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Marlon Williams

Interview — Mohamed Sqalli
Photography — Hélène Tchen Cardenas


Marlon Williams is the latest sensation that comes to us from New Zealand. The kiwi singer-songwriter amazes by his elegant songwriting and his complete (and refreshing) disinterest for fake authenticity. We had the chance to exchange about Lorde, Barbecue Reggae and the New Zealand folk music tradition.

Hi Marlon, how are you ?

I’m good, man. I’m back from Brussels. People are nice. Pretty easy days…

Congratulations for your first solo album. I just wanted to ask you how it was different to make a Marlon Williams album alone compared to working with other people.

All the responsibility and all of the praise get aimed on you. It’s sort of simpler that way. But it’s hard to make choices sometimes; this is why I kept Delaney Davidson around while making it.


Tell me about the folk music scene in New Zealand. I really didn’t know about it, and actually maybe the only current artist I know from there is Connan Mockasin. 

In the little town that I’m from, there is an inexplicably very large folk scene that seems to have come up at the same time than folk music in rest of the world, in the last 10 years or so.

Is this scene new or is there a strong folk music history in Zealand?

Well it’s new. We don’t have a folk music tradition in New Zealand. But with we have the same kind of landscapes than in the US, and basically you have the time to think about things. (smiles)


What brought you to folk and country? 

My father made me listen to a lot of folk music. I was his only child so maybe he wanted to teach me, being a musician himself.

What are the most popular music acts in New Zealand now? 

Well, everyone is really proud of Lorde. She’s a very interesting character. She’s super down to earth and embodies a lot what kiwis feel proud of. I had the occasion of meeting her a month ago, and I can tell she knows music inside out. But in New Zealand, we also have rubbish stuff, like Barbecue Reggae, it’s a New Zealand version of reggae, that's really insipid.


Are there major labels that control the music business there?

Yeah, of course, even if there’s not much to control (laughs).

What are your musical references, right now ?

I’m a Lana Del Rey fan. I’d love to write a song for her.


How do you see your future as a musician? Touring the world and selling loads of discs like The Tallest Man On Earth or keeping it small like Daniel Romano for instance?

I like touring but I don’t … I like being home. (smiles) I don’t think it’s really sustainable for me to tour all the time. I’d like to do it maybe half the year, and spend the rest of the time at home writing songs for me or for other musicians.

How do you feel your music is received in Europe ?

So far, it’s been great. It’s funny… Language is such a funny thing. I don’t speak a word of French but it’s funny to hear people talk about your music using a certain vocabulary. It’s interesting trying to work out what it means a lot of the time (laughs).