Laura Marling

The Guardian (and its Sunday brother, The Observer) are my favourite British newspapers.
When it comes to Laura Marling they get me confused.

On one side The Guardian have been praising Laura Marling music since her debut. Any of her albums had nothing less than 4 stars and so did most of her shows. She is constantly covered on the paper, got praised and often interviewed.
The Observer recently also gave away a nice compilation CD of her music for free. It sounds like a happy marriage.

On the other side, The Guardian has coined and overused the neologism New Boring. Originally created by Peter Robinson, one of its contributor and Popjustice editor.

It’s effective to define a new genre with a new term. A word which, at the same time, is ironical and judgmental. It’s the sort of combination that readers love, hence a success for journalism.
To be fair, the term New Boring originally pointed its invisible finger to popular acts as Adele, Coldplay and Mumford & Sons more than Laura Marling. Nevertheless she has often been thrown in that box. Incorrectly.

I don’t like genres definitions and even more the market need of new genres creation but, from a pure hilarious point of view to read: “The term New Boring […] suggested pop’s Beige Wave – Adele, Mumford and Sons, cathedral-blighting folk simperer Laura Marling….” it makes me smile.

To complete this intro and aim to be (new) boring myself, there’s a pop/gossip side to this tale: Laura Marling rocambolesque love stories a few years back. A tale still not missed by the Guardian.
Very young, when she was back vocalist for Noah and The Whale she was in a relationship with the band lead singer Charlie Fink. After the band first album where she is credited, Laura left the collaboration and left Charlie Fink as well to get involved in another relationship.
Nothing interesting to the press, if the contender wasn’t Marcus Mumford, The leader of the competitor and fast growing band going to lead the brit-folk invasion in USA.

The split with Fink was very talked about and made ‘tearfully public’ when the second and best album by Noah and The Whale was released. First Days of Spring is Charly Fink sublimation of the grieve following the end of love with Laura Marling.

From the paper point of view, to “run with the hare and hunt with the hounds” (I had to look for this!) and throw into some celebrity gossip definitely works. It gets both lovers, detractors and gossip people interested in reading.
From Laura Marling point of view, she may be annoyed, but it works too. She is indeed one of the most covered artists in national newspapers. “As long as they speak about you is OK” there’s an Italian expression used for celebrities need to be on the spotlight.
From my point of view, I’m confused and all of this had me prejudicially prevented to get more information.

I also have a problem with the misuse of the term folk. Folk music in the last 10 years had a huge success. There is a commercial interest in defining folk. Everything that is played without a distorted guitar, regardless it’s rooted “enough” in popular culture to effectively play folk music.

Wendy Fonarow, the Indie Professor on her blog, still hosted by The Guardian, tried to address this point recently in another of her interesting posts/answers/lessons: “What do we mean by ‘folk’?” triggered by a tweet from Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos: “Is the folk thing finished yet?”

I went to check myself, you may have noticed this year started ‘folky’ with King Creosote and Jon Hopkins and First Aid Kit. Cambridge is the folk UK capital, I repeat everytime. Cambridge has the most important Folk Festival in July and Laura Marling headlined its latest edition last summer.

Laura Marling isn’t a proper folk artist to me. She uses acoustic guitars, she has been playing in folk bands but my orthodox point of view wants folk to be more rooted into popular influences in terms of music played and instruments used. Laura Marling, if you need a definition, sits in the acoustic pop which can be very relaxing (and very boring) mainly depending on the songs played.

It is my first time but, only 22 years old, Laura Marling is touring her third full length album: A Creature I Don’t Know. The album was out in late September not much after the release of her second, the multi awarded I speak because I Can. She has never been short of inspiration and, undoubtedly she has a gift on writing catchy songs or, more appropriately, on catching fans with her songs.

With a date at London most prestigious theatre later in the week, the 5000 capacity Apollo Hammersmith, this opening night of her UK tour in Cambridge, which follows a sunny Australian break, is long awaited, sold out and perfect for a general rehearsal.

