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Marry Waterson

Marry Waterson, is a singer, songwriter and visual artist. Inheriting the legacy of one of British folk music's most revered families (the Waterson-Knight-Carthy family). Although she had made her recording debut on her mother Lal and aunt Norma Waterson’s A True Hearted Girl in 1977, and later, under the name The Waterdaughters, formed an occasional singing partnership with them and cousin Eliza Carthy, appearing on numerous Watersons and Waterson/Carthy recordings, it wasn’t until two crucial shows in 2007 that the idea of making music herself took hold. That year, she and her brother, Oliver Knight, appeared with the Waterson family at a special Royal Albert Hall concert called ‘A Mighty River of Song’, and again later the same year at the BBC Electric Proms concert called 'Once in a Blue Moon: A Tribute to Lal Waterson', held at Cecil Sharp House in London, in which they both played key roles as performers and curators.  

In January 2010, she performed at the Sydney Opera House in a line-up of rock, punk, pop and folk musicians, under the musical direction of Hal Willner as part of his Rogue's Gallery project.

After signing to One Little Indian Records in 2011, she released the album The Days That Shaped Me, co-written with Oliver, and which included collaborations with Kathryn Williams, James Yorkston and Eliza Carthy. The album was nominated for a Radio 2 Folk Award. During that year, she both recorded and toured with Oliver, billed as “Marry Waterson & Oliver Knight”.

A second album by Marry and Oliver, Hidden, was released in 2012, and showcased her original and distinctly English performance style, a style that owes much to the folk tradition without being beholden to it.  

In October 2013, she curated a tour with The Barbican, bringing the album Bright Phoebus, by Lal and Mike Waterson, to the stage for the first time. She performed with a cast that included Jarvis Cocker and Richard Hawley among others. Also in 2013, she designed and produced Teach Me to be a Summer's Morning, a book and CD celebrating the works of Lal Waterson, released on the Fledg'ling Records imprint.

In 2015, she released a third album, this time collaborating with guitarist David A. Jaycock, called Two Wolves. This album, produced by Neill MacColl, featured Kate St. John, Kami Thompson, Michael Tanner, Alison Cotton, Simon Edwards, Emma Black and Calum Malcolm.

Previously she worked as a graphic designer, and developed a successful practice as a sculptor, working largely in sandstone. Her work has been exhibited at numerous locations in Yorkshire and the northeast of England, and she has completed several commissions. She has also animated music videos and produced stage loops for Marc Almond.


Q: Do you think of your lyrics as poetry?


A: Yes. The words have always arrived first, essentially I write poetry, then sing it into music.


Q: Do you think it is important that songs rhyme and if so why?


A: I naturally write in rhyme. I love the rhythm, the movement it creates. I love the challenge of finding that perfect word to communicate what I want to say, whilst chiming with its partner. Equally I find the beauty in songs that don't rhyme, maybe there's a freedom without that restriction. Perhaps I should try it...


Q: Do you think song lyrics must conform to recognized song structures such as clear rhyming schemes, choruses, refrains, hooks and bridges or that songs can also be like free verse?


A: I don't care for rules. I am lucky enough to be free from the burden of expectation to conform to set patterns. I don't play an instrument or read music; my songs are sung into existence. This means I won't always choose the logical or “correct” path, I can sing across the beat, sing a verse in a chorus, or not even have a chorus. I don't feel I have to have 4 lines in every verse etc, the words shape the tune. I have a traditional background, it's all about the story.


Q: When you read poetry in school or elsewhere did you recognize any connection to the music you enjoyed?


A: Although I worked through my feelings penned in the form of poetry, I don't recall reading it in school. I remember class singing sessions, ‘Her hair is soft and her eyes are oh so blue. She's all the things a girl should be, but she's not you’ by Elvis. The girls enjoyed the singing, but the lads whispered out the lyric in mortification.


Q: Was there anything about poetry in books that influenced your songwriting?


A: Any words that paint pictures inspire me to write. I love storytellers.


Q: Why do you think songs are more popular with people than poetry is?


A: We love to sing along, it makes us happy, we love to dance. There's all sorts going on there. The lyric can move you, but even if the words are truly dreadful the sound can still make us feel pure joy.