Laura Beatrice Marling (born 1 February 1990) is a British folk singer-songwriter and musician from Eversley, Hampshire. Her debut album Alas, I Cannot Swim, her second album I Speak Because I Can, and her fourth album Once I Was an Eagle were each nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in 2008, 2010, and 2013, respectively. She won the Brit Award for Best British Female Solo Artist at the 2011 Brit Awards, and was nominated for the same award at the 2012, 2014 and 2016 Brit Awards.
The youngest of three daughters, Marling was born in Berkshire, England, and learned guitar at an early age. Her father, Sir Charles William Somerset Marling, the 5th Marling Baronet, ran a recording studio, introduced her to folk music and shaped her musical taste, an experience that Marling later described as, "a bit of a blessing and a bit of a curse....[because] I couldn’t slot myself into the age-appropriate genre".
Marling attended Waverley Primary School in Finchampstead, Berkshire and received a scholarship to attend Leighton Park School, a private Quaker school in Reading, Berkshire. During her secondary school years she felt uneasy around other people and was afraid of death.
After completing her GCSEs at 16, she joined her older sisters and settled in the outskirts of London. She soon joined a cluster of intertwined bands that were drawn to acoustic instruments and tradition-tinged melodies—the group formed a musical movement that was labelled "nu-folk" by the British press. Marling joined the original line-up of indie folk band Noah and the Whale and appears as a background vocalist on their debut album Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down; however, she left the group before the album's 2008 release due to a dissolved relationship with the band's lead singer, Charlie Fink. Marling also appeared on The Rakes track "Suspicious Eyes", from the band's 2007 album Ten New Messages, credited as 'Laura Marlin'. Marling would later collaborate with Mystery Jets and contributed guest vocals to the 2008 single "Young Love". Early in her music career, Marling's band included members of the band Mumford & Sons; Dwane, Mumford and Marshall.
2008 – 2011: Alas, I Cannot Swim; I Speak Because I Can; A Creature I Don't Know
She was invited to tour with Jamie T after he attended her second-ever solo gig. She has also toured with a number of other musicians including Adam Green from the anti-folk band The Moldy Peaches. She performed at the 2007 O2 Wireless Festival and also performed at the first Underage Festival in August 2007 at Victoria Park, East London, before releasing her debut EP "London Town" on WayOutWest Records.
Her debut album Alas, I Cannot Swim was released on 4 February 2008, and later nominated for the 2008 Mercury Prize. The album, as well as subsequent singles, were released on Virgin Records. The third and final single from her album, "Night Terror" was released on 27 October 2008, coinciding with a 6-date "Night Terror tour".
Marling's television appearances include The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and Later With Jools Holland, performing "Ghosts" and "New Romantic" respectively. In 2008, she appeared on Russell Brand's Radio 2 show alongside her sister. She once chose to perform on the street after being denied entry to one of her own performances for being underage.
The follow-up to Alas, I Cannot Swim, titled I Speak Because I Can, was released on 22 March 2010. Produced by Ethan Johns, the album has a more mature sound and lyricism, dealing with "responsibility, particularly the responsibility of womanhood." The album is preceded by the singles "Goodbye England (Covered in Snow)", released on iTunes in December 2009 and "Devil's Spoke" on 15 March 2010. On 28 March 2010, I Speak Because I Can entered the UK Albums Chart at Number 4. It was also nominated for the 2010 Mercury Music Prize. In 2013, NME listed the album at 263 in their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
Marling's third album, A Creature I Don't Know, was released on 12 September 2011. The album received positive reviews and reached number four on the UK album charts.
2012 to 2013: Once I Was an Eagle
During October 2012, Marling completed the 'Working Holiday Tour' of the US as a solo performer. At the time, she announced that the fourth album, later named Once I Was an Eagle, was finished and was scheduled for a February 2013 release; however, this was later delayed until May 2013. On 8 March 2013, Marling confirmed that the album would be released on 27 May 2013, and would be released in the US one day later.
The fourth album's first single "Master Hunter" was released on 17 April 2013, while Once I Was an Eagle entered the UK charts at number 3.
Following the release of the album, Marling revealed that she only listened to "music made between 1969 and 1972" during the songwriting process for the album, and described it as an era when "guitar was becoming a kind of masculine extension". Marling also explained during the post-release promotional period that she sought a minimalist approach for the fourth album and, in contrast to the previous two albums, recorded all of the songs without a band.
