Having just released her 6th studio album Semper Femina on the 10th of March, aged only 27, Laura Marling is an extremely accomplished and prolific singer-songwriter.
Semper Femina has been described as:
“A record that similarly addresses questions of how society views sexuality and gender but without seeking to provide definitive answers. It retains an openness to express and portray her own ‘voyage’ of self-discovery, but also to develop and learn as artist, performer, and as an individual over the course of her career”.
On the 13th of February, Laura held a student press conference at Goldsmith’s Student’s Union, hosted by BBC Radio 1 presenter Jen Long, which I had the great pleasure of attending. Laura performed 3 songs from her upcoming album and answered questions from both student journalists in the audience and from fans on social media. I arrived at Goldsmith’s on a beautifully sunny afternoon, happy to be escaping the ‘Durham bubble’ for a day, and took my reserved seat on the second row of chairs in front of the stage.
We applauded Laura as she took her seat on a high stool in the centre of the stage, with two guitars placed to her left. She commanded the attention of the room beautifully with both her singing and her speaking. Before we posed our questions to Laura, she performed ‘Wild Fire’, the 3rd track from Semper Femina. Both her voice and lyrics show great maturity and reminded me at times of Joni Mitchell, with her voice possessing a similar vibrato. The only thing which disappointed me about Laura’s performances throughout the set was that she stared at the back wall when she sang, rather than looking around the audience, which was a shame as it meant the sense of connection with the audience was limited. After performing ‘Wild Fire’, Laura began answering our questions.
Jen Long – The next question comes from Carys from Durham University.
Me! – Hello! I wanted to ask about your directing debut. Obviously you are very used to the process of writing songs, but I wondered how you found the creative process of directing a video, as opposed to song writing, if it was challenging and whether you enjoyed it and think you might do it again?
Laura – Thank you. I’m more comfortable talking about the directing than I am the music which is weird. Yeah, directing was amazing because I don’t often get the opportunity, or have never been inclined, to give visual representation to my music, personally. And, it’s become the way that music is released now, to have a visual accompaniment. And so to give my lucid dreaming quality, which is where I get a lot of imagery from, to give that form was an amazing experience and requires a lot of people to be in that image with you. So you have to draw people into that and make them understand why it has to be that way, or why that annoying extra prop that cost loads of money has to be there because it has symbolic value. So that was fun.
Erin/Freya – Your lyrics are always so romantic and literary, I was wondering if you draw any inspiration from literary fiction as well other music, if so, who or what?
Laura – Thank you Erin and Freya. I used to read a lot of fiction and I don’t anymore. But I read a lot of poetry, so where gothic, romantic literature used to play quite a big part in my vocabulary of emotional experience, now that I have my own emotional experiences, many of them, I like delving into poetry more as a kind of literary fantasy, fictional fantasy. So, my favourite poet is Rainer Maria Rilke, who was a bit of a hopeless romantic and who is actually the reason that I got to writing this record in some ways. I was researching his life for writing the libretto for an opera, and he was dressed as a girl until he was 8, which had quite a profound effect on his relationship to women, and made him somewhat of an obsessive woman fancier. So, it was his misguided perception of femininity that kind of lead me to try and investigate more about that.
you have to draw people into that and make them understand why it has to be that way
Phil – It’s quite a broad question, how do you feel that your experiences throughout your career have shaped and informed the writing of Semper Femina?
Laura – You mean my experiences of being a female in the industry? I think some of my experiences have been useful, I’ve done a lot of travelling on my own and I’ve done a lot of touring on my own and that sounds super romantic and glamourous but that actually entails me dragging 3 or 4 guitars around and throwing them in the back of a van constantly. It’s a big mental and physical exertion and it can be a little bit scary, you know, being alone, getting paid, doing all that stuff. And I’m sure it’s scary for men as well but I’ve been aware of that restriction of women travelling, that’s been the most relevant thing to me and I have this great fear about travelling alone now and I just noticed that innate sense of fear is really quite constricting and perhaps more of an affliction to women than to men. And that’s been an interesting thing that I’ve been… wasting time thinking about.
Laura dedicated an afternoon to answering a host of students questions, the above are a select few. Laura’s student press conference was a wonderful, intimate, unique way of promoting her new album, which I thoroughly enjoyed attending, and I would love to see more artists holding similar events to reach young music journalists and fans. If you are interested in hearing further interviews with Laura then I would recommend you listen to Laura’s multiple appearances on ‘Mastertapes’, available on the BBC Radio 4 website.
Semper Femina is out now!
Remaining tour dates include:
26th March – Lemon Grove, Exeter
28th March – Waterfront, Norwich
16th July – Victoria Park, London