Marlon Williams on “Make Way For Love”

Love and Lonliness

May 24, 2018 Photography by Steve Gullick Issue #63 - Courtney Barnett
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New Zealand singer/songwriter Marlon Williams has no interest in being alone. While some long for solitude and the peace that it brings, it's an unnatural state for Williams. When I ask if being alone scares him, Williams is quick to confirm. "[It's] something that really terrifies me."

Williams' songwriting affirms how much the idea of solitude bothers him. On his 2016 debut self-titled record, Williams shares a story of a father dealing with his son's death ("Dark Child") and of a man haunted by the ghost of his wife ("Strange Things"). The album opens with a narrative about a woman who personifies loneliness: "It's funny how I lose my mind when you come around," Williams cries on "Hello Miss Lonesome."

But the stories behind these songs are removed from Williams' experiences and this storytelling was a way for him to get around putting himself in his music. "Generally speaking, I can be quite emotional elusive," he explains. "So the narrative and allegorical type of storytelling is a way of communicating without being direct. I think it also comes from that country and bluegrass tradition of what I call newspaper storytelling. There's something so tragic and intense about describing events and calling on a listener to fill in the emotional details."

When it came time to write his sophomore album, Williams had a few writing sessions but nothing came out of them. And then Williams and his partner, and musician, Aldous Harding broke-up and he came face-to-face with what terrifies him: being alone.

He wrote 15 songs in a month following the break-up and unlike his debut, Williams didn't hide behind fictitious character and instead turned inwards to explore the different versions of himself. Williams is the reckless "Party Boy" on the feverish, synth-laced track and on "Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore," a duet with Harding, when the sullen pop instrumentals and Harding's croon briefly fall away, Williams is the last one standing to mull over where life might go next: "What am I gonna do when you're in trouble and you don't call out for me?" he asks.

"It felt like an unconscious crime of passion. Laying out all of these different energies and feelings and then waking up a month later with blood on my hands and not knowing what was going on," says Williams about his intense period of songwriting.

While the heart of the record is a broken one, through writing about a personal upheaval, Make Way For Love is a record about healing for Williams. "For the first time in my life, I've used writing music as a means of therapy," he says. "It felt really necessary to discover and learn things about myself and my existence through writing songs. So it's been a real process of personal growth and learning for me to write that way. It didn't happen on purpose but it needed to happen, I think."

With an aversion to solitude, it makes sense that when Williams is on stage, his booming voice slipping through the bodies that fill the room, he feels most comfortable. "Hiding in plain sight is the easiest place to hide for me," he admits. Surrounded by new people almost every night, Williams is at ease.

"One of my favorite things about touring is seeing that everyone, all across the world, is pretty much the same," Williams says. "We all have our differences but it's all pretty much the same stuff going on everywhere. It's quite comforting to know that...we're all lonely and we're all going through it blindly."

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar's Spring 2018 Issue (March/April/May 2018), which is out now. This is its debut online.]

www.marlonwilliams.co.nz

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RepRightSongs
May 25th 2018
4:40am

I like the song in that first video because of it’s title, “Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore.” This is a very true statement being made. It’s wierd because when we are kids, we feel as if we are at least getting some wants.

As we get older though, we start to realize that we are grown and no one really needs to take care of us anymore. Your parents have done their job. Now it’s up to yourself to take care of you.

If that means that you can’t go out and buy your wants anymore because you have to pay bills, that is the way it is.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be limited to never getting your wants again. You have to work hard and transitioning into a career that allows you to get what you want again without worries of affording them.