Marlon Williams

New Zealand's Marlon Williams has quite simply got one of the most extraordinary, effortlessly distinctive voices of his generation—a fact well known to fans of his first, self-titled solo album, and his captivating live shows. An otherworldly instrument with an affecting vibrato, it's a voice that's earned repeated comparisons to the great Roy Orbison, and even briefly had Williams, in his youth, consider a career in classical singing, before realizing his temperament was more Stratocaster than Stradivarius.

But it's the art of songwriting that has bedeviled the artist, and into which he has grown exponentially on his second album, Make Way For Love, out in February of 2018. It's Marlon Williams like you've never heard him before—exploring new musical terrain and revealing himself in an unprecedented way, in the wake of a fractured relationship.

Like any good New Zealander, Williams doesn't boast or sugarcoat: songwriting is still not his favorite endeavor. "I mean, I find it ecstatic to finish a song," he explains. "To have done one doesn't feel like an accomplishment as much as a relief and maybe a curiosity, you know? To have come through to the other side and have something. But it certainly always feels messy." In the past, his default approach to was storytelling. On 2015's Marlon Williams, the musician took a cue from traditional folk and bluegrass, and wove dark, character-driven tales: "Hello Miss Lonesome", "Strange Things" and "Dark Child". But when it came to sharing his own life in song, he was more reticent. "I've always had this sort of hang up about putting too much of myself into my music," he admits. "All of the projects I've ever been in, there was a conscientious effort to try and have this barrier between myself and the emotional crux of the music. I've loved writing characters into my songs, or at least pretending that it wasn't me that it was about."

Sensing that people wanted more Marlon from Marlon, on album number two he was determined to deliver. And while he's still a firm believer in the art of cover songs—his live shows regularly feature covers of songs by artists ranging from Townes Van Zandt to Yoko Ono—Williams wanted the new record to be all original material. By the autumn of last year, with a recording deadline looming the following February, it was crunch time for the musician, a reflexive procrastinator. "I hadn't written for two years!" he recalls. What was needed was a lyrical spark. A triggering event, perhaps. As it turns out, life delivered just that.

In early December, Williams and his longtime girlfriend, musician Aldous (Hannah) Harding, broke up—the end of a relationship that brought together two of Down Under's most acclaimed talents of recent years, who'd managed to navigate the challenges of having equally ascendant—though separate—careers, until they couldn't. While personally wrenching, the split seemed to open the floodgates for Williams as a writer. "Then I wrote about fifteen songs in a month," he recalls. The biggest challenge? Condensing often complex, conflicted emotions and doing them justice. "Just narrowing the possibilities into a three-minute song makes me feel dirty", he explains. Also, not making a breakup record that was too much of a downer. "I had a lot of good friends saying, ‘Don't worry about sounding too sad,'" he says. "They were saying, ‘Just go with it.'"

Sure enough, while Make Way For Love draws on Williams' own story, in remarkably universal terms it captures the vagaries of relationships that we've all been through: the bliss (opener "Come To Me"); ache ("Love Is a Terrible Thing", a ballad that likens post-breakup emptiness to "a snowman melting in the spring"); nagging questions ("Can I Call You", which wonders aloud what his ex is drinking, who she's with, and if she's happy); and bitterness ("The Fire Of Love", whose lyrics Williams says he "agonized over" more than any).

On "Party Boy", over an urgent, moody gallop that recalls his last album's "Hello Miss Lonesome", Williams conjures the image (a composite of people he knows, he says) of that guy who has just the stuff to keep the party going ‘til dawn, and who you might catch "sniffin' around" your "pride and joy." There's "Beautiful Dress", on which Williams seems to channel balladeer Elvis on the verse and the Future Feminist herself, Ahnoni, on a lilting, tremulous hook; in contrast, the brooding "I Didn't Make A Plan", casts Williams as the cad. In a deep-voiced delivery akin to Leonard Cohen—unusual for the singer—he callously, matter-of-factly tosses a lover aside, just cuz. It's brutal, but so, sometimes, is life. And there's "Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore", a duet with Harding, recorded after the two broke up, with Williams directing Harding's recording via a late-night long distance phone call. "It made the most sense to have her singing on it," he says. "But it wasn't that easy to make that happen."

