Five Questions With… Marla & David Celia
A real-life couple, on Canadian, one German, the two folk-rock singer/songwriters release their debut album Daydreamers this week. In this interview, they discuss the record, their creative partnership, and a near miss on the train tracks.
By Jason Schneider
Since meeting at a German music festival a few years ago, Marla and David Celia have played over 200 shows all over Europe, Canada and Russia with just their voices and guitars. It’s a testament to both the personal and musical bond they immediately forged, which continues to produce brilliant results on their debut album together, Daydreamers, officially released Aug. 17 on German label Elite Records.
The Toronto-based David Celia is no stranger to folk music fans in Canada, having released four critically acclaimed solo albums starting in 2002, while also playing the guitar with Andy Kim, Quartette and others. But it was his wanderlust that eventually led him to Marla, a native of Heidelberg, Germany, and producing her solo album Madawaska Valley in 2016.
When they embarked on a subsequent European tour, the initial plan was to play individual sets. However, they were soon on stage together full-time and writing new songs that emphasized their entrancing vocal harmonies. They finalized the songs on Daydreamers while touring Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway, and recorded the bulk of the album later back in Toronto with producer/drummer Don Kerr (Ron Sexsmith, Rheostatics).
In many ways, Daydreamers offers 11 musical postcards for fans of classic ‘60s folk-rock, which likely will inspire some to start making travel plans of their own. Marla and David Celia launch Daydreamers in Toronto with a show on Aug. 15 at the Burdock Music Hall. For more info go to marladavidcelia.wixsite.com/music
What makes Daydreamers stand apart from your previous work?
David: It’s somewhat diverse like my previous work, but much simpler. Marla and I have such a strong connection vocally that we found it easier to make interesting songs without having to over-produce them. Not to say that I over-produced my previous work because I do enjoy playing around in the studio. However, I have been more in the mood to collaborate and share an opinion. It’s nice to work with Marla because we agree on most things. Mostly, the songs have the same sentiment as any of my others I’ve written, but now there’s a whole other aspect blended perfectly into it: Marla.
What songs on the new album are you particularly proud of?
Marla: “Carry It On” stands out to me with its strong message of staying true to yourself. It was written so naturally. “Heart Like A Dove” means a lot to me, though. I woke up one Valentine’s Day to an audio recording of the full song David had written for me. It was the most beautiful gift, and it always puts a smile on my face. Then there is “Luddite Blues,” based on a subject that bothers me the most—people losing touch with the world because of technology. I think it’s important to sing and talk about it, even if it’s just little hints and metaphors.
How would you describe your creative partnership to date?
David: It’s pretty lively. We’re a couple that does a lot together so it can get hairy sometimes but we somehow pull it off. Perhaps Marla’s parents are role models because they also work together and have such a loving relationship. We have been quite busy with all aspects of life including some intense worldwide touring, and even some adventures with my kids. We’ve so far managed to split our time equally between Canada and Europe, but our creativity mostly comes from our shows. We like to find those moments of spontaneity and build on them. Songs can come from almost any situation, even when we’re laughing and socializing.
What are your fondest musical memories growing up, and what do you recall about your first time performing in public?
Marla: Every Sunday my siblings and I woke up to classical music. We all played instruments, gaining musical understanding at a young age. I played the cello for 12 years, but my real passion had always been singing. I will never forget how often I was in my room learning songs until I felt ready, and then calling my best friend and performing for her. The first time I played a concert where I was the centre of attention was when I was 15, and I felt right at home. It was exciting, and it gave me a chance to express myself.
What's your best touring story?
David: Carrying two guitars and a backpack as I was running late to catch my train. I was wearing a form of “clog” footwear that was expensive and not made for running. When I got to the train, I knew the doors would close, so I threw my guitars in the car and jumped in like Superman. However, my “clogs” fell under the train. I took a chance and jumped under the train to get them. People scooped me out and reamed me out for daring to do such a stupid thing. I still laugh at how dumb and lucky I was.