Hailing from Florida via Brooklyn, Marques Toliver is a jewel in the crown of London’s music scene. His impromptu busking sessions and joyous fusion of soul, blues, and strings have attracted the praise of everyone from Adele to Grizzly Bear, Holly Miranda to TV on the Radio. Wonderland caught up with the one man orchestra to discuss his roots, current projects, and inspirations.
Can you tell us a little about your current single, Magic Look?
I like leaving it up to the listener to decipher for themselves. But it’s structured around strings – I guess you could say it’s a rhythm and blues ‘pop’ track.
You’ve recently released a great video for Magic Look – who came up with the concept?
That was all me! I’ve always been working on treatments – this one was very easy to flesh out and create. I’m very hands on with it, from the styling to the edits. I look up to Beyoncé a lot, when it comes to being on top of things. And Natasha from Bat For Lashes – working with her, she’s very hands on. She has tonnes of journals of ideas. That’s something that I try to do also.
You’re also editor of Love is the Law, what’s the concept behind it?
Love is the Law is basically like… if the world had access to my Facebook friend’s account, these would be some of the people they would be running into, like Lianne (La Havas), Georgia Jagger, Tali Lennox (sorry, I’m namedropping like crazy right now)! But that’s what the magazine is… it helps my music fans know a little bit more about me and what I’m into. It’s not your typical magazine.
You’ve been spending a lot of time busking to promote the magazine – is that something you’re interested in continuing?
I think I’ll continue to busk as long as global warming hasn’t destroyed the world. For the most part right now, it’s pretty grassroots. I’m indie with my approach – going into the streets and playing creates kind of a buzz. I try to be very hands on with my career as a musician. The busking is just a way to stay connected to the people.
And it’s also how you ran into Kyp (Malone from TV on the Radio), right?
Yeah, that’s how I got my foot in the door. All the high-end fashion magazines send their assistants to Williamsburg, and I was helping out a woman who runs this really nice vintage store that they all go to. She was telling me, “My friend Kyp is looking for you, he wants you to do a session”. At that time, I had been in New York for maybe a month. On my plane from Florida to New York, TV on the Radio were on the cover of Rolling Stone. I was like, “Wow, this band looks cool!” The following month, I was in the studio with Kyp.
Have you got any other collaborations going?
There’s a new single that I’ve done with a producer called Compuphonic – it’s house music, not my normal thing. Aside from that I’ve been working with a few of Wretch 32’s bandmates. Most recently I’ve done three tracks with Eg White, who produced Chasing Pavements for Adele. I’d love to do a collaboration with all the artists I listened to growing up. But right now I’m just focusing on getting this album off the ground, getting it into people’s hands!
What’s been the highlight of your career thus far?
The highlight so far, honestly, is the fact that I can do interviews with Wonderland. I remember going to bookstores when I was younger, I’d see Wonderland – now to be actually doing interviews, that I can call myself and be recognised as a musician – that’s the highlight!
Marques is currently on tour as part of Damon Albarn’s Africa Express. You can order Magic Look here. www.marquestoliver.com
Words: Tara McEvoy
Images: Josh Shinner