"Age is quite a weird thing"
Laura Marling from Eversley near Reading has the music world at her feet - and she's only 17. Though don't pick her up on her youth. Here's a young lady who's not your typical teenager, as BBC Berkshire's Linda Serck finds out.
Society always marvels at a young person achieving what most adults can only struggle to aspire to.
A case in question is 17-year-old Laura Marling from Eversley, near Reading.
The wide-eyed girl with the smoky golden voice and shock of white blonde hair has been trickling into our collective consciousness over the past few years - a note in the Guardian here, a review there, but all of a sudden there's a boom of excitement surrounding her, with most recently a full-page spread in the NME.
Many ineluctably dwell on her lachrymose songs that are astounding in their lyrical depth and seemingly world-weary insights - and here we come back to her age.
"Age is quite a weird thing," explains Laura, speaking on the phone while having lunch in Dublin. "I think you're only as old as you think you are.
"I'm not weary or bitter about the world it's just that I find that's my way of writing."
Years of listening to Ryan Adams and Neil Young has stamped a poetic maturity on Laura, who is currently also listening to Jeffrey Lewis, Diane Cluck and Bonnie Prince Billy.
Also with her guitarist father she was shown how to write and perform bluesy songs from an early age - picking up a guitar aged just three.
"My dad was a musician and he used to play guitar so I started writing after he taught me a bit.
When I venture that most 17-year-old musicians I've encountered have yet to find their own sound, she replies: "I started out (gigging) when I was 16 and in the last year I started out a lot differently to what I am now.
"My musical influences have changed immensely and that's definitely reflected on my music."
At this point it's evident that comparing her to the imagined cliched 17-year-old girl blossoming and beaming in the flush of youth in our brains won't wash here, especially with lyrics such as: "I would never love a man 'cause love and pain go hand in hand." (from New Romantic).
Yet it's this imagined girl that's propped up alongside Laura, rendering the real thing a doleful depressive version who is disturbingly heavy-hearted about life at such a tender age.
In truth Laura comes across as self-assured, friendly and speaks with polite brevity unless she's got a strong opinion on something - venues in Reading for example.
"I just don't think there's a good venue in Reading at the moment - not an acoustic venue because that sounds gay - but like a cool quiet run-down venue," she says.
"There's lots of shouty screamy indie venues but I don't think there's anything that offers anything else.
Laura Marling at the Fez Club in Reading
"I'm quite patriotic about Reading but I'm also picky about my venues," she says.
Granted: we may not have an intimate Borderline or Luminaire club like in London, but Devendra Banhart - whom Laura is currently supporting on tour - seemed perfectly content to play Reading's premier alt-folk venue South Street Arts Centre with his band Vetiver.
Speaking of which - what's it like touring with Devendra?
"It's lots of fun. I'm pretty much too scared to say hello to him but I'm sure he's very nice!"
Scaredness, shyness - regardless of how she's like off-stage, on stage she performs with confident spirit, something honed since being 'discovered'.
"I was just gigging loads" says Laura on how she got signed, "I was gigging in London a lot.
"Before under-age gigs started I was gigging at all-age gigs which were fun back then, and then I started doing a lot of west London folky-type things and I went on from there."
Laura's EP My Manic And I is out now, with a yet-to-be-titled debut album out in February. In an age where downloading is one of the prime forms of buying music, Laura's album comes in the form of a song box complete with a pair of tickets and other gifts.
"Downloads aren't anything really, it's ridiculous," comes the strong response.
"The thing that Radiohead did was brilliant, it was like mocking downloads for how insignificant they are - it's just like musical wallpaper. It's really sad.
"This idea of a songbox is so there's something nice to have and to hold. Each thing in there will represent a song on the album. There's quite a closeness to it."
And that's probably the closest to Laura you're going to get - especially if you're a man.
last updated: 19/11/07
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