Described as ‘the impossible love child of Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and Townes Van Zandt’ Marlon Williams is a suspenders-clad, rosy cheeked 20 something singer-songwriter, with the voice of an angel.
“They are my favourite artists, so that description is of the highest accolade” enthusiastically proclaims the man himself, a self-professed ‘gangly Kiwi country singer.’
I first heard Marlon at the Mullum Music festival last year. It was a stinking hot summer’s afternoon, but when Marlon stepped out from behind the red velvet curtain and starting singing, life cooled and soothed. He took me to the cotton-pickin’ fields of mid-America, swinging in the cool breeze on a wooden patio.
I asked Marlon about his musical influences growing up.
“My father was in a pub band and is into the post-punk era, it skips a generation, it’s what your grandparents loved that you will too, it’s a well known formula.” Sohis grandparents introduced him to Roy Orbison and the rest is history.
In 2013, Marlon moved ‘across the ditch’ to Australia and settled in Melbourne. He has since done 65 gigs and actually lives above one of his favourite musical haunts. “It saves on cab fares!” jokes Marlon.
His collaborations to date have featured artists of the calibre of Skyscraper Stan (described by Marlon as “another gangly Kiwi country singer”), his partner Aldous Harding, US artists Robert Ellis, Pieta Brown and Cory Chisel, Mojo Juju, Delaney Davidson (with whom he has written three albums) and Jordie Lane, to name just a few. Says Williams of his frequent collaborative forays; “I love the connection a duet brings”.
I ask Marlon, who he would choose to duet with if it could be anyone?
“It’s obvious I know, but it would have to be Elvis wouldn’t it?! I’d want to sing Crying in the Chapel, it is one of his most tender vocal performances.” He doesn’t think he could quite pull off Elvis’s famous moves mind you. I have to disagree, if you’re the love child of Elvis Presley, those hips would click in surely?!
That song choice is certainly fitting, as Marlon started out as a choir boy, singing in the cathedral in his home town of Christchurch. By eleven years of age he was winning singing competitions and touring Europe with the Vienna Boys Choir.
Then he picked up a guitar and had to make a choice – the disciplined life of a technically trained choral-opera singer or the heathen life of a country singer-songwriter. Thankfully for us, he chose the latter.
Be sure to check out Marlon’s performance with Jordie Lane (singing Roy Orbison’s Love Hurts at the Town of the Toffs) and with Pieta Brown (singing John Prines’ The Speed of the Sound of Loneliness for TV show Rockwiz), which deliver tear –jerkingly beautiful harmonies that he assures me would have had his Opera teacher ‘kicking me in the ass for.’
To conclude, I asked Marlon whether he felt he was born at the wrong time?
“Not at all, I’m happy to be here now singing older music, it still has currency”.
My theory is that he is a time traveller!
Marlon Williams has a new single, Dark Child, out Mid-December, swiftly followed by a new album early next year.
I can’t help but agree with Rhythms Magazine, Marlon Williams is most definitely an act to watch out for. Form a heavenly queue record labels, this angel will be signed in a god-darn cotton-pickin’ minute!
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Marlon Williams hits Mullumbimby Music Festival this weekend | mullummusicfestival.com.