Williams flipped the script recording-wise as well. After three weeks of pre-production five doors from his mother's house in his native Lyttelton, New Zealand (for several years, Williams has made his home in Melbourne) with regular collaborator Ben Edwards—"really the only person I'd ever worked with before"—Williams and his backing band, The Yarra Benders, then decamped 7000 miles away, to Northern California's Panoramic Studios, to record with producer Noah Georgeson, who's helmed baroque pop and alt-folk gems by Joanna Newsom, Adam Green, Little Joy and Devendra Banhart. "I was a really big fan of those Cate Le Bon records he did [Mug Museum, Crab Day]," Williams says. "I was obsessed with those albums."

If the idea in going so far from home to make the new record was to shake things up and get out of his Kiwi comfort zone, Williams succeeded—to the point where at first he wondered if he'd gone too far. "The first couple of days I nearly had a breakdown," he recalls. "Just cause I got there and I'm working with Noah on this really personal record having only met twice before over a coffee. I was like, ‘I wish we'd talked about it a little bit more' and figured out exactly how the dynamic was going to work." Williams is a worrier. But he needn't worry. He and Georgeson settled into a zone over twelve days of recording, helped by the bonding experience of what Williams describes as the "greatest prank of all time", with Georgeson convincing both Williams and multi-instrumentalist Dave Khan that there was a ghost in the studio, using an effect on his keyboard. Georgeson made his mark on the record as well, adding a fresh perspective on songs that had been well developed in pre-production, and alongside the incredible performances by The Yarra Benders, they have, in Make Way For Love, a triumph on their hands.

The record also moves Williams several paces away from "country"—the genre that's been affixed to him more than any in recent years, but one that's always been a bit too reductive to be wholly accurate. Going back to his high school years band The Unfaithful Ways and his subsequent Sad But True series of collaborations with fellow New Zealander Delaney Davidson, and on through his first solo LP, Williams has proven himself plenty adept with country sounds, but also bluegrass, folk, blues and even retro pop. "I think I've always been sort of mischievously passive when people use that term ["country"] to describe me," he says. "I like letting labels be and sort of just play that out." Make Way For Love, with forays into cinematic strings, reverb, rollicking guitar and at least one quiet piano ballad, is more expansive—while still retaining, on "Party Boy" and "I Know A Jeweller", some cowboy vibes, the record will likely invoke as many Scott Walker and Ennio Morricone mentions as it does country ones. "I think just having the time," he explains, "and having just finished a cycle of playing these quite heavily country-leaning songs for the last three or four years, and playing them a lot, has definitely pushed me into exploring other things.

As ever, you can expect some memorable videos with the new album. As reluctant as he's been to put his lyrical heart on his sleeve in the past, Williams has never been shy about visuals and the more performative aspects of his art. Unlike many of his folk and alt-country brethren, Williams embraces the chameleonic possibilities offered by music videos. Since The Unfaithful Ways, he's appeared in nearly all of his videos, assuming a variety of characters—multiple ones, in the Roshomon-like "Dark Child." He's gotten naked and visceral, in "Hello Miss Lonesome" and loose and playful in this past summer's one-off, "Vampire Again", which saw Williams as a goofy Nosferatu—his most lighthearted persona to date. "For me, I think that ambiguity is such an important part of my process and my art," he explains, "that [videos are] just another way to further muddy the waters, you know? And I look for that, I think." He'll further muddy the waters with a new video for opening single "Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore", directed by Ben Kitnick, in which Williams plays an overwhelmed waiter at a restaurant full of demanding hipsters.

On the live front, Williams—who's been a road dog in recent years, touring with Justin Townes Earle, Band Of Horses, City & Colour and Iron & Wine's Sam Beam —had a comparatively low-key 2017, though appearances at Newport Folk Festival, Pickathon and Into The Great Wide Open kept him in game shape, not to mention February support dates in New Zealand for none other than Bruce Springsteen. In 2018, Williams will head out on a 50 plus date world tour, taking the music of Make Way For Love far and wide. They're songs that need to be heard by anyone who's ever loved, and lost, and loved again.

