Folk musician Laura Marling is only 25 years old, but she's already released five albums, which have earned her multiple nominations for the Mercury Prize — England’s most coveted music award.
Marling says she’s never stayed in one place for more than a month since she was 16 years old. But recently, she spent an entire year in Los Angeles to record her latest album, “Short Movie,” not to be confused with the short film Marling starred, wrote and scored earlier this year.
The Frame’s John Horn spoke with Marling about why she chose L.A. for her temporary home, how the sounds of the city inspired her latest album, and where she liked to relax in the city:
How did you end up in Los Angeles for a year?
I didn't plan on making this some sort of grand social experiment in my life, 'cause I did just sort of land there by accident. I had never intended in living or staying in Los Angeles. It was just a surreal place in such a wonderful way that I kind of felt that there was a reason why that place is so strange. It just makes people feel like they can do anything. So I decided to make it my opportunity to congregate with the other weirdos — the great weirdos.
You've said that the traffic and noise of Los Angeles inspired some of your music on "Short Movie," yet with this album, it almost sounds a little more stripped down from your previous work.
Yeah, the mechanical sound of Los Angeles — which is extremely stimulating at first — it was my permanent soundtrack and I was very aware of it. It was the first time that I was aware of how much sound interrupts me. And what we tried to put around the record is this very atonal electric guitar, which is actually in every track, but some of it is so subtle you could barely hear it. That's what I felt like in Los Angeles. Even when you go to the top of some mountain and see this incredibly beautiful city, you can still hear this low rumble, you can hear the electricity of the lights somehow, and I was very affected by that. I tried to put a little bit of that into the record.
In the song, "Don't Let Me Bring You Down," you sing: "Living here is a game I don’t know how to play. Are you really not anybody until somebody knows your name?" It sounds like a commentary of the people living in Los Angeles. Tell us more about the lyrics of that song.
Well, it does sound very crass when put in that context, for sure. I'm embarrassed. I think, more than being centered around Los Angeles, we're centralized somehow. You could be in Los Angeles or London or New York, and I think I was just extremely aware of that when I was living there because Los Angeles is this place where — it's horrible to say — but it's this place of broken dreams. I felt extremely aware of that — having made my pilgrimage there — and having an image of what California or Los Angeles was like, and getting there and realizing how much the mystery is perpetuated. That realization itself was so inspiring because it sort of pushed my boundaries of how surreal you could get, how much of a mystery you could make of things if you so choose.
What was your favorite physical place to visit in Los Angeles?
The city is magical — there's no two ways about it. There were many bookstores and cafes which I intend to go back to a lot, so I'm not going to name them [laughs.] And there's just my favorite roads that I would drive up at night and look over the city and just stop and be mesmerized by. I lived on the east side, so that was my jam.