People are so eager to affix artists with labels. They provide an easier way to understand what artists do, so outsiders can better determine if it might be right for them. As time marches forward and old ideas become new again, there are those that fight against such traditions, seeking to carve their own paths outside of the familiar. Pictures, words and sounds require a certain level of accessibility to establish an audience, but new twists on old favorites can usher in advancements and inspire others to do the same.
Marlon Williams is a singer-songwriter from New Zealand who is not so easily defined or labeled. Despite being in his mid-20s, many have called him an “old soul” based on the mature themes and influences that permeate his music. As with most who have grown up in the age of the mp3, such increased access allows you to explore anything and everything your heart desires. Even in the small coastal town where he grew up, the soundtrack of his youth included PJ Harvey, Smokey Robinson, Elvis, The Beatles and Gram Parsons mixed in with traditional Maori and gospel songs thanks to his time in a church choir. Williams’ father was also in a punk band, which most assuredly left an impression as well.
So after consuming so much and so many different styles and genres of music, it makes perfect sense that Williams is something of a sonic polymorph. Those quick to judgment have been saying his recently released self-titled album falls under the country or alt-country umbrella, but the reality is so much deeper and more varied. You can hear flourishes of folk, Americana, bluegrass, gospel, soul, rock and even punk twisted into this remarkable tapestry that transcends such easy definitions. At the heart of it all is that powerful voice, which anchors every song with purpose and meaning no matter what direction it takes. Case in point: he covers Nina Simone’s “When I Was A Young Girl” better than anyone I’ve ever heard outside of the original version. It’s striking and very Tim/Jeff Buckley-esque, to the level where it gave me (and I hope you) chills.
Following a sold out tour through Australia and New Zealand, Marlon Williams is now seeking to break out internationally with a tour that takes him around the globe in 2016. He’s currently making his way through North America, which includes a stop at Schubas Tavern this upcoming Wednesday, February 10th. Woodrow Hart & The Haymaker opens. This is a prime opportunity to see a rising star before he blows up, so do yourself a favor and don’t miss this show!
Marlon Williams with Woodrow Hart & The Haymaker
Wednesday, February 10
8PM / 18+ / $12