are the first take, so you can hear a bit of stumbling over words and the randomness of the lyrics and then it starts to inform itself,” she explains. The lyrics of the forthcoming Lump album will pursue this idea further: “It’s quite informed by psychoanalysis,” she says, “all the language of psychoanalysis is so beautiful because it’s so distancing.”
Time away has also allowed her to find a new kind of settledness. After many years of touring, and time living in the US and on the south coast, she has returned to London, living one street away from her oldest sister and her niece; her middle sister shares her home; she describes herself as “at a very comfortable place in my life, in a functioning long-term relationship.”
The first record Marling has written away from the road, it is perhaps this contentment that has allowed her to step away from confessional songwriting. “It’s really hard for me to say, but I think that lack of ‘I’ is probably there,” she says. “I’m aware of being looked at, internally, by the proximity of people around me. There’s a really good Henry Miller quote where towards the end of his life he stopped writing and started painting and said ‘I found painting to be the only medium by which I couldn’t cause people harm’. I was like ‘I feel you!’”
Instead she has moved towards storytelling, interweaving these tales with personal experience. “A song like Hope We Meet Again is a hangover of a time where I was very happily solitary travelling the world,” she explains. “The End of the Affair is similar — the idea that love is this infinite thing that goes in every direction and it’s very powerful. And the idea of a private mourning of love is so tragic to me, something so huge that can’t be shared.”
Marling had just read Graham Greene’s novel of the same name when she wrote the track, and several of these new songs are responses to others’ stories. Alexandra, for example, is a half-nod to Leonard Cohen’s Alexandra Leaving, and her fascination with the singer’s attitudes to women. “He writes about women in such a beautiful way,” she says. “It doesn’t aggravate me that he lived the way he wanted to live. In fact I think it’s very brave of people to live that way.”
Only the Strong borrows a line — ‘love is a sickness cured by time’ — from Robert Icke’s play Mary Stuart — for which Marling wrote the music. “I did change a lot of my style of lyric writing I think since I met Robert,” she says, “I couldn’t really say how, though it was interesting to see his playwright or director brain work with rhythm; he’s really into straight, really locked in rhyme. I’m much more into the rhythm of language now.”
Still, much of Song For Our Daughter remains hugely intimate. The title track for instance — a delicate yet defiant composition about “innocence being taken away prematurely, which is a big theme in my life I think, and the idea you could arm the next generation in a way that you weren’t armed.” Writing it made her cry.
She regards Fortune as “one of the better songs I’ve ever written from a song writing perspective” — its theme grew out of Marling asking her Mother why she had always kept a ‘running away fund’ and seeing “a kind of tragic impotence to that generation, their little attempt of carving out their own little bit of freedom.” The song began in her kitchen, with her father, a chord sequence, then a quick tumble of lyrics. “No one else gets to see that process, apart from my Dad actually,” she says. “And it’s nice for people to see it happen in real time; it nearly knocked him off his seat, it was quite sweet. So it has a special place in my heart.”
The album’s closing track, For You, has a similar sweetness: written at home with her boyfriend playing guitar, it has all the simplicity and irresistibility of the finest love songs. She chose to keep it on the record in its demo form.
To Marling’s surprise, living in close proximity with others has shifted her relationship with sound. It is the first time in her life that she hasn’t been able to have extended periods alone — her frequent library trips are in part about seeking the refuge of silence.
She has built herself a studio in the basement of her house, where she can spend her time enjoying “a lot of experimenting with sound” — in part a result of working with Semper Femina producer Blake Mills, who showed her “how much character you can draw out of sound” and of course her work with LUMP, where her voice is often used as an instrument.
She also gained considerable confidence from self-producing 2014’s Short Movie, and though she returned to Ethan Johns to co-produce Song For Our Daughter, she was steadfast in her vision for the album. “I demoed everything really heavily, and re-edited loads of stuff,” she says. “So I did all of the arrangements, I knew all the musicians I wanted to work with. I mixed the record with Dom [Monks — who has engineered several Marling albums]. And all of the backing vocals on this album I did at home because I wanted no one else’s opinion!”
It is a lusher sound than previous Marling records, with broad sweeps and an abundance of strings by Rob Moose (Antony and the Johnsons, Bon Iver, the National) “I wanted to indulge in that,” she says. “I just wanted to let him go free.” She wanted the spaciousness she had found with LUMP “where you’re in an aural world rather than sitting watching something; or like a really great Bill Callahan album where it feels as if he’s in the centre of your brain.”