Dressed in white, blonde hair on warm spotlights, with the band all around her in a shadowy dark blue background, the light engineer has been clear to highlight whose the leader here.
To come onto a stage with an acoustic guitar and play to a full theatre your personal stories, at 22 years old, isn’t something as straightforward as it looks. Imagine yourself, imagine your daughter doing this. It requires, nerves, self-confidence and, above all, skills.

Laura Marling, as her friend/enemy/rival Emmy Lee Moss, (aka Emmy the Great who I reviewed and photographed here) has got all of this. And she has enough songs to fill 90 minutes with no much more than her personality and music.
The band never manages to take the centre stage, not even when she introduce all of them one by one, including Pete Roe who was one of the support acts.
Laura is the star, the band help her shining.

The set starts around her latest album with a growing number of insertions from the past as it goes on. She kicks the band out for a solo moment which, if anything, emphasize her value.

I notice a song because when it starts I think it is a cover of Jose Gonzales’ Heartbeat used in the amazing advert of Sony Bravia some years ago. I am wrong, it is similar but it is called My Friends, one of the new tunes.

The concert has its sweet moment. Laura praise the internet and youtube videos and asks the audience to record and upload her birthday wishes for her sister 30th. The “permission” to video record doubled the hands up holding a smartphone. A modern times ritual of rock concerts getting out of control.

After Rambling man and nicely introducing the last song she prepares the audience there will not be an encores and let the concert close on the notes of I Speak Because I Can.

If you want to know more, Laura Marling online is here: [website][facebook][twitter][myspace][spotify]

Photo tip

This is a true and nice story, happened to me last Friday.
I was having my lunch break, I picked one of the newspapers available, The Independent, I flicked through the pages until I saw a Laura Marling review from the Hammersmith Apollo gig (the review is here but the picture was only on the paper edition). It had a large picture going with the article.
My first thought was, “wow, she played London with exactly the same lights and pose of Cambridge! I got similar shot to this”. The split second my eyes needed to get to the credits and I discovered that it was actually my photo. With my name bottom right!

At that time, I had just started writing this post about the Guardian and Laura Marling to find my shot of her was published on the Independent. Hilarious.

A photo taken in Cambridge, used for the London review it’s unusual and rewarding. To have been selected from the large bucket of available images that newspapers can browse including, I guess, the ones of her London Hammersmith show is satisfying.
If I was told and I rushed to a newsagent to pick up a copy, it wouldn’t be the same feeling.

It’s plenty of concert photographers at each gig. It’s very hard nowadays to get published on a national paper, especially on a large print. For several reasons. To get the right image of the right artist to the right person at the right moment is tricky.
I may be good at the first (self-confidence mode=on), but not at the rest. I shoot artists who I like to listen, usually far from mainstream. Instead of going home postediting the photos I stay to watch the show hence I am not always quick to send pics back to agency. I am very rigid on the selection, don’t shot many and select even less. If you know my portfolio, prefer more arty than clear and sellable images.

I am picky and stubborn. I don’t get overexcited by a success not put down by several failures. I keep doing what I like the way I like.
After several years in the field, I came to conclusion that solely concert photography can’t be a profession. There are not enough money to supply all the amazing photographers who are part of the circus.

The concert cake is tiny and must be shared in multiple slices. No one is going to be full with it. You’ve got to go for the wedding cake if you want to live as a photographer. There’s very few other options if you starting now.

There are also too many aspiring photographers giving away material for free. And even more bands, label, venues, promoter, magazines and everyone working for a profit in the field happy to compromise on quality to have freebies. Remember, if you give away photos for free once, people would expect photos for free forever, resist.

Yet there is some space to see gigs, to meet people, to connect, to learn and to have fun.
It’s about ten years I do this consistently. It cost me much more money than I earned but the adrenaline kick I have when the lights go down and it’s just me and the band in front of me for the next 10 minutes is something I’m not willing to give up just yet.

~ by Valerio on March 13, 2012.

2 Responses to “Laura Marling”

  1. Hey. Nice post. I like these photos very much as well.

    ps: Above you mentioned Laura’s second album is Alas I cannot swim. I’m pretty sure is I speak because I can.


  2. Hei, thanks for this Ruan, and thanks a lot for reading. You are definitely right, my mistake, just corrected.

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