Multi-talented musician Marcia Richards might be living the dream now, touring the U.S. with her London-based band The Skints, but not long ago this lifestyle was nearly impossible for her to imagine. Not only was she more of a classical music nerd growing up than an aspiring reggae rocker, but nearly all of the now-25 year old’s teenage years were spent battling Nephrotic Syndrome, a highly rare kidney disease that meant lots of extended trips to the hospital.
“I lost all of my hair and was very sickly. I used to spend a lot of time at the hospital, testing various treatments that were similar to chemotherapy treatments for cancer patients. It took until I was about 18 or 19 to find the right one, because they kept going wrong, and when one goes wrong you have to spend 6 months weaning off of it before you try another. Eventually, we found the right combination, and I was discharged. I was really lucky, actually. At times it was a bit spotty.”
To pass the time, and to feel more connected to a life outside of her sickness, Richards walked down the hallways of the hospital in her gown and with her drip to the piano that sat in the main room.
“My first sort of dance with music was completely classical. I learned to play the flute and piano when I was five or six years old. It was what I listened to, too. I know, I'm a super nerd. When I was a teenager, my dream was to be first flute in an orchestra.”
Playing music helped Richards through her illness, but when she left the hospital, she didn’t embrace the classical music scene like the always planned. Instead, she began spending more time working with her childhood friends’ band, The Skints. “I’ve known Josh [Waters Rudge] since I was five years old, and when he first told me about it, he said he was starting a ska band. Our early influences were pretty punk-y, like Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish. In that phase, I started playing the saxophone.”
Richards thinks it’s important for little girls to grow up seeing women in the mainstream who are more than just faces. “There are so many women who have real instrumental skills, and we need to associate these women with their talents, not just produced images.”
The musician knows a thing or two about developing a multitude of skills: It’s hard to believe it after hearing her voice on the band’s tunes, but Richards only became a vocalist fairly recently. “I never used to sing, but being in this band, I was encouraged to. It was a really slow learning process, and I haven’t always been as confident as I am now.”
In fact, the band—whose latest record FM came out March 10 on Easy Star Records—as a whole has grown together various ways. “We started touring before we could really afford to,” Richards tell us. “But we just went and went and got busier and busier. Eventually, this reggae style came to be. And now, here we are, in the U.S. We always talked about bringing the band here, but it felt really far away. We still can’t really believe it’s happening, and I’m really happy.”
Another thing Richards is really happy and kinda in disbelief about? Having hair. “In all those teenage years when you really care about the way you look, I didn’t have the hair I wanted. And now I have dreadlocks. I’ll cut them at some point, but right now, having hair just feels amazing to me.”
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Image via YouTube