Mrley, the pseudonym of 23 year-old Marley Rutherford, today shares his debut single, “My Side Of London”. Raw and insistent – a tribute to the boroughs he grew up in – it’s an introduction to an unbridled sound that is both self-produced and defiant. The anthemic “My Side Of London” pulls from a wealth of subgenres and influences, all tied together by the caustic spirit and energy of punk.
Paired to a raucous video that evokes the early days of cable music TV, right down to the fact bubbles that used to pop-up onscreen across MTV and The Box, Mrley had the following to say about the words and visuals for “My Side Of London”:
“The internet and social media means people are no longer glancing at life through the lens their environment provides. It’s now fashionable to be “struggling”, you have kids raised in Kensington running around pretending to be kids from Kennington. It’s progress that people of all backgrounds are being brought together through the love of art but I think it’s important to let the people whose profits are thriving from street culture know that “I’m not your something, your something to play with”.”
Born and raised in south-east London, Mrley’s musical landscape growing up was built on a small, but influential, collection of CDs his parents had at home. His father’s pile of Lovers Rock and Nas records, and his mother’s cache of music, which included two life changing records – Nirvana’s Nevermind and a Guns ‘N Roses greatest hits compilation – which got Mrley hooked at nine years old into thinking he could do something different than what was expected of him.
Always an avid creator, Mrley started to make music as a young teen. His father picked up a refurbished MacBook on eBay when he was 15, and GarageBand soon opened doors to a new world of writing and recording. At school, the grunge and rock that had captured his attention at home was derided: this was mid-noughties south London, at a school with predominantly Black pupils. UK funky and grime dominated, while rock was labelled as music for white kids. So, Mrley started to dabble in rap. Spitting over beats and recording with his laptop microphone, the aspiring musician uploaded tracks to SoundCloud, where they found an appreciative audience. Later, he moved on to a condenser mic, recording in his grandma’s bathroom to make use of the good acoustics.
A little later, as he was leaving his teens, Mrley picked up the bare bones of production, experimenting with DAWs and plugins. At the same time, he was building a name on London’s rap circuit, known for his frenetic, uncontainable sound and performance style. Performing felt good, but the music didn’t quite fit and he felt unsatisfied.
A month before the UK’s first lockdown, Mrley picked up a guitar at the recording studio he was visiting. Although he’d taught himself to play the instrument as a teen – his father had shown him the first three chords – he’d never taken it seriously. At that moment, though, he knew he wanted to make music that was new to him, different to what he’d been doing. He began playing guitar in every studio session and started to work with analogue equipment, which he fell in love with.
The writing and lyrics come easier now, paired with unconstrained performance. Under lockdown, the south-east Londoner has had time to lean into a new world of sound, spending days making music on guitar and keys, exploring the Black roots of rock and skating the sprawling city his debut single is named for.