29 Sep 2018

Anatomy of a Scroll: Marlon Williams 'Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore'

From RNZ Music, 4:00 pm on 29 September 2018

“It was a therapeutic and emotionally necessary song to write, in a way, to convince myself of the reality of it,” says Marlon Williams of his Silver Scroll-nominated break-up song.

Marlon says it’s no secret the album, Make Way for Love documents the fall out of his break up with fellow Lyttelton musician Aldous Harding and although he was hesitant about asking her to contribute to the song, 'Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore', he feels it was worthwhile.

“I was in a unique position to have someone ploughing the same field I am. Not many people get the opportunity to explore those feelings and the subtleties of that dynamic in such a way,” he says.

The idea of singing together about their break-up took on special meaning for the pair. Marlon explains Aldous and him had been singing together since they were teenagers. 

“I know how it looks but it’s such a natural and important part of our relationship anyway - it didn’t feel strange to use music as a way of understanding.” 

RELATED: APRA Silver Scroll 2018 - Top 5 finalists announced

Marlon recorded his parts and the song in California, while Aldous did hers from a studio in Wales. The two talked over the phone to coordinate the arrangement. 

Marlon says the chorus and line “Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore”, which was the first idea for the song, is a sort of mantra, or coping mechanism. 

Marlon Williams

Marlon Williams Photo: Guillick

He wanted it to sound Paul McCartney-esque, and had imagined it sung in his voice. “When he locks onto a melody, he holds onto it and convinces you it’s the way it’s going to be,” he says.

But close to the end, the song takes a depressing turn. 

“We throw in the E minor seven chord which is a 70s folk rock trick that I picked up. If you throw in that chord, everyone knows there’s going to be a mood shift. So I put that in and the song devolves into a mope. There’s a moment where I don’t believe my own hype and the game’s given up.” 

“What am I gonna do / When you’re in trouble / and you don’t call out for me,” he sings in that moment.

The contrast between a hardluck situation - “nobody gets what they want” - and total empathy was one of the goals of the song, Marlon says.

“It’s me prostrating myself out again and saying, actually it’s tough stuff.”

  • New video: Marlon Williams 'Make Way For Love' with Māori choir
  • Review: The broken beauty of Marlon Williams
  • The Sampler: Make Way For Love by Marlon Williams
  • Marlon Williams: love, jealousy and Aldous
  • Music details:

    Artist: Marlon Williams
    Song: Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore
    Composer: Marlon Williams
    Album: Make Way For Love
    Label: Dead Oceans