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L Marshall: No holding back


WITH THE slight sound of fatigue lingering in his voice, UK singer-songwriter and rapper, L Marshall, tells me he has been up all night and has only managed to capture a few hours of sleep before our chat.

However, before I can probe the 25-year-old about his nightly endeavours, he shuts down my overactive imagination and explains it was work in the studio that had him up until 5am.

Sensing I suspect there is more to the story, he laughs before promising there were “no strippers or parties”. He then reassures me that his lack of shut-eye will not affect his wit and therefore shouldn’t affect my questioning.

Given free-reign, I ask the Mercury Records signing, who shot to fame singing the hook on Wretch 32's smash-hit single Traktor, to explain his journey so far.

“I started out as a songwriter and I wrote Loick Essien's [number one single] How We Roll and [songs] for other artists, but I wanted to focus on my own music.”

He continues: “I have not done anything other than music. I couldn't even picture myself doing anything else. I don't even think there are people in my life, aside from my family, who even knew me before I was doing this, so that says it all.”

And it’s from everyday life that the talented star takes inspiration. “My songs are like snapshots of conversations I have. For example, in the opening of my song Castles, I sing, 'I love 'em all, don't give me fake looks! You know you're only gonna post 'em up on Facebook.' That's from real life. I was having a conversation with a girl I was seeing and she asked me what pictures she should post on Facebook and I told her, 'look, you're going to post them all so just do that’” he laughs.

The video for Castles, which was shot in Barcelona, has gained over 700,000 views on YouTube since its release last year and has gained the attention of Radio 1, MTV and i-D magazine, all of whom have tipped L Marshall for success.

But while his star quality is clear for all to see, it is almost impossible to know, just by looking at the singer, the wealth of culture he has accumulated throughout his relatively short life. He spent time living in Brazil, Nigeria and England and tells me it was these experiences that have shaped him into the musician he is today.

“Travelling has made me good at adapting. I am good at letting things that don't matter just fade away. Moving around whilst growing up meant I constantly had to make a new best friend and then forget all about him again.

“Overall it has affected me positively, especially musically because I can relate to sounds from Africa, sounds from Europe and wherever I have been. Basically, I listen to things that most people would just find weird.”

He continues: “The more countries you travel to, the more styles you end up loving. So I'll be like, 'yo, let's find out what that Brazilian folk music is saying' and people are like, 'erm, what?' But that's what I like.”

L Marshall's love for all genres comes through in his work and means his sound is hard to define, a problem that he believes is a “blessing in disguise.”

“I don't want to be boxed into a style, that just wouldn't work for me. Take Castles for example, people will hear it and think, 'oh he has gone commercial' because it is a pop-sounding love song, but what people don't know is that I can switch it up and rap. I'll spit bars over a hip-hop beat, I'm talking raw lyrics, and then I'll make something else that nobody will expect from me. I guess I like to keep my fans guessing.”

On the topic of his fans, who he admits have “saved” him with their constant love, he ends our conversation with a special message for his “stars”.

“They [the fans] are the stars - I'm not. I see how they talk to me and how much respect they show me, and it means everything. I appreciate what they do and I want them to know that.”

L Marshall's debut single Castles will be released on Feb 25 through Mercury Records

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