“You can’t finish on too dark a note. I’m fine.”
And so singer songwriter Marlon Williams summed up his new album “Make Way For Love”. Yes, he told us, most of it was a reflection on a relationship break up, an exercise in using music as therapy. But he’d just played us a four-song selection from his new work, finishing with the title track, the album’s final offering. And this song, “Make Way for Love”, was forward looking, hopeful and upbeat, with more than a hint of a Maori showband swing to it. The song couldn’t help but put a smile on your face. So, he is fine.
The conversation took place at Auckland’s Point Chevalier RSA on Friday afternoon, as Crave joined a small band of journalists to hear the four song sampler, and to join a question and answer session chaired by writer Graeme Reid.
First, to the music, performed by Williams and his three piece band The Yarra Benders. They started with the album opener, “Come to Me”, followed by “I Didn’t Make a Plan”, then “Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore” (the first single to be released) and finally the title track “Make Way for Love.” They songs are melodic, soulful and powerful, and don’t easily sit in one style. The country tag has often been applied to Williams, but the new songs reveal a broader taste. I Didn’t Make a Plan is a strong ballad featuring Williams on keyboards and boasts a dramatic midsection. Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore is sumptuous and sad, and features guitarist Dave Khan and bassist Ben Woolley switching to violin and double bass respectively at the end to take the song out. Yet the bridge of the song features a paa-paa-paa type vocal treatment which suggested (to me anyway) the 60’s flavour of the Mamas and the Papas. So go figure. All the band, including drummer Gus Agars, add their vocals to the mix. And Williams’ voice is as pure as ever. It is distinctive and attention grabbing. And he’s still only coming up to 27 years old.
Williams’ publicists tell us that Make Way For Love is essentially a break up record, and while that is largely so, to sit and listen to Williams chat about it you are struck by his maturity and ease in discussing his heartache. The single, Nobody Gets What They Want, is, in Williams’ view, the best song on the album, and the recorded version features a duet with Aldous Harding, the musician Williams was having a relationship with, and it is the end of that relationship which drove him to sit down and write 16 songs in a just a few weeks. The fact that she joined him later to record the song (not in the same studio, but remotely) and that Williams talks of the pleasure of working with her, tells you this guy’s heart is on the mend.
That’s also evidenced by another single he’s released recently, one that he says was too upbeat to find a place on the record. “Vampire Again” is a catchy playful song, and the video shows just how at ease Williams is as a performer.
The band is early in its pre-Christmas preview tour of the new album around New Zealand, and after its official release in February, they will head off on a full three month jaunt across Australia, the USA and Canada, Europe, and then back to Australia. It’s work, says Williams, but it’s also magical. It’s that feeling of performing in front of people that keeps him going. That’s great to hear. Williams and The Yarra Benders are already great. With even more experience under their belts, who knows where they will end up.
Marlon Williams’ Q&A:
Here are links to the two most recent singles.
Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore