Two years ago my friend Liz and I were running down 8th street in downtown Austin in order to make the set time for Marlon Williams & the Yarra Benders, who was playing at the Presbyterian Church. That week I had been the one mainly leading the way on our band selections, but this was an artist she was emphatic about, and I quickly learned why.
With a somewhat shy yet wry demeanor, Williams, all dolled up in a slim-fitting suit, began serenading songs from his 2016 self-titled album. During his slower tracks, and on his cover of “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” Williams’ warm voice, cascading up and down, permeated throughout the church and straight into the hearts of each member of the audience. The slide guitar and harmonies of “Lost Without You” put us into a musical daze of appreciation. With the fire and fury of a team of horses crossing the plains at full speed, “Hello Miss Lonesome” quickly got the blood rushing with overwhelming glee (especially when he holds that one note for SO LONG!).
In 2018 Marlon Williams has dropped the “Yarra Benders” from the moniker and gained a massive following. He was also back at SXSW with a new album, Make Way for Love, which was released earlier this year, and as timing would have it, on Valentine’s Day.
Around the time of the release, Williams came back to southern California to visit the KCRW studios’ Morning is Eclectic show, revealing to host Jason Bentley the break up nature of this new album. These new songs portrayed “the sourer parts” of his real-life relationship gone awry, while still retaining the sweetness, as on “Come to Me,” which cascades effortlessly with strings and Williams’ glorious octaves.
On another new track, “Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore” Williams sings a duet with his ex, Aldous Harding, and included her on an album that’s essentially about their breakup. “It’s a bold move, heh?” he told Bentley. “No offense to her, she was the elephant in the room.” The other irony was that the song had to be recorded remotely, with Williams in LA and Harding in Cardiff, which mirrored the physical distance they both experienced during their relationship.
It was that time in Los Angles where the New Zealand singer went from healing, to watching hours of NBA games, to writing, to being empowered about his independent status.
At SXSW this year the setting was in the backyard at Barracuda with Williams going from the vintage suit to the sweat suit look, complete with a hoodie and stripped workout gear. He and his band rocked out one of the singles from the new album, “What’s Chasing You,” and then switched out a Roberta Flack cover for Yoko Ono.
Williams had been in Santa Monica during the time he was writing Make Way for Love, and as “Party Boy” came up on the set list at Barracuda, I just imagined the inspiration for the lyrics potentially inspired by downtown SM on a weekend night, “Party boy / Everybody looks at you how they do / Yeah, they really rely on you / To pull the party through—to the dawn / Fuckin’ wild one, don’t give the game away / But the powder dried-up yesterday.”
A funny note started that interview chat between Williams and Bentley in February, with the KCRW host sharing that the date he brought to the Moroccan Lounge show a few months earlier thought she was going to see Marlon Wayans, the comedian and actor. Ironically, “That not the first time that that’s been a problem,” Williams responded. “I once played a gig in the same building on the same night. It was very confusing.”
Confusing and utterly hilarious.
Not to be confused, it is Marlon WILLIAMS who will be returning to Los Angeles this week to perform at the Teragram Ballroom on Wednesday, April 4, as part of the Make Way for Love tour. Tonight he’s playing the Swedish American Hall in San Francisco.
MARLON WILLIAMS TOUR DATES:
Tue. Apr. 3 — San Francisco, CA @ Swedish American Hall
Wed. Apr. 4 — Los Angeles, CA @ Teragram
Thu. Apr. 5 – New York, NY @ Beacon Theater w/ Brandi Carlile
Fri. Apr. 6 – New York, NY @ Beacon Theater w/ Brandi Carlile
Sat. Apr. 7 – New York, NY @ Beacon Theater w/ Brandi Carlile
Wed. Apr. 11 — Brussels, BE @ AB Club
Thu. Apr. 12 — Cologne, DE @ Yuca
Fri. Apr. 13 — Amsterdam, NL @ Paradiso Noord
Sat. Apr. 14 — Hamburg, DE @ Nochtwache
Sun. Apr. 15 — Copenhagen, DK @ Ideal Bar
Tue. Apr. 17 — Oslo, NO @ Cafe Mono
Wed. Apr. 18 — Stockholm, SE @ Kagelbanan
Fri. Apr. 20 — Berlin, DE @ Privatclub
Sat. Apr. 21 — Munich, DE @ Orange House
Sun. Apr. 22 — Vienna, CH @ Chelsea
Tue. Apr. 24 — Bologna, IT @ Locomotiv
Wed. Apr. 25 — Zurich, CH @ Bogen F
Thu. Apr. 26 — Besancon, FR @ La Rodia
Fri. Apr. 27 — Paris, FR @ Point Ephemere
Sat. Apr. 28 — Utrecht, NL @ Ekko
Fri. May 4 – Atlanta, GA @ Shaky Knees Festival
Sat. May 12 — Melbourne @ Forum Theatre
Mon. May 14 — Adelaide @ The Gov
Tue. May 15 — Perth @ Rosemount
Wed. May 16 — Brisbane @ Triffid
Thu. May 17 — Sydney @ Metro Theatre
Sat. May 19 — Wellington, NZ @ Hunter Lounge
Tue. May 22 — Dunedin, NZ @ Glenroy
Wed. May 23 — Christchurch, NZ @ Foundry
Fri. May 25 — Auckland, NZ @ Auckland Town Hall
MORE PHOTOS OF MARLON WILLIAMS AT THE BARRACUDA AT SXSW 2018