LAURA MARLING

Sunday, May 7:
LAURA MARLING / VALLEY QUEEN
$25 / 18 & Over / Doors: 7PM / Show: 8PM
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There is a line from Virgil’s epic poem “The Aeneid” that nearly a decade ago Laura Marling decided to have tattooed on her leg: “Varium et mutabile semper femina” it runs, translating roughly as “A woman is an ever fickle and changeable thing.” Realizing that the line was a little long for the limb, at the very last moment she opted instead for an abbreviation: “Semper femina” she chose: “Always a woman.” It makes a fitting and fascinating title for Marling’s sixth album — an intimate, devoted exploration of femininity and female relationships, and among her finest work to date. Written largely on the tour that followed 2015’s Short Movie and recorded in Los Angeles with production from Blake Mills, it is at once a distinctive and musically compelling collection of songs, run through with Marling’s fierce intelligence; a keen, beautiful and unparalleled take on womanhood.

“I started out writing it as if a man was writing about a woman,” Marling says. “And then I thought it’s not a man, it’s me — I don’t need to pretend it’s a man to justify the intimacy of the way I’m looking and feeling about women. It’s me looking specifically at women and feeling great empathy towards them and by proxy towards myself.”

Marling’s exploration of femininity is as broad as it is tender. On tracks such as “Wild Once” she was interested in the archetype of the wild woman and her unrestrained physicality. “In the more masculine phase of my life I got really into hiking and bouldering, scrambling up trees or whatever,” she explains. “And I just hadn’t exercised that part of myself for such a long time, and it was felt fantastic. It touched something that was really sweet and innocent. At a time when I couldn’t really find that center, I was touching on it running through a forest by Big Sur with no shoes on.”

The nature of female friendship has been a long-standing interest for Marling. “And again it’s blurred as you open up the boundaries more,” she says. “But the falling in love that you experience with friendship is so less defined than romantic or sexual love. I’ve been obsessed with that always I think,” she says. “Because I have sisters maybe, and a mother. And I think because of that there’s a high standard of trust and care that I place on myself and that I feel in my female friends as well — we have quite a high empathetic standard for each other. So I feel when that’s broken it’s so powerful. And I’m guilty of that in many respects because I’m so absent-minded. Until now I just hadn’t really thought about that being a subject matter for a song, but when I tapped into the sadness of that, or the regret, or the feeling of being on the other side of that, I found that quite a fruitful well of stuff. So there’s a lot of that on this record, that trying to make amends for those sort of broken channels.”

More than anything on Semper Femina Marling addresses the space between the perceptions and realities of being a woman, the space in which women are not frail but powerful, creative and abundant figures. “When I was a teenager in my head you were either this delicate tragedy or you were a muse,” she says. “And they’re both such horrifyingly subjugated roles. But our culture loves female tragedy. That’s just been so ingrained over and over again, and there haven’t been enough examples of a written alternative. My main focus is re-writing the idea of tragic woman.”

If Marling sounds galvanized it’s because this album marks a shift in her career. “The time and the political climate that we live in, we’re coming to a point where there’s no need for this sort of artistic expression that I’ve been a part of,” she says. “Innocent creativity had a little flourish in the last ten years. But also I’m getting older and now I think ‘What use is that?’ It’s not rooted, not pointed, not political. For me right now I feel like it’s more important that I have a practical use.”

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