Brit Award-winning English folkie Laura Marling is only 22, but her rafter-rattling trill is on par with her genre’s grande dames, Sandy Denny or Norma Waterson. That talent is clearest on “Verses From the Union Chapel,” a limited-edition, London-church-tracked live album she released between her 2008 debut, “Alas, I Cannot Swim,” and the 2010 “I Speak Because I Can.” After whispering to the crowd, “Hello. I’m Laura Marling. It’s very nice to see you all here,” there’s no more chit-chat — just her crystalline voice, reverberating through the hall. She may replicate the feat at Grace Cathedral this week, backing her third album, “A Creature I Don’t Know.”
You never stop working. Is your fourth record coming together yet? Yeah. I’m in and out of the studio at the moment, recording an album. I’m not doing it with a band. It’s just me and Ethan (Johns, her producer), and we’re taking our time and trying to do something quite fun with it. Well, my version of fun — we’re trying to link it all together musically, because it’s got a quite purposeful narrative to it. So we’re trying to paint in all these musical characters where we can.
What’s the story line? Well, it sounds horrifically sincere when I say it out loud, but it’s about a character who epitomizes innocence and naivety, and then wanders down to a lake shore and finds their wrists wrapped in ropes. And they’re being pulled out of naivety. The bit that I can’t give away is what they find there at the water.
Is it autobiographical? Sort of. I’ve certainly had that moment where I was like, “Damn! I’m properly an adult now, and everything I do is down to my choices, and how they affect people is on my back!” And I think you can’t ever come back from that — your childhood, your naivety, is something you can’t return to.
How is it playing these “Verses”-reverent shows? I remember that “Verses” one in particular, because it was the first sizeable headline gig I’d done, actually. And I didn’t even think about talking between songs, but now that I’m a bit older and less shy, I do chat a bit more. But when I listen back to those concerts, and I’m not saying anything, I almost feel sorry for the people who were there.
Any uncomfortable audience moments? Occasionally. We were doing a London residency recently, and this guy came to every show, and he would talk to me and the band like it was just me and him in the room. He was super-sweet, but it was the most awkward situation, ever.
IF YOU GO
Where: Grace Cathedral, 1100 California St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Contact: (415) 749-6300; www.livenation.com