If "breakup record" is a trope—and certainly it is—then Marlon Williams has done it proud. Like the best of the lot—Beck's Sea Change, Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago, Phosphorescent's harrowing "Song For Zula" and Joni Mitchell's masterpiece Blue (written perhaps not coincidentally, following her own breakup with another gifted musician) Make Way For Love doesn't shy away from heartbreak, but rather stares it in the face, and mines beauty from it. Delicate and bold, tender and searing, it's a mightily personal new step for the Kiwi, and ultimately, on the record's final, title track, Williams dusts himself off and is ready to move forward. Set to a doo-wop backdrop and in language he calls "deliberately archaic", that superb voice sings: "Here is the will/ Here is the way/ The way into love/ Oh, let the wonder of the ages/ Be revealed as love."


John Norris
October 2017

Marlon Williams Announces Sophomore LP, ‘Make Way For Love,’ Out February 16th

Pre-order Make Way For Love
https://marlon-williams.lnk.to/makewayforlove

Let’s start off your Wednesday with some good news, why don’t we? We’re so over the moon to announce New Zealand’s Marlon Williams will release his sophomore album, Make Way For Love, on February 16th. Known for his effortlessly distinctive voice, Make Way For Love marks Marlon’s exponential growth as a songwriter. Throughout 11 original songs, he explores new musical terrain and reveals himself in an unprecedented way in the wake of a fractured relationship.

In conjunction with today’s album announcement, Marlon announces an international tour and shares the album’s penultimate track, “Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore,” a duet with Aldous Harding, recorded via a late-night long distance phone call, plus an accompanying video filmed in New York City.

While Make Way For Love draws on Marlon’s own story, it captures the vagaries of relationships we’ve all been through: the bliss, ache, uncertainty, and bitterness. Like the best breakup records, Make Way For Love doesn’t shy away from heartbreak, but rather stares it in the face, and mines beauty from it. Delicate and bold, tender and searing, it’s a mightily personal new step.

Make Way For Love was recorded with producer Noah Georgeson and his backing band, The Yarra Benders, in North California’s Panoramic Studios after several weeks of pre-production in his native Lyttelton, New Zealand with regular collaborator Ben Edwards. The finished result is an expansive record that moves Marlon several paces from “country” — the genre that’s been affixed to him more than any in recent years — with forays into cinematic strings, reverb, rollicking guitar, and at least one quiet piano ballad.

Currently in the midst of a sold out global preview tour to support his stand alone single, “Vampire Again,” Marlon will take his live show to dozens of cities around the world next year for his largest ever headline tour. All dates are below. Tickets for North America will be on sale Nov. 10th at http://www.marlonwilliams.co.nz/.

Make Way For Love Tracklist:
1. Come To Me
2. What’s Chasing You
3. Beautiful Dress
4. Party Boy
5. Can I Call You
6. Love Is A Terrible Thing
7. I Know A Jeweller
8. I Didn’t Make A Plan
9. The Fire Of Love
10. Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore
11. Make Way For Love

