WSSB 90.3 FM

Marlon Williams: Tiny Desk Concert

Feb 12, 2018
Originally published on April 10, 2018 12:40 pm

Marlon Williams is a handsome devil with a heart-stopping voice, who writes songs about vampires and horror films. This 27-year old, New Zealand-born, Melbourne-based singer is also a teller of tales.

Marlon Williams is in love with a good, traditional blues or country tune and that's just how he opens this Tiny Desk Concert, with a song called "When I Was A Young Girl" (also known traditionally as "One Morning In May" or "The Bad Girl's Lament"). The best-known version of it was probably by Nina Simone until Feist tackled the tune. But Marlon Williams' rendition is more stunning than any version I've heard and seems to conjure the spirit of Roy Orbison with its long, deep-throated incantations. The purity of Marlon Williams' voice is rare and entrancing.

After that first tune, performed solo with just his acoustic guitar, he strapped on his electric guitar, brought out his band, snapped his fingers to set the beat and sang about being stoned and running around Los Angeles dressed as a vampire. At the time of our taping, back in October of last year, "Vampire Again" was the newest song since Marlon Williams' 2016, self-titled release.

After finishing that tune and losing his guitar pick, he found one left behind by Wilco and launched into a tune we'd not heard before. He calls "What's Chasing You" a song about horror films, but it sounds like a 1950s tune about unrequited love.

The brilliant session ends as the band gathered around a single microphone for another new tune called "Make Way For Love." We now know it's the title track to Marlon Williams' forthcoming album and it reveals an intimacy at the heart of what makes him such a magnetic artist.

Set List

  • "When I Was a Young Girl"
  • "Vampire Again"
  • "What's Chasing You"
  • "Make Way For Love"

Musicians

Marlon Williams (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, keyboard); David Khan (vocals, electric guitar); Benjamin Woolley (vocals, bass); Angus Agars (vocals, drums)

Credits

Producers: Bob Boilen, Bronson Arcuri; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Bronson Arcuri, Morgan Noelle Smith, Tsering Bista, CJ Riculan; Production Assistant: Lee Mengitsu; Photo: Liam James Doyle/NPR.

For more Tiny Desk concerts, subscribe to our podcast.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.