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Laura Marling, petite and quiet, enters the WERS studios in thin black jeans and simple shoes with nothing except an acoustic guitar and a show at the Somerville Theater to get excited about. At only twenty-three, the British folk singer isn’t much older than the college students that surround her, but couldn’t be in a more different headspace—she’s currently touring in support of her fourth studio album, Once I Was an Eagle, is already well on her way to completing a fifth, and recently uprooted her life in England to move to the west coast. For all intents and purposes Marling has a lot to keep track of, but her attitude is anything but stressed.
She selected three songs from Once I Was an Eagle to play with only the acoustic guitar and her earthy vocals, singing “Where Can I Go?”, “Pray For Me”, and “Little Bird”, and spoke to why she had chosen to scale down the number of people involved in her recordings this time around. “I’m aiming for simplicity,” she explained with a small smile, going on to describe a recording process that consisted of only Marling, a producer, engineer, and the occasional accompanist. This is in comparison to supporting bands both in the studio and on tour as large as five additional people, but the artist seems ready to put that behind her, saying she’d prefer to move forward with a simpler outlook on production.
This outlook has obviously paid off in recent months—Once I Was an Eagle has fared better in sales and critical outlook than her three previous efforts, and the move to the states has served to build an already-impressive fanbase even further. The raw sound of the record makes hearing the live performance that much more satisfying, with Marling’s vocals and sound sounding very close to the original production itself. Her eyes remain closed as the fingers moved up and down the acoustic with ease, muscles in the forearm fluttering a little during brief solos. More than any press or photo, live music is where Marling thrives, and it’s easy to imagine she’d sing with the same passion and quiet confidence while practicing in her bedroom.
However, the artist has had to reconcile a basic discomfort with the publicity that comes with being an impressive musician, and she’s spent years finding the conditions that she’s comfortable with. “I get it,” she laughed, “I know it’s a part of everything.” Many fans were surprised when the ordinarily camera-shy Marling opted to make a short film with music video collaborators Fred and Nick for “When Brave Bird Saved,” lasting an impressive seventeen minutes. She explained that capturing an image was a matter of trust—Fred and Nick had worked with Marling before, and she prefers to be captured on film rather than in a still. “And it stands on its own,” she said of the video itself, which uses a number of songs from Once I Was an Eagle but takes on a life of its own, weaving a story unrelated to the lyrics themselves.
Laura Marling left the WERS studios as simply as she had come, with a little wave and a thank you before hopping on the red line to Somerville. Like her music, she doesn’t want things complicated, and there’s something in that philosophy that’s as beautiful as an acoustic hook.