Marlon Williams Tour Dates:
Thu. Nov. 9 – Auckland, NZ @ Point Chev RSA (SOLD OUT)
Fri. Nov. 10 – Auckland, NZ @ Point Chev RSA (SOLD OUT)
Sat. Nov. 11 – Wellington, NZ @ San Fran (SOLD OUT)
Sun. Nov. 12 – Christchurch, NZ @ Blue Smoke (SOLD OUT)
Mon. Nov. 13 – Christchurch, NZ @ Blue Smoke (SOLD OUT)
Wed. Nov. 15 – Sydney, Australia @ Oxford Art Factory (SOLD OUT)
Thu. Nov. 16 – Melbourne, Australia @ Howler (SOLD OUT)
Fri. Nov. 17 – Mullumbimby, Australia @ Mullumbimby Music Festival
Sun. Nov. 19 – Melbourne, Australia @ Howler (SOLD OUT)
Mon. Nov. 20 – Melbourne, Australia @ Howler (SOLD OUT)
Thu. Feb. 22 — Bristol, UK @ Louisiana
Fri. Feb. 23 — Manchester, UK @ Night & Day
Sat. Feb. 24 — Dublin, IE @ Whelans
Mon. Feb. 26 — Glasgow, IE @ King Tuts
Tue. Feb. 27 — Leeds, UK @ Community Room
Wed. Feb. 28 — London, UK @ Scala
Mon. Mar. 5 — Montreal, QC @ Petit Campus
Tue. Mar. 6 — Toronto, ON @ Horseshoe Tavern
Thu. Mar. 8 — Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle
Fri. Mar. 9 — Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry
Sat. Mar. 10 — Kansas City, MO @ Record Bar
Tue. Mar. 13 – Sat. Mar. 17 — Austin TX @ SXSW
Sun. Mar. 18 — Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall
Mon. Mar. 19 — Dallas, TX @ Three Links Deep Ellum
Wed. Mar. 21 — Nashville, TN @ High Watt
Fri. Mar. 23 — Washington, DC @ Rock & Roll Hotel
Sat. Mar. 24 — Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s
Sun. Mar. 25 — Boston, MA @ Great Scott
Tue. Mar. 27 — Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
Thu. Mar. 29 — Vancouver, BC @ Biltmore Cabaret
Sun. Apr. 1 — Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios
Tue. Apr. 3 — San Francisco, CA @ Swedish American Hall
Wed. Apr. 4 — Los Angeles, CA @ Teragram
Wed. Apr. 11 — Brussels, BE @ AB Club
Thu. Apr. 12 — Cologne, DE @ Yuca
Fri. Apr. 13 — Amsterdam, NL @ Paradiso Noord
Sat. Apr. 14 — Hamburg, DE @ Nochtwache
Sun. Apr. 15 — Copenhagen, DK @ Ideal Bar
Tue. Apr. 17 — Oslo, NO @ Cafe Mono
Wed. Apr. 18 — Stockholm, SE @ Kagelbanan
Fri. Apr. 20 — Berlin, DE @ Privatclub
Sat. Apr. 21 — Munich, DE @ Orange House
Sun. Apr. 22 — Vienna, CH @ Chelsea
Tue. Apr. 24 — Bologna, IT @ Locomotiv
Wed. Apr. 25 — Zurich, CH @ Bogen F
Thu. Apr. 26 — Besancon, FR @ La Rodia
Fri. Apr. 27 — Paris, FR @ Point Ephemere
Sat. Apr. 28 — Utrecht, NL @ Ekko

Marlon Williams Returns With New Song “Vampire Again”

Marlon Williams returns with “Vampire Again,” his first new material since releasing his acclaimed debut album early last year and touring relentlessly around the world, including performances on CONAN, Later…with Jools Holland, opening for Bruce Springsteen and picking up both an ARIA Award nomination and two New Zealand Music Awards.

In creating “Vampire Again,” Williams returned home to Lyttelton, New Zealand to re-engage in the writing process and work again with producer Ben Edwards. Below he discusses the story behind the song. Watch the accompanying video, directed by Williams in collaboration with UK cinematographer Steve Gullick. It’s a tragicomic vignette of a societal outcast – misshapen, uncomfortable, humorous and a little touching.

The germination of this song began in LA last year. It was indeed Halloween again, and I was bored, having spent a week locked away in an Airbnb by the airport trying in vain to write a song. Any song. Nothing came. So Halloween comes around and I figure, “Hey, I’m gonna go out tonight. Alone. Comfortably alone. Comfortably alone to see the LA Opera performing a new score to accompany my fave scary flick Nosferatu at the Ace Hotel. I’m gonna dress as the spindly creep himself. What’s more, I’m gonna get super blazed before I go. And be comfortably alone.”
So, off I go, having spent far too much on a last minute outfit, and step out of the Uber and onto the red carpet with a nauseating air of self-confidence. “This is my night. I am strong. I am human and it is my right to express myself how I see fit.” Turns out I was running late, and when I finally enter the theatre everyone was already seated and the overture had begun. What’s more, no one else was dressed up. Well they were, but in tuxedos and lovely dresses. And there was nowhere for stoned ole spindleboots to sit. So, I hunched and crawled my way down the aisle and sat on the floor like it was the most reasonable thing to do at an opera.
I made it through the whole film and then calmly turned tail, satisfied that I’d had a good time and sure that I’d heard whispers of “bad-ass” as I left the building. I’d like to believe that this was, at least in part, the catalyst for a whole new period in my life and my art. But that’s bullsh*t.
Anyway, here it is, my own demented tale of New Age self-affirmation; “Vampire Again.”

