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

RELEASE DAY // Marlon Williams’ Self Titled Debut Is Out Today, Worldwide

Marlon Williams broke out in stride with his incredible voice and masterful stage presence in Australia and New Zealand last year surrounding the release of his debut, self-titled album. He topped off the year winning Best Male Solo Artist and Breakthrough Artist of the Year at the New Zealand Music Awards, where he performed new single, “Dark Child,” attended the ARIA Awards in Australia, where he was nominated for Best Blues & Roots Album, and made his morning television debut performing“Hello Miss Lonesome” on “ABC Breakfast TV” in Australia.

Today, his self titled debut LP is out via Dead Oceans!

Order Marlon Williams’ Self Title LP now:
CD, LP & ltd tan vinyl // iTunes // Amazon // Support your local independent record store

Marlon William Tour Dates:
(more info and tix here)

02/28/16 Perth, AUPerth International Arts Festival
03/05/16 Parkville, AUSMelbourne Zoo
03/06/16 Castlemaine, AU – Theatre Royal
03/09/16 Auckland, NZPowerstation
03/11/16 Mosman, AUSTaronga Zoo
03/12/16 Lone Star Valley, AUSA Festival Called Panama
03/13/16 Adelaide, AUSWOMADelaide
03/14/16 Adelaide, AUSWOMADelaide
03/15/16 Austin, TXSXSW
04/05/16 Nottingham, UK – Bodega Social Club
04/06/16 Bristol, UK – The Louisiana
04/07/16 London, UK – St. Giles In The Fields
04/08/16 Brighton, UK – The Hope And Ruin
04/11/16 Berlin, DE – Privatclub
04/12/16 Hamburg, DE – Nochtspeicher
04/13/16 Cologne, DE – YUCA
04/14/16 Paris, FR – Le Pop Up Du Label
04/15/16 Bourges, FR – Le Printemps De Bourges
04/16/16 Brussels, BE – Ancienne Belgique
04/18/16 Dublin, IE – Whelans
04/19/16 Manchester, UK – The Night And Day Cafe
04/20/16 Glasgow, UK – King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut
04/21/16 Birmingham, UK – Hare & Hounds
05/17/16 Ann Arbor, MIThe Ark *
05/18/16 Toronto, ONDanforth Music Hall *
05/20/16 New York, NYThe Town Hall *
05/21/16 Washington, DCLincoln Theatre *
05/22/16 Boston, MAWilbur Theatre *
05/24/16 Philadelphia, PAUnion Transfer *
05/26/16 Atlanta, GABuckhead Theatre *
05/27/16 New Orleans, LAThe Civic Theatre *
05/28/16 Dallas, TXThe Kessler Theatre *
05/30/16 Tucson, AZThe Rialto Theatre *
05/31/16 Los Angeles, CAThe Fonda Theatre *
06/02/16 San Francisco, CAGreat American Music Hall *
06/03/16 Portland, ORAladdin Theater *
06/04/16 Seattle, WANeptune Theatre *
06/05/16 Boise, IDEgyptian Theatre *
06/07/16 Boulder, COBoulder Theater *
06/08/16 Omaha, NESlowdown *
06/09/16 Minneapolis, MNVarsity Theater *
06/10/16 Milwaukee, WITurner Hall Ballroom *
06/11/16 Chicago, ILThalia Hall *

* w/ Sam Beam (of Iron & Wine) and Jesca Hoop

LISTEN // Stream Marlon Williams’ Debut Album Via CBC Music, KEXP, KCMP, & KCRW, Tour Dates With Sam Beam (Iron And Wine) And Jesca Hoop

 
New Zealand’s Marlon Williams is quickly gaining recognition across the globe for his exceptionally evocative voice and remarkable stage presence. He’s just completed his first headline North American tour, selling out multiple cities, and culminating with a performance this morning on Chicago’s WGN Morning News. Following the release of his self-titled, debut album on Feb. 19 via Dead Oceans, Marlon will head to SXSW and then embark on his second North American tour, this time supporting Sam Beam (of Iron & Wine) and Jesca Hoop. Marlon (guitar, vocals) will be joined by Ben Woolley (bass/vocals). All dates are below.

