Song For Our Daughter

Song For Our Daughter

“Life seems to provide no end of things to explore without too much investigation,” Laura Marling tells Apple Music. The London singer-songwriter is discussing how, after six albums (three of which were Mercury Prize-nominated), she found the inspiration needed for her seventh, Song For Our Daughter. One thing which proved fruitful was turning 30. In an evolution of 2017’s exquisite rumination on womanhood Semper Femina, growing, as she says, “a bit older” prompted Marling to consider how she might equip her her own figurative daughter to navigate life’s complexities. “In light of the cultural shift, you go back and think, ‘That wasn’t how it should have happened. I should have had the confidence and the know-how to deal with that situation in a way that I didn’t have to come out the victim,’” says Marling of the album’s central message. “You can’t do anything about it, obviously, so you can only prepare the next generation with the tools and the confidence [to ensure] they [too] won’t be victims.” This feeling reaches a crescendo on the title track, which sees Marling consider “our daughter growing old/All of the bullshit that she might be told” amid strings that permeate the entire record. While Song for Our Daughter is undoubtedly a love letter to women, it is also a deeply personal album where whimsical melodies (“Strange Girl”) collide with Marling at her melancholic best (the gorgeously sparse “Blow by Blow”—a surprisingly honest chronicle of heartbreak—or the exceptional, haunting “Hope We Meet Again”). And its roaming nature is exactly how Marling wanted to soundtrack the years since Semper Femina. “There is no cohesive narrative,” she admits. “I wrote this album over three years, and so much had changed. Of course, no one knows the details of my personal life—nor should they. But this album is like putting together a very fragmented story that makes sense to me.” Let Marling guide you through that story, track by track. Alexandra “Women are so at the forefront of my mind. With ‘Alexandra,’ I was thinking a lot about the women who survive the projected passion of so-called ‘great men.’ ‘Alexandra’ is a response to Leonard Cohen’s ‘Alexandra Leaving,’ but it’s also the idea that for so long women have had to suffer the very powerful projections that people have put on them. It’s actually quite a traumatizing experience, I think, to only be seen through the eyes of a man’s passion; just as a facade. And I think it happens to women quite often, so in a couple of instances on this album I wanted to give voice to the women underneath all of that. The song has something of Crosby, Stills & Nash about it—it’s a chugging, guitar-riffy job.” Held Down “Somebody said to me a couple of years ago that the reason why people find it hard to attach to me [musically] is that it's not always that fun to hear sad songs. And I was like, ‘Oh, well, I'm in trouble, because that's all I've got!’ So this song has a lightness to it and is very light on sentiment. It’s just about two people trying to figure out how to not let themselves get in the way of each other, and about that constant vulnerability at the beginning of a relationship. The song is almost quite shoegazey and is very simple to play on the guitar.” Strange Girl “The girl in this song is an amalgamation of all my friends and I, and of all the things we've done. There’s something sweet about watching someone you know very well make the same mistakes over and over again. You can't tell them what they need to know; they have to know it themselves. That's true of everyone, including myself. As for the lyrics about the angry, brave girl? Well, aren’t we all like that? The fullness and roundness of my experience of women—the nuance and all the best and worst things about being a complicated little girl—is not always portrayed in the way that I would portray it, and I think women will recognize something in this song. My least favorite style of music is Americana, so I was conscious to avoid that sound here. But it’s a lovely song; again, it has chords which are very Crosby, Stills & Nash-esque.” Only the Strong “I wanted the central bit of the album to be a little vulnerable tremble, having started it out quite boldly. This song has a four-beat click in it, which was completely by accident—it was coming through my headphones in the studio, so it was just a happy accident. The strings on this were all done by my bass player Nick [Pini] and they are all bow double-bass strings. They're close to the human voice, so I think they have a specific, resonant effect on people. I also went all out on the backing vocals. I wanted it to be my own chorus, like my own subconscious backing me up. The lyric ‘Love is a sickness cured by time' is actually from a play by [London theater director] Robert Icke, though I did ask his permission to use it. I just thought that was the most incredible ointment to the madness of infatuation.” Blow by Blow “I wrote this song on the piano, but it’s not