At just 24, Marlon Williams has a voice that could only have been a gift from the angels. He’s refreshingly unique, captivating and gracious.
Originally from a small town just outside Christchurch, New Zealand, Marlon now resides in Melbourne. With his enchanting voice he delivers a fresh modern and somehow really old country sound like no other and could be dubbed a modern day Elvis. Emma Ballard spoke to Marlon ahead of his Bluesfest appearance.
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People describe you as the impossible love child of Elvis, Roy Orbison and Townes Van Zandt.
I’m a huge fan of all three artists, they’re amazing and so it’s extremely flattering to be compared to them. I listened to a lot of Elvis growing up and Roy Orbison as well. My dad introduced me to Townes Van Zandt when I was about 14 or 15 and I got really into his music.
They were all influences on me really. Other influences were The Beatles and traditional modern music. As a teenager I was into all the usual bands.
How and when did your musical journey begin and when did you start writing songs?
When I was ten I joined a choir and found I could pick out harmonies and things like that, so that’s where the journey began. Then I joined a choir at High School and started writing my own songs. I was in the Catholic Cathedral Choir for five years.
You fronted NZ country band The Unfaithful Ways at 17 then played in a duo with Delaney Davidson taking out the NZ Country Album and Country Song of the Year in 2013. What prompted you to go solo?
I found it just went that way. You start doing your own stuff and it becomes easier to go solo. Working with people can have its challenges at times. It is a bit lonelier sometimes, but it’s easier in many ways and I’m freer to move around.
I really love your vocals, they’re incredible and spellbinding. You could sing about shoelaces and I would still be mesmerised. Have you had operatic training?
Haha, thanks. I am classically trained and after being in the Catholic Cathedral Choir for 5 years I went onto University to do classical singing. I got to a point where I had to choose between classical and country music and country won.
Your recent single Strange Things is pretty eerie and kind of weird and wonderful.
It is a bit haunting. I like to write a spooky story and that’s what it is. It’s about a guy who doesn’t go out very much. He locks himself away and becomes consumed by other things and disappears into his own little world.
Your newest single Dark Child: I’m assuming (and hoping) the song isn’t about you.
It’s not about me and I didn’t actually write the song. It was a friend of mine who wrote it. He doesn’t perform so much anymore and I thought it would be a waste not to sing such a great song. It’s about a guy who’s done something wrong but you’re not sure what it is and then he comes out of the house and has to face the consequences of his wrong doings. I play the guy in the video and sometimes I’m not sure what’s actually going on in that video myself! I don’t mind singing other people’s songs doing a mix of originals and covers. It’s neither here nor there to me. I wouldn’t want to take the sacredness out of song writing. I’m not precious about being a songwriter and I’m happy to be somewhere in the middle.
You’ve been performing in Melbourne and Sydney and supporting the likes of Robert Ellis, Jordie Lane and Wagons and you’ve got Bluesfest coming up and an Australian tour. What has been the highlight of your musical career so far?
I had a very special 24 hours once. I went back home to New Zealand and performed in my home town Lyttleton which was great and then at 2.00am I got on a plane to Sydney. Then the following morning at 11.00am I performed in the Sydney Opera House in front of 4000 people. Even though I was really tired and strung out it was a pretty special 24 hours.
What are your plans for the immediate future?
I have a single release Australian tour starting in April. After that I will be going to Canada in July. I’m looking at going to Europe in May and I really hope that happens.
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Marlon Williams is due to release his debut solo album in April 2015 and you can catch Marlon Williams and the Yarra Benders who are performing for Bluesfest in 2015 for the first time.