In this session, British singer-songwriter Laura Marling performs music from A Creature I Don't Know, her third album. Marling first joined me in New York on Spinning on Air back in early 2008, when she was just 17. Her age was notable, but in a way, she made her youth irrelevant. However surprising it was that someone so young could be a mature, original songwriter, there she was — making music that spoke deeply, personally and wisely, and certainly needed no excuses of novelty or precociousness.
This is Marling's third Spinning on Air session, and her development as a songwriter gets more evident each time. As you'll hear in this interview, Marling knows how to stay in touch with her muse, even if she knows that she has to sneak up on it. "If I ever try and sit down to write a song, it never works," she says. "It always takes me by surprise. I'll be sitting in my kitchen, or whatever, and an hour later will have written a song, and not known where it's come from or why." Whether she finds her songs or they find her, they feature insight, mysteries and stories.
A Creature I Don't Know is a collection of songs that form a narrative. Marling hesitates to tell the story other than through the songs, but the contour of a relationship is clear, as is a theme of anger that turns both parties into "beasts." Marling's singing is more graceful and edgy than ever, and she sounds impressively at ease and in command when she performs. On the album, she's often accompanied by an ensemble of several musicians, but here she's alone with just her guitar — pure Marling.
Marling has been nominated twice for Britain's prestigious Mercury Prize, and surely there are more honors in her future. But, most importantly, she wins listeners with each song she writes and plays. As a listener, it's gratifying to see people respond to Marling's unaffected honesty, supple voice and striking songs.