There is an unexpected melodic poppiness too — there on tracks such as Held Down, Blow by Blow and For You. “So I was introduced to Paul McCartney at the later stage of my life,” she laughs. “I was Lennon. And I really only saw a surface level of Paul McCartney — dyed hair and Converses that I found unacceptable. But then I did the full catalogue of solo Paul McCartney stuff and saw I was obviously wrong. You realise the little things that get you, the little sentiments.” She describes Blow by Blow then as “my little homage to Paul McCartney … I was just trying to write a bit more simply and it’s so much easier on the piano because I’m so bad at it, I’m forced to really simplify.”
After several years of recalibration, this year will be another shift for Marling: two new albums, headline tours, festival slots, and, one imagines, many more collaborations, experimentations and solo adventures to come. “I wanted to get this album done so I could go on tour by myself for six months,” she laughs. “I’m really looking forward to that.” She is, it seems, getting used to being the subject again.
Introducing the 2021 Partisan Record Club: a yearly subscription that grants members six shipments per year. Each installment comes with one catalog title and one new title, plus exclusive merch, a permanent discount in the Partisan shop, and other bonuses along the way. The Club is limited to 150 entries, so secure your spot HERE before it sells out.
Partisan Records no longer has the capacity to accept unsolicited demos.
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Partisan Records, LLC, 281 N. 7th St., #2, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Our Terms and Conditions of Supply are provided by our shop and warehousing partner, Ochre. For more information about our shop's T&Cs, please visit here.
1. These Terms
1.1 What these terms cover. These are the terms and conditions on which we supply products to you, whether these are goods or digital content. These terms apply to orders of products made by you through third party websites in respect of which we provide retail services.
1.2 Why you should read them. Please read these terms carefully before you submit your order to us. These terms tell you who we are, how we will provide products to you, how you and we may change or end the agreement, what to do if there is a problem and other important information. If you think that there is a mistake in these terms or that they require any changes, please contact us to discuss.
2. Information about us and how to contact us
2.1 Who we are. We are Ochre Music Ltd trading as Ochre is a company registered in The United Kingdom. Our registered office is at Unit L, Spectrum House, 32-34 Gordon House Road, London, NW5 1LP. This store is operated by us on behalf of the Store Owner
2.2 How to contact us. If you have an issue with your purchase, customer services and fulfilment for this store is provided by Ochre.
2.3 How we may contact you. If we have to contact you we will do so by telephone or by writing to you at the email address or postal address you provided to us in your order.
2.4 "Writing" includes emails. When we use the words "writing" or "written" in these terms, this includes emails.
3. Our agreement with you
3.1 How we will accept your order. Our acceptance of your order will take place when we email you to accept it, at which point a binding agreement will come into existence between you and us.
3.2 If we cannot accept your order. If we are unable to accept your order, we will inform you of this in writing and will issue you with a refund. This might be because the product is out of stock, or because of other circumstances or events which we could not reasonably plan for, because we have identified an error in the price or description of the product or because we are unable to meet a delivery deadline you have specified.
3.3 Your order number. We will assign an order number to your order and tell you what it is when we accept your order. It will help us if you can tell us the order number whenever you contact us about your order.
3.4 Where we sell. We sell products in the UK and world-wide, except where we notify you that we are not able to supply products.
4. Our products
4.1 Products may vary slightly from their pictures. The images of products on our website are for illustrative purposes only. Your product may vary slightly from those images.
4.2 Product packaging may vary. The packaging of products may vary from that shown on images on our website.
5. Our rights to make changes
5.1 Minor changes to products. We may change products:
5.1.1 to reflect changes in relevant laws and regulatory requirements; and
5.1.2 to implement minor technical adjustments and improvements. These changes will not substantially affect your use of the products affected by the change.
5.2 More significant changes to products and these terms. If we need to make more significant changes to these terms or products for which you have placed an order, we will notify you and give you the opportunity to contact us to end the agreement and receive a full refund before the changes take effect.
6. Providing the products
6.1 Delivery costs. The costs of delivery will be as displayed to you on our website.
6.2 When we will provide the products. During the order process we will let you know when we will provide the products to you.
6.2.1 If the products are goods. we will provide you with an estimated delivery date when you place your order, which will be within 30 days after the day on which we accept your order, except in relation to pre-ordered goods, where we will give you an estimated shipping date based on when we expect the goods to be in stock.6.2.2 If the product is a one-off purchase of digital content. We will make the digital content available for download by you as soon as we accept your order, unless your order is a digital pre-order, in which case it will be made available on the stated release date.
