Interview: The Marsh Family

The Marsh Family have recently made waves within the UK, going viral with their own brand of folk music. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, so I decided to check out their new release, See Your Face Again. It’s a great track, and I decided to find out a little more about this enigmatic family. See how we got on below…

By Jane Howkins

You recently released a new song called See Your Face Again. What can you tell us about the track?

The track was born out of some conversations we had over dinner about how it would feel to be separated from family and friends. We’d done some earlier song adaptations about the refugee crises – and gotten quite a lot of responses and messages from Ukraine and elsewhere. So we figured there was an opportunity to put something together framed around compassion and empathy – even in a difficult space. It was written by Ben and Ella on an acoustic guitar over several evenings, and once it began to take shape, the rest of us became involved. It fitted perfectly with Ella’s voice and maybe it strikes some extra poignancy because it’s often her singing alone – whereas usually our tracks share the melodies around.

How has the reception to See Your Face Again been so far, and where can it be purchased?

We’ve been overwhelmed with the response – mostly because it’s managed to accomplish what we hoped, and got featured in packages on ITV News and Radio Kent and got shared widely. But especially because we had been wary of inhabiting a kind of false space – because as a family, we are lucky enough to be together and have a roof over our head. But the people it’s written for are not, and have faced huge trials and journeys and traumas in their lives. So to have them tell us in messages and in response to performances that it resonated with them, moved them and made them feel connected is amazing – it really mattered to us. The best example of that is the fact that when we shared a draft mix with the Afghan musician and refugee (now living in LA), Ali Esmahilzada. He offered to play a solo violin part that blends beautifully and enrichens the track is so many ways. The song is available to download from all digital platforms and on Spotify:

The track was written for Refugee Week and video raises awareness of thework of Kent Refugee Action Network in helping young refugees and asylum seekers to succeed. Can you tell us a little more about this?

We live in Kent and due the current government’s immigration policies, safe passage to the UK had become virtually impossible for those seeking asylum. Risking lives in small boats has become a horribly regular thing here but rather than demonising those forced to take horrendous risks to apply for asylum, we wanted to focus on our shared humanity. Every person on those boats – like the people who flooded out of Ukraine – could be one of us, with a few small changes in circumstance – how would we feel? Who would we be desperate to see again? We’d already been in communication with KRAN after earlier projects – they do amazing work to support young people arriving in Kent and the UK. They offer support, placements, training, community projects (including in languages and the creative arts) and help people to find their feet and integrate. They are a brilliant model of how we can and should engage with issues and build resilience and partnerships – but given the numbers and policies in recent years they are also flat out and exhausted. So knowing that we could use our musical platform to make a small contribution and raise some awareness and funds for the charity was a real incentive to pour everything we had into the project. It’s been great to witness all the other varieties of music and compassion flying around during Refugee Week, and showing another face of the UK that is not divisive or brutalist.

Do you plan to release any more singles in the near future?

We have several new tracks that we’ve been working on over the summer, so we hope to have at least one ready for release soon, before we maybe turn to a Christmas project. The problem with summers for us is that we just gather momentum and then schools and work suddenly crash into view again! But they all sound different from See Your Face Again: we’ve got one summery ukulele track that is a toe-tapping pick-me-up, one funky track mocking the ‘cool kids’ with a great bass riff and wah-wah, and a third piece that has some reggae flavour – so we’re mixing it up!

Are there any plans to release an album or EP anytime soon?

We’ve been asked that before and the answer is – we’d love to, but we don’t have imminent plans to. As unsigned artists who home record in stages and then enlist the help of a great remote mixing and mastering team, we don’t have a label to help us pull it all together. But it’s on the bucket list, as is booking in some studio time in a chunk!

Your music has a traditional folk sound. What/who influences you most as artists? What have you been listening to recently?

Honestly it’s hugely eclectic – as per the future tracks! We love so many different artists and eras and each summer we all add to our shared playlist to allow (and encourage) all of us to listen to tracks that others have discovered. Tess and Ella bring stuff from TikTok, the boys from school or digging in the archives, and we’ve always got old favourites from the 90s and 00s that have dropped off radios or playlists. The Police and Sting are big influences as are Fleetwood Mac and Queen, but each one of us has preferences, and that is really becoming apparent as the kids start to take a lead in co-writing. Thomas has a really varied playlist and brings massive variety to the family playlist, Alfie has got a very rocky sound to his voice now, while Ella has both a rocky edge and some ethereal high notes. She’s been listening to some Eva Cassidy of late. Tess might be the folkiest – she has a real thing for Steeleye Span at the moment!

You’re quite unique, in that the band is literally made up of your family. Why did you decide to start making music together, and how does the writing and recording work?

We’ve been singing since we got together so the kids literally grew up with it – but we only began sharing it publicly during the pandemic. As voices and musical abilities have matured and improved, the kids have really started to bring their own ideas and compositions to the fore. Ideas generally start with one or two people working together (like See Your Face Again), but then we move them around to allow space for everyone’s voice or instrument to feed in. The recording phase is always tricky because it’s such a noisy household (and we live under the A2), so we have to grab opportunities and quiet moments – but we generally play in each instrument separately, and then try to do voices together so they blend. As with most things with us, it began organically and has been developing ever since we started to make music for more than our family and friends to hear! Luckily we’ve now got an amazing Patreon support base of fans who help us to bring on board new instruments, or improve microphone quality, or collaborate with folk like Ali Esmahilzada – and we often ask them to give us a steer on projects or new songs.

Do you have anything else exciting coming up this year?

No doubt we’ll keep on with the occasional humorous parody to give people a laugh and help us digest the news – like the acapella one we just did about Nadine Dorries. But there will definitely be some more original songs and a little television project we’re excited to share soon. We are planning to start doing some more live gigs – now that the kids are older and that we have a little more time (marginally) to work on music!

Do you have any tour dates lined up for the UK?

Not yet, but if the live stuff goes well then we could be up for more!! Our hope is to maybe find some partners to share stages or gigs with, who understand our rather unusual circumstances – and are fun to collaborate with.

Any last words for the fans?

We are really enjoying the musical journey we’ve been on and the parodies and original songs have allowed us to try lots of styles. We love that people are interested in the stuff we produce and hope they continue to follow it – especially on Patreon and Spotify, as these feel like the places that can really help us to kick on.