 

Stream Marlon Williams’ Album Via CBC Music, KEXP, KCMP & KCRW:

http://music.cbc.ca/blogs/2016/2/First-Play-Marlon-Williams-self-titled

http://blog.kexp.org/2016/02/11/album-premiere-marlon-williams-marlon-williams/

http://www.thecurrent.org/feature/2016/02/11/marlon-williams-album-preview

http://www.kcrw.com/music/shows/album-preview/marlon-williams-marlon-williams/#

 

Order the album now:

 

Marlon Williams Tour Dates:

Sun. Feb. 28 – Perth, WA @ Perth International Arts Festival

Sat. March 5 – Melbourne, AU @ Melbourne Zoo

Wed. March 9 – Auckland, NZ @ Powerstation

Fri. March 11 – Sydney, AU @ Taronga Zoo

Sat. March 12 – Lonestar Valley, TAS @ A Festival Called Panama

Sun. March 13 – Mon. March 14 – Adelaide, SA @ Womadelaide

Tue. March 15 – Sun. March 20 – Austin, TX @ SXSW

Tue. April 5 – Nottingham, UK @ Bodega Social Club

Wed. April 6 – Bristol, UK @ The Louisiana

Thu. April 7 – London, UK @ St. Giles in the Fields

Fri. April 8 – Brighton, UK @ The Hope and Ruin

Mon. April 11 – Berlin, GE @ Privatclub

Tue. April 12 – Hamburg, GE @ Nochtspeicher

Wed. April 13 – Cologne, GE @ YUCA

Thu. April 14 – Paris, FR @ Le Pop Up Du Label

Fri. April 15- Bourges, FR @ Le Printemps de Bourges

Sat. April 16 – Brussels, BE @ Ancienne Belgique

Mon. April 18 – Dublin, IR @ Whelan’s

Tue. April 19 – Manchester, UK @ The Night and Day Café

Wed. April 20 – Glasgow, UK @ King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut

Thu. April 21 – Birmingham, UK @ Hare & Hounds

Tue. May 17 – Ann Arbor, MI @ The Ark *

Wed. May 18 – Toronto, ON @ Danforth Music Hall *

Fri. May 20 – New York, NY @ The Town Hall *

Sat. May 21 – Washington, DC @ Lincoln Theatre *

Sun. May 22 – Boston, MA @ Wilbur Theatre *

Tue. May 24 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer *

Thu. May 26 – Atlanta, GA @ Buckhead Theatre *

Fri. May 27 – New Orleans, LA @ The Civic Theatre *

Sat. May 28 – Dallas, TX @ The Kessler Theater *

Mon. May 30 – Tucson, AZ @ The Rialto Theatre *

Tue. May 31 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Fonda Theatre *

Thu. Jun. 2 – San Francisco @ Great American Music Hall *

Fri. Jun. 3 – Portland, OR @ Aladdin Theater *

Sat. Jun. 4 – Seattle, WA @ Neptune Theatre *

Sun. Jun. 5 – Boise, ID @ Egyptian Theatre *

Tue. Jun. 7 – Boulder, CO @ Boulder Theater *

Wed. Jun. 8 – Omaha, NE @ Slowdown *

Thu. Jun. 9 – Minneapolis, MN @ Varsity Theater *

Fri. Jun. 10 – Milwaukee, WI @ Turner Hall Ballroom *

Sat. Jun. 11 – Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall *

* with Sam Beam (of Iron & Wine) and Jesca Hoop

WATCH // Marlon Williams To Release Self Titled Debut LP February 19th, Shares Video For “Dark Child”

Marlon Williams broke out in stride with his incredible voice and masterful stage presence in Australia and New Zealand last year surrounding the release of his debut, self-titled album. He topped off the year winning Best Male Solo Artist and Breakthrough Artist of the Year at the New Zealand Music Awards, where he performed new single, “Dark Child,” attended the ARIA Awards in Australia, where he was nominated for Best Blues & Roots Album, and made his morning television debut performing “Hello Miss Lonesome” on “ABC Breakfast TV” in Australia.

It’s now time for Williams to make his mark on North America and the rest of the world. His debut album will see its release outside of NZ/Australia on Feb. 19 via Dead Oceans. But before that day’s arrival, Williams kicks off the year presenting the twisted video for the aforementioned single “Dark Child” where director Damian Golfinopoulos deconstructs the idea of a shared tragedy as if it were a deranged game played out on a movie set by a procession of actors. And at the end of the month, Marlon Williams & The Yarra Benders’ debut headline tour in North America begins. The band will be a four piece: Marlon Williams (guitar/vocals), Gus Agars (drum/vocals), Ben Woolley (bass/vocals) and Dave Khan (electric guitar/mandolin/fiddle/vocals). All dates are below.

