Marley Davidson is probably in a genre of his own, at least musically (writes Andy Wood). A solo artist, his songs are very adventurous, at times verging on the epic but always with lovely melodies and build a beautiful atmosphere up from start to finish. There’s certainly an element of ‘prog’ in his songs but they avoid the bombastic excesses of much of that style and aim for something more intrinsically pleasing. We first saw Marley playing as a member of My Domain a few years back and were pretty impressed by their confident, ambitious sound which sounded pretty much unlike anything that we’d heard before on the local scene. Mike Manic Pop Thrills described them as:
‘a three piece who were resolutely NOT your typical Dundee band lifting a lot of inspiration from mid 70s prog. Peculiarly they played a couple of unfinished pieces, one instrumental and another allegedly more than a snippet but they had bags of confidence and were proficient enough to carry off the multi faceted songs.’
‘Multi-faceted’ is certainly a word that could be applied to Marley’s solo material. Some songs are simply just voice and piano/keyboard, such as ‘Stars Where I Come From’ others built up on layers of sound. ‘I Am Dreams’ begins very gently before building up into a euphoric sound, with a rhythm track propelling it along in places.
Can you please introduce yourself and tell us a little of what you do please?
“My name is Marley, I’m 21, and I do gigs around the Dundee and Angus area. I play piano and sing, though I can’t really pigeon hole myself into one genre – but if you were to try and take a guess, it’d probably be proggy, ever-so-slightly folky experimental; that’s what the gig people say, anyway!”
What was your first introduction to music?
“When I was younger I taught myself how to play piano; I never had any lessons at all. What I’m doing now only came about around a year ago. I did do this show when I was younger though – I composed music for The Children at Dundee Rep Youth Theatre. I was nominated for a Young Scot Award in 2008, and got to the finals.”
We previously saw you playing in a band called My Domain. Could you tell us a little about that. Are they still in existence?
“They’re not in existence anymore, no – some things have to come to an end, but we still speak. No bad feelings! The story goes: I was at college with the drummer, and we’d both wanted to start something for a while, so we started My Domain. I then met the guitarist at Sound Base Summer Slam, and it just continued from there. We started doing gigs at The Shore, eventually moved on to open mics at the Doghouse – we wanted to gain experience – and once we were tight, we got official gigs. All in all, it was a good experience. We had some really fun times.”
Do you prefer playing solo or as part of a band?
“That’s a hard one. A really hard one! The benefit of being in a band is that you’re with all your mates, and if you make a mistake you have someone to fall back on; if you’re solo, you have to get it right. The benefit of being solo is that you can progress further – I can practice when I want to, I can gig when I want to, and there’s nothing to stop me. With solo, it’s all your responsibility – but it’s at your own pace.”
What are your influences, musical or otherwise?
“I don’t really have any direct influences; or in other words, the music I listen doesn’t sound anything like what I play. I listen to a lot of metal, actually! Sonata Arctica are one of my favourites. Roy Khan, who was in a band called Kamelot, too: he was trained as an opera singer, and does this lovely falsetto stuff, styles of vocals that are just… well, not mainstream at all. But he has such a unique following because of the uniqueness of what he does. I don’t forcefully try and emulate that, or try to have an original sound. I don’t say “I have to be different”. I just do what I do!”
You’ve been involved in the Gardyne Studios mentoring project. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
“What a fantastic opportunity that was. A big thanks to Mike Brown for selecting me. It involved nine acts and mentors. Paul Wright was my mentor, and basically taught me some things when it comes to performance: posture; presentation; breathing techniques. I used to have problems with not getting my breathing right, using my diaphragm correctly. I’m still getting to grips with it, but the more I learn from him the better I become. I met some fantastic people through the project, and had some great gigs: one at Clarks and the other at the Gardyne itself. It was really helpful.”
You’ve played live a fair bit, what has been your favourite moments?
“I like playing live. One of the best moments I had was the first time I played at Clark’s. I went on stage, nervous as anything and I didn’t know what to expect and there were quite a few people in there that night. It was The View Weekend at 20 Rocks (previously the Doghouse) and I thought I spotted a couple of members of The View and AMWWF in the crowd – it was terrifying, performing in front of such Dundee greats! I got up, I sang, and it was – I think – well received. I felt that it was one of the best reactions I’ve ever had in my life, and I’ll always remember it. As I was playing the song Mythical, I managed to hit this really high note and managed to hold it. I had this fantastic feeling running through my body. I put so much feeling and energy into it; my heart and soul into that song alone. The applause was really lovely. I got off stage, and I had people congratulate me.”
And the worst or more awkward?
“The worst was probably the biggest performance I’ve done, at West Fest. I wasn’t feeling very confident about it, and I couldn’t really hear myself. There wasn’t that intimacy of a small gig, and so the sound got a bit lost in the crowd. Awkward? I was playing the in the city centre. It was midday in the square, an outside thing, and the next moment the keyboard crashed. It just went… bluegh! I turned it on and off, and it kept making this ‘wah wah wah’ sound. Another time I was playing Fat Sam’s live, and I was using this backing track; I had to wait ten minutes to get it to work, and then when it was on, it crashed again! I had to tell people really unfunny jokes. That’s what I tend to do when things go wrong – try to make people laugh. That’s showbiz!”
Do you have any plans to release any material, either as a single or E.P. soon?
“Solo wise, the plan is to release a couple of EPs that make up one album. I’ll release them within a short amount of time of one another. Whenever I listen to albums, I feel like there’s sometimes too much: I’d rather be fed drips of it, because I can then give more attention to each song. You can look out for it in summer, hopefully. It’ll be featuring a few of my friends, who I consider great musicians on the Dundee scene.”
What are your plans for the coming months?
“The above! Aside from that, I don’t want to mention too much… I am forming a band, but we’re just starting off and recording demos. It’s nothing like my solo stuff: it’s a metal band! I’m on vocals, and so I don’t have to worry about playing piano. When you’re doing both you have to divide up your attention. This way I won’t have to, and might actually learn a lot from it. New ground!”
Anything else that you’d like to add?
“Type in ‘Marley Davidson’ into Soundcloud!”
Or easier still, check out some recent songs here: https://soundcloud.com/marley-davidson
Marley Davidson plays the Cool Cat Club this Saturday (24th). Also on the bill are Book Group, Stoor and Cancel The Astronauts. More info.