Described by tonights promoters as a ‘living local legend’, Marwood is unquestionably one of Readings most successful musical exports. He’s performed at the Olympics, toured the US with Frank Turner, and – along with Turner and fellow Xtra Mile act Reuben – had a camp named after him at 2000 Trees.
Tonights gig marks a return to form for the singer-songwriter, after injury forced him into what turned to a four year absence. Gone is the Anton Chigurgh bob he rocked in his early years, replaced with the silver streaks of a veteran. For a man whose music often aches with emotional intensity, and whose signature track involves a first person narrative of caving in a girls skull, it must be said Marwood is a surprisingly jovial guy – and clearly buzzing to be back in the fold after a lengthy hiatus. GigSOUP’s Jack Gunner – a fellow Reading native – sat down with Ben in the Rising Sun’s gigantic greenroom for a pre-show catchup.
Mr Marwood, how are you doing today, sir?
I’m doing okay thank you sir!
Have you played a number of shows at this venue?
Yes – this is my favourite Reading venue of all the Reading venues, of which there are… I don’t know, about five! Its brilliant, I love it here, good people, they’re all volunteers and its not run for profit, just to keep the art community of Reading going which is good. It’s a good test of if you’re any good or not – because theres no stage, it’s a case of – how good are you at playing someones front room with no furniture. It’s a good atmosphere, but it does teach you to rely on the stagecraft – obviously you can’t get a lot of pyro or anything in here. Definitely one of my favourite venues in the country.
So the first time I heard the name Ben Marwood was at 2000 Trees with Camp Marwood – what did it mean to you to learn you had a camp named after you?
Its great, its very touching – though I tend to keep to myself so to learn there was a camp named after me was a little odd! I actually went along this year but there was no one in the campsite, I think they were all out getting drunk…which is within the spirit of Camp Marwood! It was touching as it came about from the year I couldn’t make it because I was too ill, which was great because it meant I could be there in spirit.
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So onto the new album – its been quite a while since the last one!
Yes – from release day to release day it will be four years which is an astonishing amount of time as its gone in the blink of an eye. I was ill for about 18 months, and during the rehab time I upgraded my home studio. I finished my parts in the summer last year, but its taken about 9 months to get it out.
We’ve heard Baby You’re A Mess – so on this one you’ve led with a song that’s not yours. Whats the story behind your cover of this?
I always want to go without something that represents the album – the guy that wrote this song, Tom Hope from Band of Hope I’ve been friends with for a long time, maybe 17 years. I remember him playing me that song when he’d just written it and it stuck with me. So when Xtra Mile wanted to know what the first song would be, I suggested we try that one – it kind of represents the album.
So you’ve got a longer tour when the album is released?
A slightly longer one – nine shows. Not as long as some of my peers like, say, Frank Turner who seem to do nine shows a day! Its kind of a test to see what I can do after being ill.
Has the time away had much effect of the creative process of the album?
It gave me a lot of time to think about what I wanted to do with the third album. Most of the songs were already written, but it certainly gave me time to think about the arrangement. I didn’t write a lot about it as it would be the same, ‘I’m bored of being ill’ songs again and again. I’m glad its behind me, I hope its behind me forever, there might be some other stuff coming out of it, but not much of a knock on effect on this album.
You mention your collaborations with Frank Turner – have you got anything planned?
Not right now – we always talk about doing stuff together, but he’s so astronomically popular right now, he’s never not touring! We’re still in regular contact so we’ll see what happens.
Is there anywhere you’ve not been that you’d like to go?
I’d like to go back to Wales, as I had to cancel some shows in Wales when I got ill. I’d like to go back to go back to Leeds, as that’s a great party city.
So you’re Reading born and bred?
I was born not too far from here – I came to study maths at university. It was never my intention to stay here, but I haven’t left – it’s been 17 years now.
How have you found the Reading music scene to cut your teeth in?
Its good, though not as good as it used to be – there used to be more touring bands but we’ve lost a lot of our venues. Theres some really good venues and promoters, but I think we lack the touring band appeal, being so close to London and Oxford, bands will do just do London, or maybe Oxford, but being so close we don’t get a lot of bands coming through on tour. Reading has a good music scene and some dedicated people, but not as much as you’d think from a town that has the Reading Festival!
Have you played the Reading Festival – is it on your hitlist?
I’ve never played it, no – I wonder if I’m too old for it now! A lot of the crowd are very young, so I don’t know if I’d be too old to play it but who knows! I think they have an introducing stage but again I think I’ve been doing this too long to be an introducing act. You never know, if this album does well and they call me up, I’d never say no!
Looking to the set tonight – for people who have never seen a Ben Marwood show, what should they expect?
Me, a guitar, some songs and hopefully everything in the right order! I’ll waffle a bit between songs, and hopefully we’ll have some sing-alongs as well. The atmosphere here is always really nice, so expect some sad bits, happy bits and hopefully enjoy yourself and come back to the Rising Sun!
So 2017 is Ben Marwood back with a vengeance – an album a tour, whats next?
More tours, I’m looking at a band tour over the summer, maybe some festivals, then hopefully Europe – we’ll see what happens. I’ve learned not to plan too far in the future these days!