Review Fix Exclusive: Rob Marr Talks ‘Book Of Man’ And More

Review Fix chats with Rob Marr, who details the creation process behind his new album, “Book of Man.”

About Rob Marr:

His fascinating podcast Book of Man has taken his obsession with writing meaningful lyrics and developed it into a brand-new, feature-length drama, beautifully narrated by Golden Globe winner Josh O’Connor (The Crown). This compelling and innovative take on the podcast intertwines original songs from Marr’s third album with the tragic history of four generations set across the fathers and sons of the author’s family, creating a truly immersive storytelling and songwriting experience. The album, also titled Book of Man, was written, performed and recorded entirely by himself, comprising nine songs all written for the podcast. He says, “Each song takes a key moment in the story and explodes it, examines it in detail, providing an emotional counterpoint to the spare, understated narration. The whole album was inspired by my dad’s death, a way of grieving and coming to terms with his loss.”

Lead single “Death and Comfort” was written after his father passed away and Marr confides how the song’s bruised, tender purpose wrestles with the moment where his dad’s mortality became something to be embraced, even welcomed. Sonically, “Death and Comfort” features warm, echoing piano melodies; the piano is the foundation of Marr’s music, a lifelong musical habit that has brought him huge consolation since childhood. Recorded with a single microphone in one take “Death and Comfort” is truly a song for our times; an unflinching, tender, sumptuously lo-fi goodbye to a much-loved father and husband.

Then there is “Perfectly Obvious”, a song which touches on his father’s mental health crisis: it features strong, fuzzy electric keys, a fluttering acoustic guitar and dynamic drums which take us through the emotions of the track. The raw and visceral tune features pockets of skeletal guitar, creating an almost haunting atmosphere. 

Review Fix: How did you get involved in music?

Rob Marr: I always played piano as a kid, once my hands were big enough to press the keys. But I didn’t want to be a musician until I took some time out after my first year at university, when I was unwell. I was watching a documentary by (the Beatles producer) George Martin with my dad on the sofa, he was showing some footage of Stevie Wonder playing in the studio, and I just thought, “I want to do that‘. That desire to make music has taken several forms over the years, but it always comes back to, I love playing the piano, how can I do more of it? 

Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?

Marr: My last album was a first for me, writing a whole story about my dad, and his dad, and then writing songs to fit bits of the story I found particularly interesting. Songs are so good at conveying emotion, so I wrote the story in words and I sang the emotive bits in songs. It took ages – I was doing both the story writing and the songwriting around my job – but it was a very satisfying process. Once it was all written, I took a month off work and recorded the whole album in one go, solo, in a tiny studio in our tiny London back garden. I loved it.  


Review Fix: What inspires you?

Marr: All sorts of stuff. Often not other music, funnily enough. More often it will be an idea, that comes when you’re doing something else – I had what I still think is a great idea the other day, in a rare moment of peace and quiet, lying on my back, staring at the sky through the branches of a little tree. Something about that tiny pause, and maybe being outside, the light, the breeze, was really inspiring. Oh and Little Simz. Every time I listen to her, I’m just a bit taken aback by how good she is. 


Review Fix: How has CO-Vid affected your art?

Marr: Covid has really affected my day job – I work in public health. I don’t think its effects have yet fully filtered through into the creative bit of my life. That usually takes a year or two, for a seminal experience to percolate away in the background, before I can put it to use. So I’m curious to see how that turns out.  


Review Fix: What does music mean to you?

Marr: That’s a nice question. For me, it means something that gives my life shape, and meaning. It’s funny, because it is completely inconsequential. But it is what makes my life seem meaningful, to me. 

Review Fix: How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you?

Marr: Somebody recently described me as a conventional anarchist. I like that. One the one hand, it’s classic songwriting, with real instruments. On the other, I really don’t sound much like any other artist, and I like to write about things that other people seem to leave alone, for the most part. There are elements of folk, jazz, hip hop, pop, indie and classical music in there. But I’m really about telling stories, and the piano is at the heart of what I do. 

Review Fix: How are your live shows different from your studio work?

Marr: I used to play live loads. but I’ve not done it for a while, even before Covid and lockdowns. So how does this latest album work live? I don’t know. Do I keep it simple, and just play the songs on the piano? Or do I figure out a way of being a multi-instrumentalist live, turning up with drums, bass, guitar, piano and a loop station? What I’d love is to play with a band. But that’s not always straightforward – you can’t ask good musicians who make their living from their skills to play for free, but I don’t have budget for a band. We’ll see.   


Review Fix: What inspired your latest single?

Marr: When I was researching my family history I found out about my grandad, who I never met, and who spent ten years at sea in the Merchant Navy, before inheriting some money and retraining as a doctor. I imagined a time, when he might have been in charge of a ship in the middle of the night, the engine thrumming, the dim glow of the ship’s instruments, deciding to change his life. The song grew out of imagining that moment.


Review Fix: What are your goals for 2021? 

Marr: The big goal was the get the album out. Tick! I’d like as many people as possible to hear it, and relate to it. And spend as much time as possible playing and writing and practising, so I can work on a new record. The last year or so have been more about the admin of getting a record out. Now it’s about getting creative again, and I can’t wait. 


Review Fix: What’s next?

Marr: The next album…


Review Fix: Anything else you’d like to add?

Marr: The single biggest thing you can do for any artist that you like, and especially for independent artists, is to listen and if you like it, to share it with other people. So if you take a listen and enjoy it, please pass it along. 

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About Patrick Hickey Jr. 12080 Articles
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief, Master Jedi and Grand Pooh-bah of ReviewFix.com and is the author of the book, "The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews with Cult and Classic Video Game Developers," from leading academic and non-fiction publisher McFarland and Company. He is currently the Assistant Director of the Journalism Program at Kingsborough Community College and is a former News Editor at NBC Local Integrated Media and a National Video Games Writer at the late Examiner.com. He has also had articles and photos published in The New York Times, The New York Daily News, Complex and The Syracuse Post-Standard. Love him. Read him.

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