Toronto musician/songwriter/producer Marlon Chaplin displays an uncanny ability to draw from a wellspring of influences, never letting one overshadow the other. Shining a light on the ragged beauty of the mundane and spinning stories both tragic and inspiring, he infuses his own brand of sardonic wit and unique perspective in the vein of artists like Elvis Costello, Jack White and Beck. Other projects Chaplin is involved in include Freeman Dre & the Kitchen Party and Ada Dahli & the Pallbearers.
In this interview, we chat with Marlon about this influences, his newest project, and navigating the current music world as we have moved into the digital age.
Full Q&A as well as video streams below.
We’ve featured you before but let’s dive a little deeper into the artist and the music. What attracted you to this genre or style of music?
I wanted to do something to honour my love of very naturally recorded, idiosyncratic records that have moved me for a long time like Beggar’s Banquet, Desire and White Blood Cells, just to name a few. What Jack White did with Loretta Lynn, Wanda Jackson was an inspiration. His move to Nashville has produced a lot of work that’s moved me and there are elements of that style of performance and recording I wanted to touch on.
How long have you been creating and sharing your music with the public?
Since I was about sixteen.
Who or what influences your playing and/or writing? Also, what motivates you to keep going?
I go in waves of listening to different records about every three weeks to a month, where I’ll really be into one thing and it’ll inform an angle of my writing. What keeps me going… Have you ever seen A New Hope? Remember when Luke is looking at those twin suns? It’s like that.
Were you trying to accomplish anything specific on this new project? Creatively or otherwise?
Yes, I wanted to capture performances of these songs live off the floor, the full band playing together with minimal rehearsals in one day. In the hands of lesser musicians, that sounds like a disaster. But having Galen Pelley on drums, James McKie and Aaron Comeau on various instruments, the latter manning the session proved to be wonderful beyond words. Sometimes something can be over-rehearsed and the key to these tunes was to keep it loose, keep it interesting. It’s an album that I don’t care if people like or not in the sense that I accomplished what I set out to do. I love it. Beyond that, if someone isn’t digging it, that’s on them. It’s a liberating place to live.
What was the last song you listened to?
Winter Song by Katelyn Molgard.
Which do you prefer? Vinyl? CDs? MP3s?
Vinyl. The sound that can’t be beat.
How about this one…. Do you prefer Spotify? Apple Music? Bandcamp? Or something else? Why?
I don’t use any of those to be honest. Personally, I still prefer physical copies of things instead of digital ideas. What I’m not going to do is tell everybody how to listen to their music though. I just know what I like. As far as how people consume my music, I don’t care. Whatever’s easiest and accessible to them, however they get it is alright by me.
Other than the digital era overwhelming us with access to an abundance of music, what are one or two of the biggest challenges you face when trying to attract listeners to your music?
Something similar to the Poseidon Adventure happened seventeen years ago when Napster became a thing and Lars Ulrich and all those people lost their minds. The music industry was flipped upside down and it’s never fully recovered. It’s sort of learning to adapt finally. But the industry was run by a bunch of old boys from what I can tell who were very resistant to change, which in turn stalled the evolution of how people could have been taking in and experiencing music. As an independent artist, I’m constantly experimenting with different platforms and services. It’s a guessing game though. So, because there’s no set way to do it anymore, it’s a constant challenge just navigating the waters of marketability. Something very peculiar also happened along the way. People stopped caring to pay for music. It’s really amusing to me that someone will drop a ten on a peculiar Starbucks concoction that will last a streetcar ride but can’t be bothered to put a five down for something that will last a lifetime. I have theories on why that is, but we’ll save it for another time. I don’t know if you have the bandwidth to endure a rant. Anyway, I’m not even upset. Just bemused.
Do you gig, tour or perform? Do you ever live stream? Where can music lovers see you perform?
I play a lot, yes. I’m playing this Wednesday at Camp 4 on Dundas St. W. and at the Piston, a fantastic room Aug. 4th. Both Toronto venues. I’ve been known to saunter down to NYC in the past and I’d like to have a release for Wanderer By Trade there within the next couple months. All my show dates are always posted on my website at www.marlonchaplin.com.
Where is the best place to connect with you online? Discover more of your music?
Any last thoughts? Shout outs? Words of wisdom?
Yes, know when to say when, whatever the case may be. Know yourself. Don’t let anybody tell you how to live, behave, speak, act, or create. You’re in control of your actions. Always. And please, make your own mind up when it comes to art. Love what you love. End of.