Stream and/or Purchase “Vampire Again”:
https://marlon-williams.lnk.to/vampireagainbl

Following Williams’ recent performances at the Newport Folk Festival and Pickathon, he’ll hit the road throughout the rest of the month supporting City & Colour, before playing headline shows in New York, Los Angeles and Toronto this fall.


Marlon Williams Tour Dates:
Fri. Aug. 11 – Boulder, CO @ Triple A Festival
Sat. Aug 12 – Sun. Aug. 13 – Edmonton, AB @ Edmonton Folk Festival
Tue. Aug. 15 – St. Louis, MO @ The Pageant #
Wed. Aug. 16 – Omaha, NE @ Slowdown #
Fri. Aug. 18 – Denver, CO @ Paramount Theatre #
Sat. Aug. 19 – Bellevue, CO @ Mishawaka Amphitheatre #
Mon. Aug. 21 – Kansas City @ Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland #
Tue. Aug. 22 – Springfield, MO @ Gillioz Theatre #
Thu. Aug. 24 – Tulsa, OK @ Cain’s Ballroom #
Fri. Aug. 25 – Dallas, TX @ House of Blues #
Sat. Aug. 26 – San Antonio, TX @ Aztec Theatre #
Mon. Aug. 28 – Houston, TX @ House of Blues #
Tue. Aug. 29 – Austin, TX @ Stubb’s #
Sat. Sep. 2 – Rutbeek, NE @ Tuckerville Festival
Tue. Oct. 24 – London, UK @ Omeara
Wed. Oct. 25 – Paris, France @ Espace B
Thu. Oct. 26 – Berlin, Germany @ FluxBau
Sat. Oct. 28 – Amsterdam, Netherlands @ London Calling Festival
Mon. Oct. 30 – New York, NY @ Rough Trade
Wed. Nov. 1 – Toronto, ON @ The Drake
Thu. Nov. 2 – Los Angeles, CA @ Moroccan Lounge
Fri. Nov. 10 – Auckland, NZ @ Point Chev RSA
Sat. Nov. 11 – Welllington, NZ @ San Fran
Sun. Nov. 12 – Christchurch, NZ @ Blue Smoke
Wed. Nov. 15 – Sydney, Australia @ Oxford Art Factory
Thu. Nov. 16 – Melbourne, Australia @ Howler
Fri. Nov. 17 – Mullumbimby, Australia @ Mullumbimby Music Festival

# = with City & Colour

“Channeling Roy Orbison at moments with a good sense of humor great songs and one of the best voices at Newport, New Zealand’s Marlon Williams.” – Bob Boilen

“His songwriting is prolific – he paints songs as characters and remains gender-fluid throughout his nine-song masterpiece. Williams is such a gifted storyteller that there is no telling which tracks are autobiographical and which are fictional.” – Paste

WATCH // Marlon Williams & The Yarra Benders Make Late Night Debut on Conan

Anyone who has seen Marlon Williams live can attest New Zealand’s rising star has something truly special going on with his spectacular voice and stage presence. He’s previously captivated audiences performing on Ireland’s The Late Late Show, Later…with Jools Holland, and at the New Zealand Music Awards where he won Breakthrough Artist of the Year and Best Male Solo Artist. Last night on CONAN, Marlon Williams & The Yarra Benders delivered a terrific stateside late night television debut, performing “Hello Miss Lonesome.” How often do you hear the crowd cheer mid-song?! Read the rest of this entry »

Dead Oceans At SXSW 2016

SXSW starts next week! Which means tons of folks (maybe you included?) are headed to our backyard of Austin, TX for a week full of bands, tacos, more bands, and more tacos. We’re excited to add to the madness with a totally stacked schedule. Maybe we’ll catch each others eye as you’re crowd-surfing to Bleached? Or perhaps we can cut a rug together at Marlon Williams‘ set? Kevin Morby‘s playing on a boat cruise, so that’s an option too. Obviously, we’ll hi-five, pogo, & sing along at Mitski‘s sets. Keep scrolling for their full schedules and don’t forget to make a note of our party on Thursday (3/17) night at Barracuda!

