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Young and restless

UK’s Mercury Prize nominee Laura Marling talks about her India tour

music Updated: Dec 12, 2009 15:22 IST
Nikhil Taneja

UK’s Mercury Prize nominee Laura Marling talks about her India tour

How was the gig in Delhi?
It was really good. The crowd was pretty silent and was listening intently. (Giggles) That was quite a treat, to be honest. I teamed up with some Rajasthani folk musicians and I thought the language barrier might be a problem, but through body language and gestures, we managed to get past it. And it was fun!

So do you like what you’ve seen of India so far?
I love it! Even after hearing all the different things I’ve heard from so many people, I still can’t describe it. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever come across. There’s so much colour, so many people. (Giggles) It’s quite mad actually, and also really fun.

What did you know about Indian music before coming here?
I’ve seen a couple of Indian films so I knew about Bollywood music. I know of Ravi Shankar’s music and have heard a bit of Indian classical when I was in school. In fact, I’ve used the tabla and the sitar lightly in a song once. I hadn’t heard enough of it to talk about it, but I’ve always found it really interesting.

How’d the Soundpad exchange happen?
The British council told me that I’d get to go to India for a cultural exchange and not just a tour. I thought that was amazing. I didn’t believe it was happening until I was on the plane!

You started writing music professionally when you were 16 but your songs have been very mature. At 19, what inspires you to write music?
I always write about things that fascinate and worry me. I’m always trying to figure things out and sometimes, it’s more preemptive than conclusive. In the sense that I write when something is about to happen and I feel it in my bones, than when it’s already happened and I can’t do anything about it.

You call your songs ‘streams of consciousness’.
Yeah, because I don’t write lyrics and melody independently. I just pick up the guitar and start writing a song. I have no control over what comes out. (Laughs) Sometimes, it doesn’t even make any sense.

In an age where teenage girls usually listen to commercial stuff, how did you discover the folk genre?
Well, I think people are always influenced by the music that their parents listen to. And my dad was always a big fan of Neil Young, Bob Dylan and the like. I grew up on that stuff – the ’60s folk music movement. And I think things always naturally go further back and come around full circle, than go forward. That’s what’s happened in my case.

Do you listen to any of the commercial stuff now?
(Laughs) I was very snobby about listening to it when I started out. But the biggest thing I have learnt is to be open-minded. A lot of the contemporary albums take two-three listenings before you understand the genius behind them. (Giggles) And there’s always something that comes along that I end up enjoying.

Being so young, how do you deal with the glowing reviews and the fame that comes along with success?
Haha! Fame is a bit too big a word to use. But I think, when I started out four years ago, it took me some time to adjust, to be comfortable with myself, more than anything. Now that I am more at ease with myself, I can take up the responsibilities that come along with the profession.

So what are the pros and cons of being young and successful?
The pros are.. (giggles) that I’m in India! I get to travel to amazing places and it’s brilliant that I can take up music, that I love, as a career. The cons are that I can’t really go on a date since I don’t have the time for it. My family and the people I work with are brilliant though, so I don’t miss much.