There aren’t many positives to come out of a global pandemic, but one gift has been the joy brought to the world – and we really do mean the world – by an unassuming family of six from Kent, who just happen to enjoy a good singsong.
When they uploaded a (very funny) parody of One Day More from Les Misérables to Facebook in March 2020, the Marsh family never quite imagined they’d be providing a soundtrack to our collective, universal experience. But they hit seven million views
in just three days. Fast-forward 21 months and they’re up to 13 million and counting.
Now they’re all set to release their very own Christmas send-up single, with the help of their superstar fans and a recent appearance on Comic Relief. Mum-of-four Danielle says she can’t use the word “surreal” often enough to describe their sudden catapulting to fame last year.
“It just took off in a way that none of us could have expected,” she says. “But it also didn’t change anything because we were still in our living room, worrying about whether we had enough crisps and how we were going to get the washing done as well as sort out Google classrooms. It was strange and normal all at the same time.
"We said, ‘We’ll do two weeks of these videos and then we’ll just stop’, but we had so many lovely messages – like one from a nurse in ICU who said, ‘You’re the only thing that made me smile this morning’ – so we decided to do our own YouTube channel.”
As different nations went into lockdown, the family had flurries of interest from around the world, making TV appearances everywhere from Israel to India. “Imposter syndrome doesn’t even cover it,” laughs Danielle.
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They’ve even been guests on the massive US talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live . “We were trying to live stream to America and didn’t even have proper wifi,” recalls Danielle. “Our neighbour came round and stuck her phone hotspot against our window.”
They had their first foray into a TV studio just two weeks ago, for Comic Relief, which was slightly nerve-wracking.
“Because there are six of us, that does help, but the kids are totally composed, there’s a nine-year-old next to me absolutely nailing it and I’m like, I hope I don’t mess this up,” Danielle says.
Now known officially as the Marsh Family, they’ve attracted praise from some very big names along the way – Anne Hathaway and Eddie Redmayne shared the family’s One Day More rendition, and Bonnie Tyler loved Totally Fixed Where We Are , their parody of her classic Total Eclipse Of The Heart .
“Of all the things we’ve been most proud of, it was when Chief Medical Officer Patrick Valance tweeted our video, and doctors were saying ‘Can we play this in the vaccination hub?’” Danielle says of Have The New Jab, their parody of Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen.
“Obviously when you put yourself out there in that way, you’re not getting universal love, so we got some quite vitriolic responses, which would often end with an incredibly cutting comment like, ‘And your husband’s pyjamas don’t even match!’”
The kids, Danielle says, have taken it all in their stride. “We did our first ever public performance recently at the university where Ben and I both work. We’ve always said if at any point they don’t like this, we don’t have to do it any more, but we came off stage and our daughter Tess said, ‘My legs are a bit shaky now, but I think it was quite thrilling.’”
That’s not to say that the children don’t protest sometimes. “There’s always one who would rather not be doing it, and it’s never the same one. Someone is in a bad mood, or begrudging, but they’re always glad they’ve done it. We all feel a lot better afterwards. It’s actually quite cathartic.”
Dad Ben, a history lecturer, is the man behind their witty lyrics, a creative process that starts in the bathtub.
“I like a long bath to escape from all the chaos,” he says. “I hear a song and then think of a single phrase or a concept and I work back from that – like with Totally Fixed Where We Are, it was ‘sitting in the living room giving off farts’. I pick one thing that I find funny."
But then he has to get approval from his toughest audience – the kids. “I can have invested two days, trying to twist lyrics around and make words fit and they’ll just say, ‘No.’ So I’ll break them up and try to get two on board and then work on the other two,” he laughs.
Their Christmas song is a double A-side, a take on Bobby Darin’s Mack The Knife , and Ben’s original song Bring Us A Candle – which, in true Marsh Family style, isn’t quite the traditional festive number it might first appear. “It came about from a massive power cut we had in the summer when lightning struck our wifi,” says Danielle.
The single will raise funds for Prostate Cancer UK, after Danielle’s father was diagnosed back in 2018 (he’s since been given the all-clear) and the family cheered him up with their very own ‘silly’ Prostatectomy song.
Indeed, Ben and Danielle, who met at Cambridge University and starred in student productions together, have been at this singing lark for many years. “Ben is phenomenal at lyrics and he wrote songs for all the kids. When Alfie went to school he assumed everyone had their own song,” says university administrator Danielle. And now we’ve all been let into the Marsh Family’s witty and relatable world.
“We did think that if we could be a happy footnote, a little happy story in what has been a universally difficult, traumatic time, then we’d be really proud,” says Danielle. “We just want to make people smile.”
WHO'S WHO IN THE MARSH FAMILY?
“We have to take the mickey out of ourselves. Everyone in the world is experiencing this together. We’ve all been shoved into the same corners by the pandemic and that’s really fertile ground for writing these songs.”
“I used to sing in a band, while Ben’s parents are both music teachers, so
we used to sing at parties. We did a parody of the Proclaimers’ 500 Miles for my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary 10 years ago and it’s built from there.”
“The funniest song is I Know Them Too Well as the lyrics are so accurate. Gary Lineker is my favourite fan of ours. My friends are mostly oblivious and I’m doing my best to keep it that way. It’s strange because fame in lockdown meant very little, then, 30 minutes ago, we were recognised getting our Covid vaccines.”
“The best thing was being on Comic Relief . My friends are surprisingly chilled about it all. Sipping Through My Fingers is my favourite song as it has the funniest lyrics.”
“My favourite moment was when Sir Patrick Valance shared our Have The New Jab song because I knew it was for a great cause.”
“My favourite song to sing is One More Day because it was the original that led to all this stuff. Eddie Izzard liking us was very cool.”
The Marsh Family’s double A-sided debut single, Bring Us A Candle / Mack The Knife is out now, the latter in aid of Prostate Cancer UK. For more information, and to buy the single, go to www.marshfamilysongs.com
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