Once I Was an Eagle is Marling's third album to be nominated for the Mercury Prize. The list of artists for the Prize's 2013 shortlist also included David Bowie and Savages. The 2013 award was eventually won by James Blake.
Marling revealed in a September 2013 interview that she had enough songs for a fifth album at the time, and she will "maybe make this record and then have a big, long, hard think about what I’ve done." During a February 2014 performance for National Public Radio (NPR)'s "eTown" series, Marling played one of the new songs, titled "Born To Love."
During a European tour for her fourth album, Marling expressed doubts about her long-term commitment to the music industry during an interview with Neil McCormick of the Telegraph newspaper. Published in September 2013, the Telegraph article included the following statement showing Marling's uncertainty:
When I play, I am very much in the space where I was when I wrote the music. You could slay me quite easily, I’m at my most vulnerable. I am very private, in all aspects of my life, to everybody, so why is it that I get up on stage every night and open myself in front of strangers? I’m not sure if I’ve got the bottle for it, any more.
Marling added that she is sometimes surprised by her profession in relation to the music industry as a whole, and often thinks, "oh, I exist in this industry" when listening to the radio, saying to McCormick that she is unsure if she wants to remain in such a position.
2014 to present: Short Movie and Semper Femina
On 16 December 2014, Marling announced that her fifth studio album would be titled Short Movie, and its title track, released on the same date, is the lead single and was made available for digital download. The album features 13 songs composed by Marling and was released in the UK on 23 March 2015 and one day later in the US.
Marling began recording songs for the album shortly after completing the solo tour for Once I Was an Eagle. The songs were written in the US, reflecting Marling's experience of living in Los Angeles. However, after recording a new album, she felt unsatisfied with the result, and made the decision to scrap most of the songs written in that period. During this time, she became involved in activities unrelated to music. When production later resumed, she completed the album with her band at Urchin Studios in London. Marling produced the album alongside studio engineers Dan Cox and Matt Ingram.
The second single from the record, "False Hope", premiered on 20 January. The track was available for digital download the next day. Both "False Hope" and "Short Movie" were received with critical acclaim, many reviewers noting the larger sound and the confidence in Marling's vocals.
In October 2015, Marling announced a short Tour de Ville through the US, where she would be previewing material from her forthcoming sixth studio album.
In a tweet, Blake Mills confirmed that Marling's sixth studio album was completed. In November 2016, Marling announced the release of Semper Femina in March 2017, with "Soothing" the first single from the record. The album was released to critical acclaim, many hailing it as Marling's finest work to date.
Marling co-stars in the short film, "Woman Driver", which was filmed in Marfa, Texas and directed by Chris Perkel. The movie was shot and edited in 72 hours. Marling later won "Best Actress" at the 72-Hour National Film Challenge. The film was shown at the London Short Film Festival on 14 January 2015 and later premiered on Vimeo the following month. The film also featured new music from Marling.
Marling dated Noah and the Whale singer/guitarist Charlie Fink briefly before the pair separated in 2008. She also dated Marcus Mumford of Mumford and Sons until late 2010. She moved to Silver Lake in Los Angeles, California in 2013, before relocating back to London in December 2014.
In September 2013, Marling explained: "I am a solitary person but I love people, I’m not a misanthrope. I like the idea of speaking only when it's strictly necessary. The closest I ever feel to people is in shared experience. I’m still exploring that, I don’t know where it's going to lead me."
- Alas, I Cannot Swim (2008)
- I Speak Because I Can (2010)
- A Creature I Don't Know (2011)
- Once I Was an Eagle (2013)
- Short Movie (2015)
- Semper Femina (2017)
Awards and nominations
|2008||Mercury Prize||Alas, I Cannot Swim||Mercury Prize||Nominated|
|2010||Mercury Prize||I Speak Because I Can||Nominated|
|RTÉ Radio 1||Album of the Year||Nominated|
|2011||BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards||"Rambling Man"||Best Original Song||Nominated|
|Brit Awards||Best British Female||Won|
|NME Awards||Best Solo Artist||Won|
|Q Awards||Best female||Nominated|
|2012||Brit Awards||Best British Female||Nominated|
|NME Awards||Best Solo Artist||Nominated|
|2013||Mercury Prize||Once I Was an Eagle||Mercury Prize||Nominated|
|2014||Brit Awards||Best British Female||Nominated|
|2016||Brit Awards||Best British Female||Nominated|