 

Mitski

Wed. March 16: Hype Machine @ Hype Hotel – 100 E. 5th Street (3:00 PM)

Wed. March 16: NPR Music Showcase @ Stubb’s (9:20 PM)

Thu. March 17: Secretly Group & Friends @ Barracuda (Outdoor) (10:00 PM)

Fri. March 18: Pitchfork Day Party @ Barracuda (Outdoor) (12:40 PM)

Fri. March 18: Portals @ PEN (6:30 PM)

Fri. Mar. 18: Stereogum x Exploding in Sound’s Austin Invasion 2 @ Hole In The Wall (9:30 PM)

Sat. March 19: She Shreds @ Studium – 2108 Rosewood Ave (5:30 PM)

 

Bleached 

Mon. March 14: The Onion & AV Club Present: Manic Monday @ Barracuda (8:00 PM)

Wed. March 16: Spring Break Boogie @ Hotel Vegas (Patio Stage 1) (4:30 PM)

Thu. March 17: Another Planet Party @ Sidewinder (Outside) (2:30 PM)

Thu. March 17: FLOODfest @ Cedar St. Courtyard (9:00 PM)

Thu. March 17: Secretly Group & Friends @ Barracuda (12:00 AM)

Fri. March 18: SPIN @ Stubb’s (North Stage) (1:30 PM)

Sat. March 19: Fun Fun Fun Fest @ The Mohawk (12:30 PM)

Sat. March 19: Pandora Showcase @ The Gatsby (4:00 PM)

 

Kevin Morby

Wed. March 16: Panache + Hotel Vegas Boat Cruise @ TBD (4:45 PM)

Wed. March 16: House of Vans Official @ The Mohawk (8:30 PM)

Thu. March 17: Space 24 Twenty Showcase @ Urban Outfitters (2:00 PM)

Thu. March 17: Secretly Group & Friends @ Barracuda (12:15 AM)

Fri. March 18: Pitchfork Official Showcase @ Barracuda (3:05 PM)

Marlon Williams

Wed. March 16: C3 Party @ Lamberts (1:30 PM)

Wed. March 16: KCRW Party @ 3TEN Austin City Limits Live (9:00 PM)

Thu. March 17: All Together Now Party @ Hotel Saint Cecilia  (1:00 PM)

Thu. March 17: Twangfest @ Broken Spoke (2:30 PM)

Thu. March 17: Showtime / Culture Collide Party @ Clive Bar (5:00 PM)

Thu. March 17: Secretly Group & Friends @ Barracuda (11:15 PM)

Fri. March 18: Official SXSW Showcase @ Central Presbyterian Church (11:00 PM)

Sat. March 19: Waterloo Records Day Party @ Waterloo Records – 600 A North Lamar Blvd (2:00 PM)

Sat. March 19: Sound Gallery Party @ BD Riley’s Irish Pub (5:15 PM)

 

tour dates

11/19/17

Melbourne, AU - Howler

11/20/17

Melbourne, AUS - Howler

02/22/18

Bristol, UK - Lousiana   w/ Cut Worms

02/23/18

Manchester, UK - Night & Day   w/ Cut Worms

02/24/18

Dublin, IE - Whelans   w/ Cut Worms

02/26/18

Glasgow, IE - King Tuts   w/ Cut Worms

02/27/18

Leeds, UK - Community Room   w/ Cut Worms
See all upcoming shows »

video

Vampire Again
by Marlon Williams
Dark Child
by Marlon Williams
Hello Miss Lonesome
by Marlon Williams
Strange Things
by Marlon Williams