When Nile Marr talks about how his songs are only completed when they’re given over to audiences you get the feeling this is where his carried-on-the-wind love of touring springs from.
Without other band members for protection or to riff off, everything’s on the sequinned shoulders of this pedigree Mancunian emigree, currently living in Sheffield. But he’s not alone.
Man Made’s singular setup (while possibly short dated with increasingly exciting recordings alongside full-band members Nestor Matthews and Katie Harkin) sees the suitcased singer-songwriter sown among audiences around the world in a kind of post-rock pollination. And as photographer Timm Cleasby snaps the chap in the rubbled industrial garden adjoining the converted works of G2 Studios, you can almost see the shoots sprouting from where the twenty year old’s feet have stepped.
Our chat before Nile’s exclusive session for Exposed (which you can click here for) saw us talk about work, family and mics – and highlighted how all three are bound up together in a passion for creativity and collaboration. It’s not sequins on that jacket – its pollen…
How did you wind up in Sheffield?
I always liked the place. Sheffield is small and green and I like going up in the hills. I just kept hearing ‘People’s Republic of Sheffield’ every time I brought up the city and I really liked that. I’m gonna be here for a while I think.
Your Twitter feed’s full of messages from you volunteering to play gigs in people’s front rooms. Are you a workaholic?
I’ve always had a job and if I don’t play shows, if I’m not gigging or actively involved in music in some way, I feel like I’m out of a job. I like to feel like I’m busy. It’s not like a real job though – no-one’s telling you to do any of it. It’s all on your back. That’s why you have to take it seriously – cos you’re the one motivating yourself. It’s just you.
Shall we talk about the session tonight? Three tracks. Do you have an order in your head?
Not really! I’m gonna do two tracks from the new EP. One of them’s maybe six months old.
Is that quite old for you?
No, no. The first song I used to open every show with I wrote when I was fourteen. That’s on the first EP actually.
So. Exposed In Session. Tell us about your first song…
Plastic Key to Living. It’s a lot of fun. I’ve been aching to record that cos I don’t even have a demo of it. I wrote it, then just gigged it but I’ve never recorded it. There’s another track that’s gonna be on the EP that’s pretty new. I wrote that the day before I went on tour, when I was supposed to be rehearsing. That’s from late January.
So second track is called – ?
Nobody’s Dreaming. There’s a lot going on looping-wise with that one. I actually wrote it at The Leadmill in Sheffield – in the corridor when I was waiting to go on. That’s gonna be on the EP too.
Whenever I hear that now I’ll be thinking of those dingy Leadmill corridors!
Yeah! I always think asking what songs mean is the wrong question to ask. When you play a song to someone else they’re always gonna take something different away from it. When I write it I might be thinking a certain thing but as soon as you play it to someone in public you instantly lose all ownership you have over it because you’re putting yourself out there and it’s up to someone else then.
Have you had any favourite responses?
I’m still weirded out that people care! I just do it because I feel I have to. It’s amazing having the opportunity to play and to have someone like it is really amazing.
We were talking earlier about the microphones here at G2. You were almost describing it as if it was a flower with this carefully carved shape and stuff inside it…
The old ribbon mics? Yeah. They’re the ones the BBC used to have with the bits of gold in. Care was really put into gear then. Analogue gear is amazing cos of the amount of effort that goes into it. They’re not made to break. But I love the fact I can make a demo on my laptop or in my bathroom today. That’s the best thing about technology.
Why do you record in the bathroom?
Just because I’ve got so much crap in my regular room! I have to do everything with a towel over my head cos it sounds so echo-ey otherwise. Technology should never slow you down. Not that speeding you up is necessarily a good thing, but to be able to do it quick is the most creative thing because technology isn’t getting in the way.
Analogue and digital are just different speeds in a way. There’s a slowness to analogue that’s pleasurable…
When you’re writing a song everything’s going so quickly. You’ve got so many ideas that you have to put down. The song’s that take me a while to write – like a day – are usually the ones I don’t end up playing that often. The songs I end up playing are the ones that are written really quick. I trust them more because I feel like I’ve had less to do with them.
Was it always written that you were gonna do something creative based on your folks?
No, no, not at all really. They were just supportive. I don’t know, I’ve always loved music. It’s what I do. And I feel like I can only do this. My Dad and the people around him are musicians I really respect and love. If your Dad’s in your favourite band that’s wild. Modest Mouse was a massive deal for me – it changed my life. And the fact my mum was always there taking pictures.
The main thing about growing up with my parents is they were really supportive. Supportive of being creative. That’s the thing. They understood the need to do something creative, which is great. My sister’s the same – she writes. The whole family’s the same. We’ve been brought up creatively, you don’t have to do music. But what you do you have to take seriously.
So – third track – the cover?
I’m doing a song by a band called Apse called All Mine. I don’t do a lot of covers.
Why did you pick it?
It’s the song that’s been on repeat on my iPod. And the only reason I found it was I bought a record in King Bee Records in Manchester. I bought an All Tomorrow’s Parties EP compilation and the only reason I bought that is because it had a Built to Spill song on there and it was like two pounds for four tracks and that was the second track.
That was why I bought the record and that was how I found the band. And it’s a shame saying that out loud cos that just doesn’t happen so much now.
I loved working on it though. Doing it on your own you have to break it down and work out what bits you’re gonna play, which is great fun.
Man Made’s second EP is released this summer. Listen to Man Made on their Soundcloud page and follow Nile on Twitter here. In Session was recorded at G2 Studios. Visit their website here.