Laura Marling plays songs and talks about her new album, 'Semper Femina'

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Laura Marling
Laura Marling (courtesy Sonic PR)
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Laura Marling interview with David Safar on New Hot
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  • Laura Marling interview with David Safar on New Hot 08:25
  • Laura Marling - Wildfire (Live at The Cutting Room, New York) 04:12
  • Laura Marling - Soothing (Live at The Cutting Room, New York) 04:05

This week on New Hot, David Safar interviewed Laura Marling, who played a couple of her songs recorded live at the Cutting Room in New York.

Marling spoke to Safar about her upcoming album, Semper Femina, which comes out on Friday. Over the course of the conversation, Marling spoke about her songwriting as well as gender and gender roles, and creativity and symbolism, and how all those things coalesced on the new release.

Here's their conversation:

DAVID SAFAR: Your sixth studio album, Semper Femina, is out on Friday. We start off talking about the meaning of the title.

LAURA MARLING: "Semper Femina" translates as "always woman". And I think the mantra-style statement is apparent on the record.

Thinking about the meaning of "always woman," you talked about writing the song "Soothing" from different perspectives in terms of gender roles. Was that something you were conscious of going into making this record, or did it just turn out that way on the other end.

It just turned out that way. I don't often sit down and think, "I'm going to write a record about this or that." What I did on this record was pick up on the general zeitgeist of the time, and it was written two years ago. I'm interested in that area of what qualifies the masculine as opposed to the feminine, and in what balance does it appear in whoever, and how does that manifest itself in their personas.

We're given a lot of choice about that now, which is great, but it opens up a lot more questions about it, I guess.

What questions are you interested in exploring as an artist?

The things I'm not interested in exploring are adding things to your identity. I feel like my generation is somewhat obsessed with adding small differences to their persona. I think I'm much more interested in the broader strokes; I'm much more interested in just the masculine and the feminine and in what way they're outwardly represented in the world, in a balance of masculine and feminine.

I've been interested in female creativity, and I've been doing a podcast about that. And how we can nurture the feminine side of creativity, which is not just inherent in women; it's in men as well. We're living in a time that's fairly masculinely run, but that doesn't mean that it's run by men, it's run by the masculine. So I'm interested in that.

What do you think the role should be in the current time that we're in for artists to carry that discussion forward?

I'm reluctant to say that artists should have roles and opinions, and that might be a bit of a self-imposed insecurity. Because I don't think it's the responsibility necessarily of artists to have opinions; it's the responsibility of artists to express the human experience. But I do think that it is an interesting time for artists - literally, this year is a really interesting time for artists -- because creativity is so vitally important, the expression of the human experience is so important. The powers that be at the moment don't have any of that sense of gentle empathy, and artists should be protected for that reason, to be a source of gentle empathy in the world.

You've travelled all over the world; you've lived in U.S. and obviously in your home country. I'm curious to know, what's your perspective? How has it changed over the years of traveling around the world? And how has that made it into your songwriting?

It's changed in innumerable ways. I've sort of in the last couple of years taken particular interest in what the psychological makeup of countries or groups of people [is], the effect of their psychological history and how that affects their actions in the present world. That's what I go round looking at the world like, currently.

Did you see a change in yourself when you were living in the U.S.?

I did, yeah. I never, ever, ever referred to myself as an artist before I moved to L.A. I thought that was extremely -- as we say in England, "cringe" -- to self-refer. In England, when I was growing up, you didn't call yourself an artist … I think I actually found it a great relief and a great liberation when I came to L.A. to identify in some respects as an artist in that I needed certain parts of my life where it was required that I find inspiration. And that was a really big thing for me, a good thing.

For new album, I read that you wrote many of the songs on the road. Did you draw from stories on the road? Or were you drawing from past experiences?

I do pretty much always write on the road. I think it's because it's not reality, it's not really living, and that is where I reflect on my experiences, and they come out in this way. So I think because it's such a separate experience from what I call "my reality," my real living as a human being, I'm able to draw those experiences together and they come out in that song-y form.

We're going to liosten tp you perform the song "Soothing" — do you remember where you were on the road when you wrote that song?

Actually, that happens to be the exception to the rule! (laugh) I wrote that in the studio with Blake Mills. It's my first and only co-write. I was sitting on a step in the library in the studio, and then I heard Blake starting to play behind me and we wrote a song together and that was that. "Soothing."

Before we listen to soothing, I have a question about the artwork for the new album. There's a symbol on the album. Can you talk a little bit about that symbol and where it comes from?

I'm very interested in symbolism and how it communicates to the unconscious mind, and the symbols that we take in every day. America has the very prominent one, the medical symbol of the snakes intertwined up a rod. That's such an amazing use of symbolism that's so engrained in American culture -- it's super mystical and weird, and I love it.

So the symbol that's on the cover of the album is sort of my interpretation of an amalgamation of things that represent Semper Femina. So there's a semicircle that sort of looks like a sun and rays of light, and an infinity symbol and certain other lines and drawings and bits of code that I just thought would be a nice positive symbol to unconsciously seep into people's minds.

Laura Marling, Semper Femina
Laura Marling, Semper Femina. (More Alarming Records)

The new album Semper Femina, is out Friday, March 10, on More Alarming Records/Kobalt Music Recordings.

Resources


Laura Marling - official site

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