Writer, musician and NHS public health consultant Rob Marr is known for penning thought-provoking songs about everyday life that captivate listeners and pull them into a world all of his own making. His new project –Book of Man – has taken his obsession with writing meaningful lyrics and developed it into a brand-new, feature-length podcast drama, narrated by BAFTA-winner Josh O’Connor (who stars in the Netflix drama, The Crown). Rob has also a new track out, Death and Comfort, which he discussed with The Fountain in more detail, along with his festive desire to make a Stollen.
TF: You have a new single out, what has the reception been like to Death and Comfort?
People have been hugely supportive. It’s an unusual choice for a single (a 1-mic, 1-take piano/vocal about dying…) but I’ve had loads of lovely comments and a really fantastic review in Earmilk. I can see from my artist apps for Apple and Spotify that lots of people are streaming it, all over the world. That’s been a big change from the last time I released something – the tech is so much more evolved now and you can see in pretty much real time where people are listening, and how often. The song itself though is very low-tech – it’s just a piano, a melody and some lyrics that I hope really resonate with people, at a time when the fragility of the world we live in is really evident.
TF: How would you sum up the track in one sentence?
A tender, unsparing homage to my dad, who I loved very much, and who I wish I had known better.
TF: What is your plan for the remainder of the year, after this release?
Maybe a rest! Work has been very busy with Covid this year (I work in public health), we’ve been renovating our house and we have a 3-year-old. Putting out a podcast and a single at the same time has been quite a challenge! I’ve loved it though, getting the chance to bring a very long-term project out into the world. The plan is to continue to put out (hopefully) interesting content about the making of Book of Man online on a pretty much daily basis and then to put my feet up over Christmas, making the most of having a kitchen again to cook in! I love cooking, so it’ll be great to make some roast dinners, cook Christmas and maybe attempt a Stollen or panettone. I’m also thinking loads about what to do next musically, and I am absolutely loving playing my piano again now it’s no longer buried beneath bags of plaster and cement.
TF: Where is your favourite venue for playing live, where is the next place you look most forward to gigging?
The place I’ve enjoyed playing the most has been The Roundhouse in north London. I’ve done two album launches there and it’s wonderful – a great space, lovely staff, great quality kit and a really easy place to establish a rapport with your audience. I’m hoping to take Book of Man to the Edinburgh Fringe next year, Covid-permitting. The plan is to turn the podcast drama into a one or two-handed stage play, bringing loads of instruments on stage to play the songs and maybe seeing if I can persuade Josh O’Connor to come and do a run. The other favourite place to play is anywhere in Europe. It sort of doesn’t matter where you go, audiences are typically really responsive and the venues really look after you, even for small, indie gigs. So another European tour would be a dream, and maybe if we have a Covid vaccine in the spring, it might be possible.