For the better part of the past decade, Laura Marling's voice has become synonymous with the modern English folk scene. She’s been widely acknowledged as one of her country's best and most prolific songwriters.
Which is good, because she apparently doesn't have much of a future as a Silver Lake barista.
After completing her tour behind her critically acclaimed fourth album, Once I Was an Eagle, Marling decided to put down roots for the first time since she started touring as a 16-year-old — in Los Angeles, Highland Park and Silver Lake in particular.
The change of scenery was much needed, she says. Living in a city where she wasn’t a familiar face was a relief, allowing her to partake in daily life. Though she enjoyed hiking, traveling to hot springs with friends and attending art shows, Marling admits she was doing little more than killing time; “L.A. is a great place to do that.” She spent eight months barely writing and enjoying life.
But soon enough, toiling in the blankness began to take a toll on her. Marling tried getting a job at a coffeehouse to do something constructive with her day, but didn’t get the job, a situation she found both humbling and amusing.
“It was an incredibly surreal time,” she says. “I kind of relished it. You could reconstruct your persona if you want and I had a breakdown in ego, which is exactly what I needed. I needed to broken apart in order to be reinspired. Otherwise, my life was in danger of becoming some perpetuating life in the pursuit of art, which is fucking boring.”
After two and a half years, it was finally time for the singer to return to London. But L.A. made a strong impact on the singer-songwriter.
“It had begun to feel like home,” the 25-year-old says, during a brief return to Highland Park ahead of a SXSW blitz. “I think there’s a point around the two-year mark living in L.A. where it feel like it’s trying to kick you out and you either decide to not let it do that or concede and get on with it. I conceded and moved back [to London].”
Her latest album, the aptly titled Short Movie, was written during her downtime. Having met “so many fascinating characters in a really unusual town,” Marling found inspiration in the city’s little things and its music scene. For the first time, she was able to think about her life as a singer-songwriter clearly and why she decided to venture down that particular path, as she encountered people in the city who played music because they were passionate about it instead of seeing it as a job.
Marling’s L.A. experience followed her back to London, and translated into a more progressive style of music. Electric guitars replaced her soothing acoustics and the result is a vastly different branch of indie folk than she’d tackled before.
“In a similar way, I needed a break from what I did and needed a new tool for my relationship with music,” she explains. “I think these five albums are the end to that era. I think that’s such a coincidence that I’m 25 and I’ll be 27 when I do another record. It’s a significant jump to a different part of life and the beginning of something different.”
It’s only been a few months since she left, yet Laura Marling still feels loosely attached to the city. She misses the random people she’d come to appreciate, her 1990 Honda Accord, (“You don’t drive in England”) and the city’s lack of cynicism.
“My experience in Los Angeles was basically the tearing apart of my ego,” she says. “In order to get out of that, you have to think outside the box. I think that begins to release cynicism, which is a really great thing for an English person. I had to give up my cynicism in order to expand life here. That was one of the best things to happen to me.”
Laura Marling's Short Movie is out this week on Ribbon Music. More info at www.lauramarling.com.