Author Spotlight: Laura Marling

I am not interested in art produced by women any more than I am interested in art produced by men. The impossibility of women to produce art and be recognised for it does interest and occupy my mind but I do not consider or value art based on who created it. I consider it on what it depicts and represents, and on the power it is able to bestow.

                I never listened to Laura Marling looking for a female experience – that is what I am trying to say. I never felt that her words and her music made me feel particularly identified with her as a female. It was always a matter of feeling identified with her as a human being. Her music is intimate, delicate and raw. I was always fascinated by the fact that she’s such a young woman yet her lyrics are profoundly mature, strangely wise.

                Marling’s first album, Alas I Cannot Swim, was published in 2008 by Virgin Records. She was 18. It was duly noted by critics and fans alike, it was certainly promising, but I doubt by listening to it you could truly suspect what was coming next. The following two albums, I Speak Because I Can (2010) and A Creature I Don’t Know (2011), keep navigating further from that first experiment. It seems somewhat curious, that with each new effort, her music becomes simultaneously more complex yet more simplistic. It seems she is going towards some sort of rhythmic poetry, where she merely mutters her words as a few chords accompany her voice. Her next album, scheduled for a 2013 release, is said to start off with a 30-minute medley. Needless to say, when I read that piece of news I almost wept with joy.


Her growing fame and critical acclaim, though, have not marred her writing. And I say this because sadly it is what tends to happen after three albums and one too many tours: inspiration begins to lack. Her lyrics are as poignant now, if not more, as they were back when she was a seventeen year old. Reading, listening to her, feels like witnessing her inner growth process, and it is a particularly interesting one. Somebody that wrote ‘Alas I Cannot Swim’ at seventeen is most certainly going to keep on doing interesting things by her thirties.

                With my opening paragraph I was trying to make a point. I did not perceive listening to her music as a female experience until I came across ‘To be a Woman’ which was written at some point during 2010 and never made it into an album. It’s one of those golden b-sides or rare tracks, one of those that are just so good you cannot stop wondering why they didn’t make it. Sadly, YouTube is my only source for it, because while it can allegedly be found in the Flicker and Fail single, I am yet to find a digital copy for it.

Call me a freak, but most of the time I treat my music experiences as intimate relationships with my favourite singers. Listening to a song is not merely listening to a song, but having a raw and honest conversation with an intimate friend – in my mind.  Up until ‘To be a Woman’, speaking to Laura Marling was about the contradictions inherent in the human condition, about love and friendship, about acceptance, about terror of the future, about destructive relationships, of letting go of anger, of loving by rage, of being wounded by dust. After listening to ‘To be a Woman’, my perception of all of those gave a turn. The wounds inflicted by dust were now gripped by another dimension.

Perhaps I should stop typing, and let her do the talking.

I feel a bond between us

I have felt like you do

I know better than to take it away from you

I have right

The only one in my life

A right to what is rightfully mine

Untainted, untempting, and sober

I will never touch that skin again

I will never feel that way again

I will never look into the face

Of my father or my friends

And be able to say, I’m okay, I’m okay

I don’t feel pain anyway

Not anymore, anyway

And I’m not dead yet

I could be soon

And all I want to do

Is put my arms around you

Little girl, it’s all so new

Girl, little girl, you need to learn, little girl

Not to take what is mine

I’m not dead yet

I could be soon

And all I want to do

Is put my arms around you

Little girl, it’s all so new

Girl, little girl, you need to learn, little girl

What it is to be a woman

All songs will (and must, I believe) be interpreted differently by each listener. Music, as literature, as any form of art, is put forward by an artist to be interpreted at will by its audience. I do not believe in artists telling me about their own interpretation of their own texts. I do not believe that is the point of art. The point of art is to exercise your right to question life. If you cannot even decide what your favourite song means to you, what kind of freedom, what kind of enjoyment is there? And so ‘To be a Woman’ has been many different things in just a few months to me.

It has been a song of revenge, a song of despair, a song that spoke to others and to nobody. In the end, to me it was a song about myself. A song about the pain of growing up as a woman. About that somewhat inherent pain you feel. About an older self that speaks to her younger self, knowingly, warningly, about a lost pain that will never be recovered and yet will always be present. About the wisdom that is yet to be gained. This is a pain and an experience that I have only seen properly described by Jeffrey Eugenides in The Virgin Suicides and by Sylvia Plath in… all of her work. ‘To Be a Woman’ manages, in a few verses to give us a minuscule glimpse of what the pain of being a woman entails. A pain that is perhaps so intense due to the impossibility to define it, to describe it and to modify it. An uncategorized, untamable experience you can only get to know through your experiencing it. A pain you need to learn about.