6.3 We are not responsible for delays outside our control. If our supply of the products is delayed by an event outside our control then we will contact you as soon as possible to let you know and we will take steps to minimise the effect of the delay. Provided we do this we will not be liable for delays caused by the event, but if there is a risk of substantial delay you may contact us to cancel the order and receive a refund for any products you have paid for but not received.
6.4 If you are not at home when the product is delivered. If no one is available at your address to take delivery and the products cannot be posted through your letterbox, the carrier will leave you a note informing you of how to rearrange delivery or collect the products from a local depot. Redelivery of the product will be subject to the terms of the carrier.
6.5 When you become responsible for the product. The product will be your responsibility from the time we deliver the product to the address you gave us.
6.6 When you own goods. You own goods once we have received payment in full.
6.7 How long do I have to change my mind about a product? How long you have depends on what you have ordered and how it is delivered.
6.7.1 Have you bought digital content for download or streaming? If so, you have 14 days after the day we email you to confirm we accept your order, or, if earlier, until you start downloading or streaming. If we delivered the digital content to you immediately, and you agreed to this when ordering, you will not have a right to change your mind.6.7.2 Have you bought goods? If so you have 14 days after the day you (or someone you nominate) receive the goods.
6.8 When you don't have the right to change your mind. You do not have a right to change your mind in respect of:
6.8.1 digital products after you have started to download or stream these; or6.8.2 sealed audio or sealed video recordings or sealed computer software, once these products are unsealed after you receive them.
6.9 International Shipping. Orders shipped between countries may incur duties and taxes and additional fees levied by carriers or brokers to administer collection of said duties and taxes. For the avoidance of doubt payment of duties, taxes and any related carrier fees or costs is your responsibility. We will not be liable or responsible if you do not pay any such import duties or taxes.
7. If there is a problem with the product
7.1 How to tell us about problems. If you have any questions or complaints about the product, please contact us. You can telephone our customer service team at 0207864374 or write to us at email@example.com and Customer Services, Ochre, Spectrum House, 32-34 Gordon House Road, London, NW5 1LP.
7.2 Summary of your legal rights. We are under a legal duty to supply products that are in conformity with this agreement. See the box below for a summary of your key legal rights in the UK in relation to the product. Nothing in these terms will affect your legal rights.
7.3 Returning products to us. If you cancel the order for any reason after products have been dispatched to you or you have received them, or if you wish to exercise your legal rights to reject products, you must post them back to us. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://support.ochre.store/ for a return label. If you are exercising your right to change your mind you must send off the goods within 14 days of telling us you wish to cancel the order. You must use a service that can return the product to us in good condition. Please ensure that the return parcel is marked clearly with the wording “Return to supplier”
7.4 When we will pay the costs of return. We will pay the costs of return if the products are faulty or misdescribed. In all other circumstances (including where you are exercising your right to change your mind) you must pay the costs of return.
7.5 How we will refund you. Within 14 days of receipt of the goods (or, in the case of digital content, you telling us you have changed your mind), we will refund you the price you paid for the products including delivery costs, by the method you used for payment. However, we may make deductions from the price, if (where you are exercising your right to change your mind) the product is received in a damaged or used state.
7.6 When your refund will be made. We will make any refunds due to you as soon as possible. If you are exercising your right to change your mind then:
7.6.1 If the products are goods and we have not offered to collect them, your refund will be made within 14 days from the day on which we receive the product back from you or, if earlier, the day on which you provide us with evidence that you have sent the product back to us. For information about how to return a product to us, see clause 8.2; or7.6.2 In all other cases, your refund will be made within 14 days of your telling us you have changed your mind.
7.7 Downloads from other providers We are not responsible for the digital products and downloads provided in records as a download card or any other delivery method other than through the Ochre system. Including failed or corrupt downloads, incorrect redemption codes or discontinued or broken download services.
Summary of your key legal rights
This is a summary of your key legal rights under UK law. These are subject to certain exceptions. For detailed information please visit the Citizens Advice website www.adviceguide.org.uk or call 03454 04 05 06.
If your product is goods, for example, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 says goods must be as described, fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality. During the expected life of your product your legal rights entitle you to the following:
- up to 30 days: if your item is faulty, then you can get a refund.
- up to six months: if your faulty item can't be repaired or replaced, then you're entitled to a full refund, in most cases.
