Photos by Ian Laidlaw
48 hours after Valentines Day, New Zealand born singer-songwriter Marlon Williams released one of the best breakup albums of this year.
Titled Make Way For Love, the record is a sincere, raw and honest portrayal of a heart just broken. Lead by a voice gifted from the ghost of Roy Orbison, Williams’ songs waltz between country, folk, and sentimental ballads. Listening to the album it’s hard to imagine him ever smiling again, let alone falling in love. But when we talk over the phone, he seems lighter than Kayne after a round of lipo. If what doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger, Williams seems ready to take the heavyweight title. Here he is talking past jobs, nimble limbs, and the future of LeBron James. Make way.
First things first, can we just settle this and get it out of the way. Is calling a New Zealander a ‘Kiwi’ a slur?
No, not at all. You can say Kiwi. Feel free.
Is there like a come back that you guys use for Australians?
Well, I dunno. Just Aussie. We don’t call you Roos or Quokkas. That’s what we should call you, though!
You’re touring the world as a musician now, but I wanted to ask about some of the shitty things you’ve done for work before pursuing a music career?
Well, from the age of 17 to 21, I worked in what we call a ‘dairy’ in New Zealand, which is a corner shop and I was renowned around Christchurch for being the biggest ice cream roller in town. I was a bit of an artisan when it came to rolling ice creams.
Wait, what does ‘rolling ice creams’ mean?
Like, making ice creams.
Like, scooping them?
Yeah, scooping them! I was an ice cream scooper.
Do you call it rolling in New Zealand?
No, I guess we say scooping, too. But I said rolling, which was a very weird thing to say, but… I’ve said it now.
You released Make Way for Love this year, and it’s an album about heartbreak. From your experience, what’s it like going through a very personal thing in such a public way?
It’s funny, I look back and I’m definitely surprised, and I guess even a little embarrassed at my own honesty. Now that the storm has passed it’s kind of confronting to look back and remember I did that, and it’s like, ‘Wow, I was totally in that place and now I’m not’, and now I’ve got to deal with the consequences of my angst-ing and my openness. But it’s fine. I tried to prepare myself as much as possible. But yeah, it definitely feels like the past.
When you say that looking back you’re a bit embarrassed, does that mean you’d change anything if you could?
Not at all. You’ve got to allow yourself to do that and allow those moments to breathe and, you know, to be fully accessed, which is something I’m not generally very good at so it was a bit of a breakthrough for me, even though it’s a very public one.
I guess in times like that it’s also good to think about how much it not only helped you, but others going through something similar.
Exactly, I’ve had a lot of people reach out and say it has helped them, which is great. But it really was all for me, it was a very self-therapeutic process, so the fact that it’s helping other people is sort of just collateral.
Just for future reference, you probably shouldn’t say that. Always say it was all for the fans.
What do you do after you record a song like “Love is a Terrible Thing”? Like, do you drink, take a sleeping tablet and hope to wake up in a year…
Well, I was drinking before I recorded that song [laughs]. I dunno, it’s definitely a highly emotionally charged process. You try to live in that extended space for the whole duration of the recording period and just try to be an open conduit to yourself, and then deal with the fallout after you’ve left the studio. And we only had nine or ten days to do it also, so I just had to stay on task.
Now that some time has passed since writing and recording the album, how is everything? Is “Party Boy” your life soundtrack now?
Everything’s great! I’m still preaching the same sadness but life springs anew, and I’m just trying to write light songs now and access the slightly less intense shades.
Is that tough, because while you’re touring this album I guess you have to keep going back there every night?
I actually don’t feel like I go back there, and that’s the issue. It’s hard to access, to give gravity to the songs if you feel differently, you know? You just have to find a new way in.
Really? That’s interesting. I always thought you had to go back there.
Yeah, it’s really the writing that hurts. The singing, as soon as I’ve written it, it’s like I’m a performer again and it’s all part of the show. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing, I just turn back into a showman and I’m not in the mire of my own sadness, you know? Which is why writing the album was such a therapeutic thing, all of the heavy lifting was done then.
Speaking of being a showman, can we just talk about some of your dance moves for a second? If people wanted to recreate your steez on the dancefloor, what advice would you give them?
Um, just use your legs but at the same time, forget your legs. Just allow the limbs to follow the body, and then the body to follow the limbs.
I saw you posted about LeBron during the finals and you follow NBA memes and Russell Westbrook on Instagram. Did you grow up watching basketball?
I grew up during the Lakers—Kobe and Shaquille years—and then dropped away for a few years while LeBron was at the Heat. But then really got back into it when I started touring America like three to four years ago, and now I’m just completely obsessed.
Who’s your team?
Where do you think LeBron’s going next season?
Ah, I think the Cavs are really looking like they might be able to hold onto him. If they can get either Kawhi Leonard or Paul George, or even both, then I reckon he might stay.