‘Find Your Way’
Dynamic Yorkshire songwriter, lets his voice as well as lyrics (and musicianship), shine.
Availability: ‘Find Your Way’ is available via http://soundcloud.com/marcotway/fi
The geographical merits may have been expounded on here, a lot…
as of late. I won’t go too much into the percussive swell of eager and diverse talent, that is hustling and bustling in the north, at the moment. Greater Manchester may be busiest in terms of numbers, but is less individualised and wide-ranging when it comes to sound and vision. A great proportion of bands and acts have more than a hint of current or past Manchester bands. On a couple of recent occasions, I have noticed a certain Sheffield band being heard more than slightly, in the tones of two particular groups. Steve Lamacq recently theorised, that the future of music will not necessarily emanate from London; suggesting that it is further north, that the most fascinating and long-lasting sounds will be heard. This is true; I think there is just a more determined attitude in these parts. Less concern with following what is trendy or sought after; more concerned with a strong and willing work ethic, that includes, daring sound collaborations, captivating song-craft and an appealing personality. There is better humour, greater endeavour, and more of an eagerness to be shared and saluted by a wider audience. In the struggle and scuffle of competition and friendly rivalry, the configurations of bands seems to be rather predictable; in terms of numeration and gender distribution. I will talk more about Marc Otway, on his own merits, shortly; but he first came to my attention as one half of Marc and Abi; a mesmeric duo from the idyllically situated and cosmopolitan, Bradford. I shall speak more of Abi Uttley, later, as well; but she caught my attention om the track ‘Like You Do’. Marc was the song smith behind the soul, but the passion and beauty belonged to Abi. She is possessed of an ethereal and stunning voice that can portray immense beauty, as well as terrific power as well. With a fascinating history and a determined drive and ambition; coupled with amazing beauty; there was star quality and chanteuse allure in equal measures. In the midst of the silky vocal notes, the wonderful and gorgeous composition, alongside intelligent, sharp and memorable lyrics, stunned me. It was a wonderful and incredibly natural combination- it was as though they had been performing together their entire lives. I will allude more to Abi and Marc individually, anon; but another thing that surprised me was the lack of solo talent from Yorkshire. Aside from the odd few that are currently signed to fledgling and promising labels, there isn’t exactly a proliferation of one-man and one-woman warriors. It seems strange; or perhaps I am not looking in the right place. Either way, there needs to be a social media ballast, in order to help build a consciousness of these hidden treasures. It is a demographic that is seen a lot in London, and further south, but in a largely band-based culture of the north, it is refreshing and exciting to hear about pulsating solo talent.
Marc Otway has a varied and impressive list of influences, ranging from Frank Sinatra, to Stevie Wonder. He can switch from the dapper fashion of Sinatra and Gershwin, to a modern relaxed cool of Jason Mraz. It is safe to say that the majority of influential voices and hero’s on Marc’s top 10, enjoyed success and adulation in the ’60s and ’70s, predominantly. It is a rare set of influence in a modern music scene, and is made all the more impressive, considering what has been achieved by the young artist. Marc developed an almost Motzart-like ability to master instruments and music, and develop a talent free from precociousness. As well as having an affinity with guitars and drums; he also is a skilled keyboard player, and is able to inject his influences and various talents into each of his songs. As I mentioned I was impressed hugely by his and Abi’s collaboration of ‘Like You Do’. It was Abi’s voice that stole the spotlight, but it was the instrumental flourishes and moods; combined with an impressive set of lyrics, that added unexpected colours and shades. Marc has been writing for 5 years now, and honing his craft and skill set. There are an array of YouTube videos and cover versions; as well as glowing reviews and testimonies, that pay homage to the bubbling potential that lies within Marc’s bones.
