Marlon Williams’s music is built around the belief that the song is all that matters – For this country/bluegrass musician who croons anthems for the sadder side, making music is sometimes as much about getting it wrong as it is about getting it right.
Marlon, can you describe for me the perfect love song?
The perfect love song isn’t the most poetic piece of writing; I really believe a good melody will win the heart over more than anything. Take Smokey Robinson’s You Really Got a Hold on Me – ‘I don’t like you but I love you, seems that I’m always thinking of you’. Not amazing lyrics, but that melody gets straight in there and does Cupid’s work.
Have you ever heard a song and thought – damn, I wished I’d written that!?
All the time. Most recently was The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face by Ewan MacColl, written for his wife Peggy Seeger. Speaking of love songs, this is a disarmingly simple sentiment we all wish we could express with so much bravery.
What is your songwriting process?
Very erratic, not really very considered. Unrefined.
How much of your life, or the stories around you, do you bring into the narratives of your songs?
Consciously, none of it really. Unless I’m writing an intentionally narrative piece based on a real story I tend to keep my own experiences out of the frontline.
Is it easy to take instruction or advice in a production studio when it comes to something you have written?
I’m certainly not closed to outside influence on my songs. I’ve done a fair amount of co-writing, but I do tend to adopt a sense of finality when I have a fully structured piece. I’ve only ever worked with one engineer/producer and have always had an open relationship with him when it comes to the recording side of things.
How has the music scene in NZ influenced your creative development?
NZ as a whole has a pretty insular music scene, so things that happen on a national scale are generally familiar to everyone, within a degree or two of separation. That certainly has a unique impact on the way we conduct ourselves.
Do you have a most memorable onstage moment?
Singing Hine e Hine, a Maori lullaby, with duet buddy Delaney Davidson, in a rural NZ museum backed by a 30-piece brass band. Perfect!
What about when everything went horribly wrong?!
Playing with my band The Unfaithful Ways, our farewell show in Wellington, we got two songs in then one of the stage lights caught fire; fire warden came charging in, sprayed the shit out of the light and us; show over. Awesome!
What is your vision for the year ahead?
An album release, a tour, a bit of international travel, and hopefully, in between, a bit of downtime with the lady.
At Bluesfest – for playing times, program and ticket information go to bluesfest.com.au.