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From tragedy to genius: Laura Marling's soundtrack of influence

At just 23, Laura Marling has recorded four albums.

Justin Tyler Close

Though only 23 years old, the poetic English singer-songwriter Laura Marling has released four albums. Two of them were nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize, and her latest might be her finest work yet. She spoke to The Globe and Mail about the records that inspired the making of her acclaimed LP Once I Was an Eagle.

Elliott Smith's XO (1998): "He's a tragic story, obviously. XO was the soundtrack of my teenage years, but it has lasted. A lot of other stuff I used to listen to didn't come through. That particular record starts with Sweet Adeline, which is such a brilliant way to start a record. The production, and his voice, is totally unique."

Bill Callahan's Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle (2009): "I think it is as close to a work of genius as I've seen of the living. I listen to it at least once a month, and have for the last three years. And I listen to it start to finish. It's a proper album. It has a beginning, a middle and an end."

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Townes Van Zandt's Our Mother the Mountain (1969): "It's a big influence. And he's another tragic figure. Kathleen and Like a Summer Thursday are gut-wrenching – the simplicity of them. He's really a great storyteller. It's the same with With Waiting 'Round to Die or Sixteen Summers, Fifteen Falls, which is about a girl who he fell in love with who killed herself. Those are off his previous album For the Sake of the Song. You can tell it wasn't a problem for him to write music like that. That he was a tortured soul was somewhere on the high surface of his being, and it is from there where his songwriting came."

Jim Sullivan's U.F.O. (1969): "Another tragic story, but he didn't end himself. He made U.F.O. with Phil Spector's session band. It's an incredible folk-funk orchestral album. He was a biker who apparently had some trouble with organized crime. He went into the New Mexico desert and then disappeared. He never came back."

Joni Mitchell's Court and Spark (1974): "Joni is the foundation. She was the first person I ever listened to who really, really resonated with me. Since then, she's been the go-to voice. Like her, I don't play in standard guitar tunings. And I think her music resonates especially with females. She has a voice that hits women in the chest. There's an amicable vulnerability and strength at work."

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About the Author

Brad Wheeler is an arts reporter with The Globe and Mail. More

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