‘Find Your Way’ begins as a starling twinkle of acoustics. There are whispers of Nick Drake, Kings of Convenience, as well as the masters such as Neil Young and Bob Dylan. It is a hymn for spring, and is evocative of a walk by a river, as the sun beats down. Nothing lingers threateningly in the air; there is just peace, and a gentle breeze. It puts you at ease at once, and settles and eradicates any tension or ambivalence, you may have had, before listening to the song. The guitar strums and skips; before hopping and swimming in the cool; meandering, seducing and stamping an early mark of quality. There is adventure and turns in the intro, and shows the talent that Marc has to evoke a lot of pleasure and curiosity, from a few strings. By 0:17 the guitar trip was a glorious mix of ‘Songbird’ Eva Cassidy, and ‘Quiet Is The New Loud’, Kings of Convenience; with a smidge of ‘Harvest Moon’ Neil Young. It would be cheap to make comparisons, or predict what the vocal would sound like, given the evocations and memories contained within the intro. Marc sings in a calm and mannered way, that means that his words can be heard, understood and appreciated, without any stutter, drawl or any cloying ephemera I have heard from a lot of nearby bands and acts. There is clarity and directness: perhaps the two most important elements that should be employed when attempting to win hearts and minds. There is remembrance and stories of a carefree life; an alternative way of life, and a conversation being held between him and an unnamed paramour. “Don’t be afraid/’Cause you don’t know the way”, are the words of comfort that are proffered, when it seems that there is uncertainty and hesitation in mind. The vocal remains strong and overcomes the emotion that is being portrayed. Lesser artists may be concerned with histrionics and needless plaintive mewing, desperate to wring out every drop of feeling from their lyrics. Marc deploys the guitar, as a device to convey a gorgeous and still mood, but also add shades and layers that others just can’t. The vocal itself is genuinely original. I have reviewed a lot of acts, and have been able to pick the vocal apart, assigning tones and accents to various other decades, albums and bands. But here, there is none of that. With inspirational themes, and a mandate that implores his beau, as well as the listener in general; to not let life pass by, and find your own path, at your own speed. Marc asks: “maybe I can find you”, as the acoustic strum sparks and ignites the mood, and his voice shows some vulnerability, but never cracks. There is a guitar and piano calling song, where light and gorgeous notes mix with duskier shades; creating a bucolic emotional calm, as once again, a musical passage allow you to catch your breath, reflect, and absorb what has been said. The instrumental touches have a lovely hint of Cassidy to them. In the way she could reinterpret and own a song like Fields of Gold, Over the Rainbow and Autumn Leaves, Marc displays a superior guitar talent, knowing that the words are all his. Whether taken from autobiography, or rooted within a dream-like fiction, it is a mystery; the way he lets his voice hold and float and dive, shows a keen understanding of how to convey atmosphere and emotional resonance, with as few breaths as possible. As I said- there is no need for over-zealous showboating; he wins and convinces with a simple directness and unequivocal determination. As the second half becomes settled in, and comfortable, the words of encouragement, motivation and strength are displayed once more. “You need to rise up/Get yourself dressed” are delivered; with certain words elongated; others punctuated, designed, above all, to catch the ear and mind, and make you smile as well as think. The vocal backing provided by Abi, around the 3:00 is wordless and invigorating, as the two create a lullaby of a harmony, and bring the song to a stunning conclusion.
The elegance and beauty of ‘Find Your Way’, is hard to ignore. With regards to the purity of the performance, it can rank alongside the fi9nest solo artists going today. Where as a lot of the market are concerned with too much self-indulgence, and do not have a great lyrical talent, Marc is able to strike the right words at the right time, and does not clutter the landscape. Everything is employed for maximum affect; the message may be simple and universal, but the way it is premiered, is certainly not. It is predominantly the female solo market where the combination of still beauty and stirring passion are mixed so effectively lyrically, vocally and musically. Usually an artist falls at one or more fences, and yet still maintains a lot of fans and adulation. There is a great originality to the vocal tone as well as delivery, and Marc establishes himself as an incredible guitarist; not contended to strum aimlessly, instead pioneer and seek out the most sterling and lilting notes, in order to conjure up the purest and simplest beauty. I am sure there will be several avenues Marc can take. Abi Uttley is the strongest vocalist, perhaps, and has the sex appeal and siren tones to make hearts melt; yet Marc is his own man, and has a fantastic voice, that pleases and invigorates. He is a multi-talented guitarist and would be just as adept at laying down some scuzzy, dirty electric riffs as he is with painting riparian delights. Similarly he is a skilled pianist and composer, and could do conjure orchestral majesty into songs as well. Marc and Abi need to remain, as the two of them combined, can create an enormous fan-base, and win a lot of support. Whether they have an E.P. in their minds or not, there will be a huge demand. If Marc also decides to pursue a solo career, it will also be met with high expectations and back orders. It is an exciting and promising next few years ahead, that makes me wonder what moves he will make next. Whether there is going to be any hard or heavy rock gems; snaking blues monsters, or caressing acoustic kisses. It is all up to him, but I for one, am keen to spread the word. With comparatively few followers on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, when matched against many local- and inferior- music acts, he deserves a lot more attention, and for people to hear all he has done with, and without Abi. There will be record labels beating a path to his door, as well as a vast amount of options. It is the early days and the formative years that provide greatest insight and unexpectedness. I am keen to see…
… what moves Marc makes next.