Laura Marling, the lissome English guitarist, was dead serious last year when she promised to follow her gently strummed sophomore CD, “I Speak Because I Can,” with another, morekeyboard-friendly album only a few months after it was released — she actually had that much material to spare.
But the bonus disc was hastily scrapped, she says, “when I realized that those songs didn’t make it on ‘I Speak’ because they just weren’t very good. So I vowed never to make such an arrogant proclamation ever again and I started from scratch. And then this album appeared.”
Marling — who helped launch London’s neo-folk movement at 17 with her Sandy-Denny-traditional debut recording “Alas, I Cannot Swim” — is referring to her dark new third record, “A Creature I Don’t Know,” which she’ll play Saturday in The City.
It’s been a turbulent year for the ghostly pale, honey-voiced blonde, who just turned 21. At home, she recently won both an NME Award and a Brit, but over Christmas, she also broke up with longtime beau Marcus Mumford, whose Mumford & Sons once functioned as her backing band.
“It’s the first time in my adult life that I’ve been single, and I think I’ve rather taken to it,” she says.
Not surprisingly, the Ethan Johns-produced “Creature” feels tempered by heartache and betrayal in “All My Rage,” “I Was Just a Card” and “The Beast” in which Marling murmurs, menacingly, over skeletal nylon-stringed chords in the latter, “Where did our love go?/ You will never know.”
Is it a hell-hath-no-fury breakup album? She chuckles at the question, and says, “It could be that” — but it wasn’t intended to be.
“Creature,” she says, was written as “the personification of immorality, and how one bad decision can come back to bite you. And rather than point fingers, I think I see that in myself more than anything.”
Marling now treasures her private life. When she’s not touring, the recluse has a regular, comforting routine.
“I get up, go and get a coffee, and go do the crossword — I’m loyal to one particular paper, the Guardian — and that’s my idea of a perfect morning,” she says.
Afternoons are spent reading, knitting, pencil sketching, then cooking, and evenings are reserved exclusively for composing. “I play guitar every night, more for practice than anything else, and sometimes a song will come and sometimes it won’t,” she says.
But the tunes keep arriving. Marling doesn’t want to jinx things again. “But there’s already another EP I’m working on,” she says. “No title yet — we’re still in the early stages. But yep, I swear it’s coming!”
IF YOU GO
Where: Bimbo’s 365 Club, 1025 Columbus Ave., San Francisco
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Contact: (415) 474-0365, www.bimbos365club.com, www.ticketfly.com