me playing here—I can't play the piano anywhere near as well as my friend Anna here. This song is really straightforward, and I kind of surprised myself by that. I don't like to be explicit. I like to be a little bit opaque, I guess, in the songwriting business. So this is an experiment, and I still haven’t quite made my mind up on how I feel about it. Both can exist, but I think what I want from my music or art or film is an uncanny familiarity. This song is a different thing for me, for sure—it speaks for itself. I’d be rendering it completely naked if I said any more.” Song for Our Daughter “This song is kind of the main event, in my mind. I actually wrote it around the time of the Trayvon Martin [shooting in 2012]. All these young kids being unarmed and shot in America. And obviously that's nothing to do with my daughter, or the figurative daughter here, but I [was thinking about the] institutional injustice. And what their mothers must be feeling. How helpless, how devastated and completely unable to have changed the course of history, because nothing could have helped them. I was also thinking about a story in Roman mythology about the Rape of Lucretia. She was the daughter of a nobleman and was raped—no one believed her and, in that time, they believed that if you had been ‘spoilt’ by something like that, then your blood would turn black. And so she rode into court one day and stabbed herself in the heart, and bled and died. It’s not the cheeriest of analogies, but I found that this story that existed thousands of years ago was still so contemporary. The strings were arranged by [US instrumentalist, arranger, and producer] Rob Moose, and when he sent them to me he said, ‘I don't know if this is what you wanted, but I wanted to personify the character of the daughter in the strings, and help her kind of rise up above everything.’ And I was like, ‘That's amazing! What an incredible, incredible leap to make.’ And that's how they ended up on the record.” Fortune “Whenever I get stuck in a rut or feel uninspired on the guitar, I go and play with my dad, who taught me. He was playing with this little [melody]—it's just an E chord going up the neck—so I stole it and then turned it into this song. I’m very close with my sisters, and at the time we were talking and reminiscing about the fact that my mother had a ‘running-away fund.’ She kept two-pence pieces in a pot above the laundry machine when we were growing up. She had recently cashed it in to see how much money she had, and she had built up something like £75 over the course of a lifetime. That was her running-away fund, and I just thought that was so wonderfully tragic. She said she did it because her mother did it. It was hereditary. We are living in a completely different time, and are much closer to equality, so I found the idea of that fund quite funny.” The End of the Affair “This song is loosely based on The End of the Affair by Graham Greene. The female character, [Sarah], is elusive; she has a very secret role that no one can be part of, and the protagonist of the book, the detective [Maurice Bendrix], finds it so unbearably erotic. He finds her secretness—the fact that he can't have her completely—very alluring. And in a similar way to ‘Alexandra Leaving,’ it’s about how this facade in culture has appeared over women. I was also drawing on my own experience of great passions that have to die very quietly. What a tragedy that is, in some ways, to have to bear that alone. No one else is obviously ever part of your passions.” Hope We Meet Again “This was actually the first song we recorded on the album, so it was like a tester session. There’s a lot of fingerpicking on this, so I really had to concentrate, and it has pedal steel, which I’m not usually a fan of because it’s very evocative of Americana. I originally wrote this for a play, Mary Stuart by Robert Icke, who I’ve worked with a lot over the last couple of years, and adapted the song to turn it back into a song that's more mine, rather than for the play. But originally it was supposed to highlight the loneliness of responsibility of making your own decisions in life, and of choosing your own direction. And what the repercussions of that can sometimes be. It's all of those kind of crossroads where deciding to go one way might be a step away from someone else.” For You “In all honesty, I think I’m getting a bit soft as I get older. And I’ve listened to a lot of Paul McCartney and it’s starting to affect me in a lot of ways. I did this song at home in my little bunker—this is the demo, and we just kept it exactly as it was. It was never supposed to be a proper song, but it was so sweet, and everyone I played it to liked it so much that we just stuck it on the end. The male vocals are my boyfriend George, who is also a musician. There’s also my terrible guitar solo, but I left it in there because it was so funny—I thought it sounded like a five-year-old picking up a guitar for the first time.”

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