Mara Simpson, A Certain Syrup

Five songs that shaped me: Mara Simpson

The singer songwriter reflects on musical influences and introduces her new single

Text Hannah Vasdekys | Photography Matt Monfredi

Mara Simpson piqued ACS’s interest when she made a dent in 2016’s soundscape with the honest, raw song writing talent on her debut album Our Good Sides. At 31, she’s already a seasoned performer, having played up Swiss mountains, down Milano backstreets, in French lofts, at psychedelic German festivals and even once in a cave.

We caught up with the recently “re-realised” songstress following the birth of her first child, an experience she also refers to as “the world’s biggest, most glaringly obvious secret”, and in the wake of her new single, Baby You’re the One.

Mara takes us through the songs that have influenced her and, in turn, the music she makes. Songs that have spoken volumes to her, perhaps not representing milestones as such, but more seemingly inconsequential moments that have steered and become imprinted on her life to date.

Percy Sledge – The Dark End of the Street
Ali. Aro Street.

Romance and soul. In all it’s shimmering brilliance, I associate this song with my own Dark End of The Street. For me that was quirky, colonial Aro Street in Wellington, New Zealand and I was meeting the dark hooded figure of who’d become my husband. Late at night, after working at a bar (Southern Cross) and a music venue (Bodega), we’d slowly climb up the hill, through the damp air, to Ali’s house on Norna Crescent where we shared a single bed for 6 months while I saved up for my Gretsch guitar and a tremelo pedal.

Patrick Watson – Man Under Sea
The Sea. Limestone streets of Lecce.

I first heard this song, sung by an Irish man named Cathal, on an Italian artist’s residency called Singing on Water. It was my introduction to Patrick Watson, an artist who dances through grandeur, vulnerability, and formidable change all within a few minutes. This song, and that trip, revealed so many possibilities. I dearly love Lecce and the Todisco family (yes, that’s their real name!) who ran the artists residency and I dream one day of making a song with Patrick Watson.

Here We Go Magic – Alone but Moving
Brighton in the winter.

So straight and shonky all at the same time. I listened again and again on my headphones, coat fastened tight, walking along the Brighton seafront in the winter darkness. All the bars and nightclubs and the gift shops selling rock shut and dusty, the carousel empty. A beautiful bagginess. And just me, walking with this song, in our new home-town.

Zero 7 – Pop Art Blue
Berlin. Birthday cards.

I discovered Martha Tilston through this song. I was living in Berlin which felt only ever either kind or cruel to me, and nothing in between. I found this song such a beautiful comfort, spinning my imagination towards the space between ‘traditional’ singer-songwriting and mystical synth soundscapes. I’ve since travelled hundreds of miles to see Martha Tilston play and spent hundreds of hours falling in love with Roland Space Echoes which one day I hope I’ll be able to afford to buy!

Dire Straits – Walk of Life
Kenya. First taste of magic.

I’m 7 years old watching my Dad’s band Road Runner at The Carnivore Club in Nairobi. I’ve got my hair in a high pony tail. There are no other kids, just my older teenage cousins, their friends and my parents’ friends and I’m dancing like I’ve never danced. He was going to dedicate this song to me but no one gave him a mic.


Baby You’re the One, Mara’s first single off her new record, will be released on 9th October. 

Mara Simpson, A Certain Syrup, Matt Monfredi 2018

Visit for more information on her January 2019 album launch and for live dates in 2019.

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