photos + story+ video / Ericka Clevenger
Laura Marling has been a household name for quite some time now. The young English singer-songwriter captivates both young and old with her alluring vocal cadence, and heartfelt songs packed with poetic descriptions of life, death and love. At the raw age of 22, Marling has already surpassed many of her musical peers, landing herself in comparison to some of the greats (Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell). Not only has she given herself a name and respect that is far beyond her age, but young Marling has toured the world playing some of the biggest and best venues, with the biggest and best stars, all coinciding with the release of three multi-award winning albums.
That being said, when I found out that Marling was in fact taking a “break, from her break” of touring, and returning to
the United States–I was stoked. Like many musicians who are touring a lot, you become so familiar with the unfamiliar that the open road becomes your home. When the tour is over, and you return home you find yourself a stranger to the place you have always known. It is only a matter of time before you will feel the urge to leave again.
Marling calls her tour the “(Solo) Working Holiday Tour.” This time doing it her way; simple and pure, taking the back-road, back home to the open road. Rather than large venues with a full band, Marling is stopping at smaller venues, in some unfamiliar places. Playing smaller venues does not mean playing venues without a reputation, which is why she found herself at the famous Pappy and Harriets.
Just before Joshua Tree National Park, off historic Twentynine Palms Highway, a winding road through boulders, ranches, and Joshua trees– leads you to a place you will never forget. Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace is unlike any other place you will ever visit. Since 1982 P&H’s has been a destination for motorcyclists, drifters, travelers, Rock and Rollers, and locals alike. A place to come to unwind, eat some killer BBQ, dance and listen to music, this legendary hot spot provided just the right amount of intimacy and familiarity that Marling needed.
Jam packed with doughy eyed youngsters, lovers, Parents, Grandparents, Locals, etc. Word travels fast to those who appreciate music, and I guess they either agreed with the legend, or had to see for themselves. The place was alive and seemed to be surging with relation to the songs. Maybe it’s her blonde hair and pale skin, but Marling looked completely ethereal as she stood in front of the Grateful Dead-esque backdrop. The Western/Biker Gang/Cantina vibe can sometimes cause this family restaurant to turn into quite the rowdy party on a Friday night, but her angelic presence brought the entire place to silence, as every eye was on Miss Marling.
Through her quiet demeanor, she found a way to shed some humor and insight toward the crowd. “I’ve traveled 3,000 miles in 12 days. My right foot really hurts.” Self proclaimed as not being well versed in “stage banter” the quite comfortable and relaxed Marling charmed the audience joking about LA traffic and calling herself out for being rusty in tuning her guitar. “Excuse my tuning. This is not meant to brag but, I usually tour with a guitar tech. and have since I was 16.”
Marling’s carefully picked words, and the slow meaningful way she speaks, make you feel as if you are listening to a much wiser and older woman. I completely forgot that I was standing in front of someone who was born in 1990! Although she exudes age, she still is blessed with a cherub’s face, as two perfectly placed dimples were exposed every time she would smile. And the way she plays is truly remarkable! It’s absolutely unbelievable the way she changes the way she sings, and strums in such a seamless way. From her powerful and fierce “Master Hunter” to the dreamy, melancholy Simon and Garfunkel cover ” Kathy’s Song” she slips in and out of hurtful anger, carefully floating into carefree love.
Dressed in a long light blue denim dress, with her Nike Sneakers she began to tell the story of Salinas. “I had three days off the other day and was going to stop in Salinas because I’ve claimed to have been there but I haven’t. I decided not to go because I didn’t want to ruin the image in my head. I don’t know why I have the image I do, because I’ve never been…But I do.”
Before falling in love with Marling’s song “Salinas” off her album, “A Creature I Don’t Know” –Salinas to me was John Steinbeck’s hometown, and the place where several of his novels take place. In an interview with FMV magazine she states after reading a biography of Steinbeck, written by his third wife Elaine, she got the idea for the title. A line in her song “Where the Women go forever” is a sort of ode to the heroic mothers in the world, and a tribute indirectly related to a friend’s girlfriend who died when their baby was only a year old. “My mother she’s a savior. Long blonde curly hair down to her thigh.”
I was so moved by the story behind this song, and my love for John Steinbeck that I decided to start recording the song. Blocking a patron from the restroom, my recording was sadly cut short. Wanting to share a song, I gave it another go and successfully recorded “Once” to put online. As she finished her set, she reminded the crowd that she does not do encores, and “If you want one, then this is your encore.” She finished and quietly thanked the crowd as she slipped out the back door. As I packed up my things, thanked the venue and drove back down the hill to my cheap motel on the side of 29 Palms Hwy her words kept ringing in my ears.
“Before the sun starts to burn–Understand”