A few years ago, Laura Marling got lost. Living in Los Angeles – where she’d moved as an independence-seeking 21-year-old – she took a hiatus from the music-making that had earned her three Top 10 albums and stacks of songwriter-of-her-generation style plaudits, and reinvented herself as a yoga instructor. Not being particularly well known in the US, this career change left her wholly incognito. “I had no identity. It was really, really, really difficult,” she says. “I was socially bankrupt.”
Not only was she stripped of her status, but a bout of depression had left her bereft in other ways. It was a “very null time”, she says. “I didn’t feel like I had a gender in a weird way – I’d lost a lot of weight so I didn’t really have any feminine features.” She shaved her head and “looked like a young boy. It was quite a good experience of being a non-sexual presence in the world, like a eunuch.” The cherry on top of this cake of devastating self-negation? She wasn’t even very good at teaching yoga. “You need to know a lot more than I know to do it well,” she admits.
Today, Marling’s former identity as songwriter-of-her-generation is fully restored; the 27-year-old is back doing what she does better than almost anyone else. Her new album of folk-inflected rock is her most direct and accessible in years. Fuelled by gorgeous vocals, hypnotic fingerpicking and singalong melodies, Semper Femina is what one might categorise as “classic” singer-songwriter fare in the lineage of Neil Young, James Taylor and Joni Mitchell.