- up to six years: if the item can be expected to last up to six years you may be entitled to a repair or replacement, or, if that doesn't work, some of your money back.If your product is digital content, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 says digital content must be as described, fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality:
- if the fault can't be fixed within a reasonable time, or without causing you significant inconvenience, you can get some or all of your money back
- if you can show the fault has damaged your device and we haven't used reasonable care and skill, you may be entitled to a repair or compensation*
8. Price and payment
8.1 Where to find the price for the product. The price of the product (which includes applicable VAT) will be the price indicated on the order pages when you placed your order. We take all reasonable care to ensure that the price of the product advised to you is correct. However please see clause 9.3 for what happens if we discover an error in the price of the product you order.
8.2 What happens if we got the price wrong. It is always possible that, despite our efforts, some of the products we sell may be incorrectly priced. We will normally check prices before accepting your order so that, where the product's correct price at your order date is less than our stated price at your order date, we will charge the lower amount. If the product's correct price at your order date is higher than the price stated, we will contact you for your instructions before we accept your order. If we accept and process your order where a pricing error is obvious and unmistakeable and could reasonably have been recognised by you as a mispricing, we may end the agreement, refund you any sums you have paid and require the return of any goods provided to you.
8.3 When you must pay and how you must pay. We accept payment with [all major credit and debit cards]. When you must pay depends on what product you are buying:
8.3.1 For goods, you must pay for the products before we dispatch them.8.3.2 For digital content, you must pay for the products before you download them. For digital pre-orders, we will take payment when you place the order.8.4 What to do if you think an invoice is wrong. If you think an invoice is wrong please contact us promptly to let us know.
9. Our responsibility for loss or damage suffered by you
9.1 We are responsible to you for foreseeable loss and damage caused by us. If we fail to comply with these terms, we are responsible for loss or damage you suffer that is a foreseeable result of our breaking this agreement or our failing to use reasonable care and skill, but we are not responsible for any loss or damage that is not foreseeable. Loss or damage is foreseeable if either it is obvious that it will happen or if, at the time the agreement was made, both we and you knew it might happen, for example, if you discussed it with us during the sales process.
9.2 If defective digital content which we have supplied damages a device or digital content belonging to you and this is caused by our failure to use reasonable care and skill we will either repair the damage or pay you compensation. However, we will not be liable for damage which you could have avoided by following our advice to apply an update offered to you free of charge or for damage which was caused by you failing to correctly follow installation instructions or to have in place the minimum system requirements advised by us.
9.3 We are not liable for business losses. We only supply the products for domestic and private use. If you use the products for any commercial, business or re-sale purpose we will have no liability to you for any loss of profit, loss of business, business interruption, or loss of business opportunity.
10. How we may use your personal information
11. Other important terms
11.1 We may transfer this agreement to someone else. We may transfer our rights and obligations under these terms to another organisation. We will always tell you in writing if this happens and we will ensure that the transfer will not affect your rights under the agreement. If you are unhappy with the transfer you may contact us to end the agreement within 14 days of us telling you about it and we will refund you any payments you have made in advance for products not provided.
11.2 You need our consent to transfer your rights to someone else (except that you can always transfer our guarantee). You may only transfer your rights or your obligations under these terms to another person if we agree to this in writing.
11.3 Nobody else has any rights under this agreement. This agreement is between you and us. No other person shall have any rights to enforce any of its terms. Neither of us will need to get the agreement of any other person in order to end the agreement or make any changes to these terms.
11.4 If a court finds part of this agreement illegal, the rest will continue in force. Each of the paragraphs of these terms operates separately. If any court or relevant authority decides that any of them are unlawful, the remaining paragraphs will remain in full force and effect.
11.5 Even if we delay in enforcing this agreement, we can still enforce it later. If we do not insist immediately that you do anything you are required to do under these terms, or if we delay in taking steps against you in respect of your breaking this agreement, that will not mean that you do not have to do those things and it will not prevent us taking steps against you at a later date. For example, if you miss a payment and we do not chase you but we continue to provide the products, we can still require you to make the payment at a later date.
11.6 Which laws apply to this agreement and where you may bring legal proceedings. These terms are governed by English law and you can bring legal proceedings in respect of the products in the English courts. If you live in Scotland you can bring legal proceedings in respect of the products in either the Scottish or the English courts. If you live in Northern Ireland you can bring legal proceedings in respect of the products in either
section1 is a newly launched label in partnership with Partisan. section1 is the brainchild of Brontë Jane (VP of A&R at Third Side Music) alongside Chris Robbins and Tom Wironen of Friendly Announcer management (Big Thief, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Westerman, etc). Hildegard will be the first release on section1; more news on additional section1 releases to be announced soon.
Partisan Records is a member of Knitting Factory Entertainment. Knitting Factory Records is its sister label and the same team are responsible for releasing its catalogue and new titles.