Billie Marten is a singer-songwriter from Ripon, who now lives in London. Her dad taught her guitar when she was around eight, and since then she’s been writing music. ‘I started with local gigs in Ripon, Harrogate and York and signed to a record label in 2015,’ she tells us.
Despite changing record labels since, Billie’s roots remain in classic 70s folk music. ‘I’m inspired by the greats like Kate Bush, Bowie – things my parents were listening to when I was younger,’ she says. ‘I kept those main influences to guide me through songwriting but as time goes on you develop and find a taste for new sounds. I did a lot of experimenting with different producers to find what I wanted and now I think I’ve settled in a mix of folk and left-leaning indie rock.’
Billie’s critically-acclaimed debut album, Writing of Blues and Yellows, was released in 2016 when Billie was just 17. But she’s come a long way since then. She’s now released her sublime new single for spring, Garden Of Eden, and announced her third album, Flora Fauna (out in May this year with new label Fiction Records).
‘This album is a lot more sunny and bright sounding,’ Billie says. ‘I’ve definitely moved away from the more melancholy quiet folk minimalist writing. I went back to my producer who I did the first album with and we started accidentally writing together around two years ago. He’s an excellent drummer so I’d ask for a beat in a certain way and then I’d immediately start writing in front of him. It’s a very immediate, no-thoughts-allowed style of writing, so the songs have taken on a different structure. But my music is always heavily nature-influenced. I was brought up that way so there’s still lots of that in there. Garden Of Eden is just one big metaphor for living, with lots of pulse and rhythm throughout.’
Billie’s music is inspired by the beauty of nature, and in her early days the scenic surroundings of her birthplace (Risplith) influenced her music. ‘Some of my first compositions at eight years old were based on what I could see through the window,’ she tells us. ‘As a child, you observe things and take them in directly and I think that’s all I had to write about. But of course the natural world is enormously helpful to explain your emotions. It’s my go-to way of metaphorically speaking about how I’m feeling on a personal level. It allows you to talk about joy and new life or seasonal change and sadness – it’s incredibly empathetic which really helps me.’
Now living in London, Billie still finds ways of allowing nature to inspire her. But, it’s the thing she misses most about Yorkshire. ‘There are pinnacle moments in my childhood when I was shown parts of local nature and it was such a magical place to grow up; I wouldn’t change it for the world. I get deep sadness when I’m not there, especially in times like this when spring is coming and there’s noticeable indicators up there. I’d be driving around and seeing the lambs and the daffodils coming up. You can feel the earth turning around a bit more, whereas in London you have the local paths and the canal but it’s a far different reflection of nature.’
What have you missed most about performing live?
Witnessing a very communal feeling, which is something we’ve been deprived of for over a year now. All my experiences this year have either been solo or with my closest friends and family and I’m dying to go to a venue and have a group of people be there, even just as a music fan. Having something in the diary to bring communal spirit together will be a great thing. I also really miss feeling confident when playing live myself.
A lot of Yorkshire’s venues are struggling at the moment. Could you highlight any of your favourites?
Whenever anyone asks me which venue is my favourite, it’s always Brudenell Social Club in Leeds. I went to see my first gigs there and I’ve played there many times now. It’s such a good hub for Northern music. I love Leeds. I love The Wardrobe. I love Hedben Bridge Trades Club too. I always find Northern gigs a lot more warm and welcoming because there’s such genuine music fans there.
Hopes for the future?
I’m aiming for some autumn touring which isn’t too far away, and I’ll try to see people at festivals and keep putting music out there…
Keep up to date with Billie’s music at billiemarten.com