The ballad of Marlon Williams

Star is Gisborne bound.

Star is Gisborne bound.

THE PLACE WHERE YOU STAND: Marlon WIlliams performs in Gisborne this month as part of his Turangawaewae Tour. Picture supplied

In last year’s remake of a 1954 Judy Garland film, he plays a young singer called Marlon Williams. He has won multiple music awards, been described by music writer Grant Smithies as New Zealand’s “alt-country pin-up of choice” and now Marlon Williams is coming to Gisborne.

The Turangawaewae Tour brings Williams, his five-piece band, and support act Emily Fairlight to the War Memorial Theatre next week.

“Turangawaewae means ‘the place where you stand’,” says Williams.

“Obviously New Zealand is home to me but I’ve been touring so much over the past few years the road is where I feel most comfortable.”

Williams’ music style straddles folk, country, bluegrass and the blues. It often comes with the trebly, ringing guitar reminiscent of tunes heard on the wireless in New Zealand in the 1960s.

“Every generation picks up on the past,” says Williams.

“That sound resonated with me and I fell in love with this classic sound.”

Williams also brings a languorous Blue Velvety quality to several of his songs.

“It’s nuanced with sweet nostalgia mixed with real, immediate feeling. That’s my palette.”

Nothing is so heartbreaking as nothing, he says.

“When I think about the people I love preparing a meal in their homes, doing the dishes, carrying out the bare minimum actions of survival, it makes me want to cry. This is an exploration of the mundane. It’s not even an exploration. It’s just someone hanging out. It’s nothing.”

But seamlessly blended with that velvety invocation is the jinga-jik East Coast guitar strum style. Its pace and solemnity is in his blood, he says.

“It’s light but at the same time it’s something so locked in it speaks to my heart.”

Williams first came to attention as frontman of The Unfaithful Ways. The 17-year-old Christchurch Boys’ High School student founded the band in 2007 with a couple of high school friends and a science teacher. Four years later he met the Gothic carnivalesque, alt-country, theatrical singer Delaney Davidson. The duo released over two years three volumes of the series, Sad But True: The Secret History of Country Music Songwriting. The series was awarded the New Zealand Country Song and Country Album of the year in 2013.

Performing in Gisborne two years ago, Davidson brought theatricality to his show Magic Lightbox in which he was part musician, part performer, part fairground carny.

Does Williams dabble with stagecraft?

“I’m becoming more and more brave about bringing theatricality into my show,” he says.

“The more I perform, the more I want to push the boat out in terms of that with the intensity I bring to a live show.”

After seeing Williams perform at LA venue The Troubadour, Hollywood star Bradley Cooper asked him to appear in the remake of A Star is Born. Williams plays young singer Marlon Williams in the movie and performs a duet with American country musician Brandi Carlile.

“Being let into that world behind the Hollywood Iron Curtain is eye-opening,” he says.

“It was out of left-field. I can’t relate to the experience. I don’t know how to present it.”

The experience was invaluable though, of course.

“I’m constantly expanding into these different ways of doing things.”

  • Marlon Williams, with Emily Fairlight. War Memorial Theatre, Thursday, February 21, 7.30pm

In last year’s remake of a 1954 Judy Garland film, he plays a young singer called Marlon Williams. He has won multiple music awards, been described by music writer Grant Smithies as New Zealand’s “alt-country pin-up of choice” and now Marlon Williams is coming to Gisborne.

The Turangawaewae Tour brings Williams, his five-piece band, and support act Emily Fairlight to the War Memorial Theatre next week.

“Turangawaewae means ‘the place where you stand’,” says Williams.

“Obviously New Zealand is home to me but I’ve been touring so much over the past few years the road is where I feel most comfortable.”

Williams’ music style straddles folk, country, bluegrass and the blues. It often comes with the trebly, ringing guitar reminiscent of tunes heard on the wireless in New Zealand in the 1960s.

“Every generation picks up on the past,” says Williams.

“That sound resonated with me and I fell in love with this classic sound.”

Williams also brings a languorous Blue Velvety quality to several of his songs.

“It’s nuanced with sweet nostalgia mixed with real, immediate feeling. That’s my palette.”

Nothing is so heartbreaking as nothing, he says.

“When I think about the people I love preparing a meal in their homes, doing the dishes, carrying out the bare minimum actions of survival, it makes me want to cry. This is an exploration of the mundane. It’s not even an exploration. It’s just someone hanging out. It’s nothing.”

But seamlessly blended with that velvety invocation is the jinga-jik East Coast guitar strum style. Its pace and solemnity is in his blood, he says.

“It’s light but at the same time it’s something so locked in it speaks to my heart.”

Williams first came to attention as frontman of The Unfaithful Ways. The 17-year-old Christchurch Boys’ High School student founded the band in 2007 with a couple of high school friends and a science teacher. Four years later he met the Gothic carnivalesque, alt-country, theatrical singer Delaney Davidson. The duo released over two years three volumes of the series, Sad But True: The Secret History of Country Music Songwriting. The series was awarded the New Zealand Country Song and Country Album of the year in 2013.

Performing in Gisborne two years ago, Davidson brought theatricality to his show Magic Lightbox in which he was part musician, part performer, part fairground carny.

Does Williams dabble with stagecraft?

“I’m becoming more and more brave about bringing theatricality into my show,” he says.

“The more I perform, the more I want to push the boat out in terms of that with the intensity I bring to a live show.”

After seeing Williams perform at LA venue The Troubadour, Hollywood star Bradley Cooper asked him to appear in the remake of A Star is Born. Williams plays young singer Marlon Williams in the movie and performs a duet with American country musician Brandi Carlile.

“Being let into that world behind the Hollywood Iron Curtain is eye-opening,” he says.

“It was out of left-field. I can’t relate to the experience. I don’t know how to present it.”

The experience was invaluable though, of course.

“I’m constantly expanding into these different ways of doing things.”

  • Marlon Williams, with Emily Fairlight. War Memorial Theatre, Thursday, February 21, 7.30pm
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