Steve Marriott AI Row: “It’s totally wrong!”

Is AI created music from the late Small Faces singer “the ultimate slap in the face”? MOJO speaks to Steve Marriott’s daughter Mollie, and also hears the case for the defence

Steve Marriott

by Ian Harrison |
Published on

HE’S BEEN gone since April 1991, but in other ways Steve Marriott never left. Via his R&B, rock and blues recordings with the Small Faces, Humble Pie and as a solo player, this preternaturally gifted white soul singer never lets you down. Now, though, his estate has moved into as-yet uncharted areas. Using machine learning, an AI-generated likeness of Marriott’s voice has already “sung” a version of Georgia On My Mind.

READ MORE: Steve Marriott’s Greatest Albums Ranked

There are no plans to release it yet, but responses from those that knew and loved the man have been decisive. So far, Small Faces/Faces drummer Kenney Jones and Humble Pie’s Peter Frampton and Jerry Shirley, plus Robert Plant, David Gilmour, Paul Weller, Paul Rodgers, Joe Brown and others have all opposed the move, after Marriott’s daughter Mollie, a singer herself, asked for their support.

“I first heard about it in February when [Humble Pie drummer] Jerry Shirley called,” says Mollie. “My brother [Toby] heard it and was really upset. He said, ‘it sounds really messed up, it sounds dead.’ It cut us deep because Georgia On My Mind is a song that my dad used to play at the piano, it was his favourite song. I thought, We really need to really shout about this. I reached out to dad’s friends and they were, ‘We back you on this 100 per cent.’” Chris France, MD at Steve Marriott Licensing Ltd, says the idea came from LA indie Cleopatra Records. “We decided to see what transpired from trying out a recording before signing any deal,” France tells MOJO. “From what I understand real musicians were engaged and a singer sang the song. Then AI and machine learning were used to make the track using Steve’s voice. We think it captures him beautifully.”

Mollie Marriott disagrees. “It’s just the ultimate slap in the face now to Dad,” she says. “It was bad enough when he was alive and being taken advantage of. This is so offensive to somebody who I feel had the most incredibly alive, raw and soulful vocal – it’s just gonna remove all of that. It’s totally wrong to take someone’s soul away, and try to recreate it, without their consent.”

“I am well aware of the opposition. As one gets older one often becomes less open to change,” says France, who says the response from younger listeners has been positive. “The genie is out of the bottle. It cannot be stopped… [his widow] Toni Marriott said, ‘it’s like having Steve back in the room.’ It’s not about the money, it’s about bringing the voice of her husband back from the dead.”

Mollie stresses that she doesn’t see the situation as comparable with The Beatles’ AI-assisted Now And Then, or that respectful voice extraction/audio restoration is wrong. She also differentiates between the bit-of-alaugh online case of a virtual Phil Collins singing Dua Lipa’s Houdini. Of the Marriott estate, she adds, “people are seeing it as a family feud, which is so not the case – when my dad died, there wasn’t a will, so [Toni] got everything and there’s been nothing since.” She has, she says, taken legal advice.

“I said [to his eminent supporters], this is also about you. There’s not one single contract that anyone has signed that says anything about AI. My dad was so old fashioned. He had a lot of mental struggles anyway and would really struggle the way the world is at the moment. He would not have wanted this.”

Picture: Getty

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