Pre Order Marlon Williams’ Self Title LP now:
CD, LP & ltd tan vinyl // iTunes // Amazon // Support your local independent record store

Marlon William Tour Dates:
(more info and tix here)

Mon. Jan. 18 – Brussels, BE @ Ancienne Belgique
Thu. Jan. 21 – London, UK @ St. Pancras Old Church
Fri. Jan. 29 – Vancouver, BC @ Media Club – SOLD OUT
Sun. Jan. 31 – Seattle, WA @ Tractor Tavern
Mon. Feb. 1 – Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios
Tue. Feb. 2 – San Francisco, CA @ Brick & Mortar
Wed. Feb. 3 – Los Angeles, CA @ Bootleg Bar
Fri. Feb. 5 – New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
Sat. Feb. 6 – Toronto, ON @ Dakota Tavern
Mon. Feb. 8 – Nashville, TN @ The Basement
Tue. Feb. 9 – Bloomington, IN @ The Bishop
Wed. Feb. 10 – Chicago, IL @ Schubas Tavern
Thu. Feb. 18 – Paris, FR @ La Maroquinerie (Festival Les Nuits De L’Alligator)
Sat. Feb. 20 – Nantes, FR @ Le Stereolux (Festival Les Nuits De L’Alligator)
Sun. Feb. 21 – Mérignac, FR @ Krakatoa (Festival Les Nuits De L’Alligator)
Mon. Feb. 22 – Rouen, FR @ Le 106 (Festival Les Nuits De L’Alligator)
Sun. Feb. 28 – Perth, WA @ Perth International Arts Festival
Sat. March 5 – Melbourne, AU @ Melbourne Zoo
Wed. March 9 – Auckland, NZ @ Powerstation
Fri. March 11 – Sydney, AU @ Taronga Zoo
Sat. March 12 – Lonestar Valley, TAS @ A Festival Called Panama
Sun. March 13 – Mon. March 14 – Adelaide, SA @ Womadelaide
Tue. March 15 – Sun. March 20 – Austin, TX @ SXSW

NEW ZEALAND MUSIC AWARDS // Marlon Williams Claims ‘Best Male Solo Artist’ And ‘Breakthrough Artist of the Year’

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“Thanks so very much for deeming me appropriate to win this award, it looks so cool and I will never give it away”

Marlon Williams

Our newest signee, Marlon Williams, came away with two awards from the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards, for ‘Best Male Solo Artist’ and ‘Breakthrough Artist of the Year’ for his self-titled solo album, which Dead Oceans is releasing worldwide in the Spring of 2016.

Congratulations Marlon! Watch a short clip of his reaction below and check out his tour dates at the end of this post.

Order Marlon Williams:
via Dead Oceans // Apple Music // iTunes

Marlon Williams Tour Dates:
(more info and tix here)

11/20/15 Newcastle, AU – The Small Ballroom
11/21/15 Sydney, AU – Oxford Arts Factory
11/22/15 Milton, New South Wales – Milton Theatre
11/24/15 Wollongong, New South Wales – Rad Bar
11/25/15 Canberra, New South Wales – Transit Bar
11/27/15 Melbourne, New South Wales – Prince Bandroom
11/28/15 Hunter Valley, New South Wales – A Doy on the Green, Hunter Valley NSW w/ Paul Kelly, Lucinda Williams + Kasey Chambers
11/29/15 Mount Cotton, Queensland – A Day on the Green w/ Paul Kelly, Lucinda Williams + Kasey Chambers
12/03/15 Adelaide, AU – The Gov
12/04/15 Darwin, AU – Railway Club
12/06/15 Yarra Valley, VIC – A Day on the Green w/ Paul Kelly, Lucinda Williams + Kasey Chambers
12/10/15 Geelong, VIC – The Workers Club
12/11/15 Newport, VIC – The Substation
12/12/15 Barossa Valley, AU – A Day on the Green w/ Paul Kelly, Lucinda Williams + Kasey Chambers
12/13/15 Kings Park, AU – A Day on the Green w/ Paul Kelly, Lucinda Williams + Kasey Chambers
01/29/16 Vancouver, BC – Media Club
01/31/16 Seattle, WA – Tractor Tavern
02/02/16 San Francisco, CA – Brick & Mortar Music Hall
02/02/16 Los Angeles , CA – Bootleg Bar
02/05/16 New York, NY – Mercury Lounge
02/06/16 Toronto, ON – Dakota Tavern
02/08/16 Nashville, TN – The Basement
02/09/16 Bloomington, IN – The Bishop
02/10/16 Chicago, IL – Schubas Tavern
03/09/16 Auckland, NZ – Powerstation
03/15/16 Austin, TX – SXSW

tour dates

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

02/28/18

London, UK - Scala   w/ Cut Worms

03/05/18

Montreal, CA - Petit Campus
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