Hailing from Ripon, North Yorkshire, Billie Marten is hot property. Not only was her last single “Bird” playlisted on Radio 1 causing her debut London show to sell-out, but she also appeared on BBC Sound of 2016’s list earlier this year. Oh and add to that, she’s already had her own Burberry Acoustic session and you can start to piece together how impressive this girl is. All this and she’s only 16.
Marten’s latest offering is “Milk & Honey”, a kind of epic modern-day lullaby; still achingly young, she delivers a refreshing mix of low key pop and thought-provoking lyrics. Citing David Bowie, Portishead and Laura Marling as some of her influences, her music exhibits the same nu-folk themed melodies as her idols.
Marten explains that “Milk & Honey” tells the story of, “the greed of people, the thoughts that we’re all sort of stuck in this consumerist frame of mind”. Our love affair with her dreamy melodies continues, as she captivates the hearts and ears of her listeners.
Wonderland caught up with the Yorkshire soloist as she embarks on a summer of live music.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
I’m hopelessly in love with Nick Drake, John Martyn, Kate Bush, Joni, Joan Armatrading and Loudon Wainwright. Whoever my parents have played around the house i’m influenced by I think.
You were nominated for the BBC Sound of 2016 – how did that feel, and what impact has it had on your career?
For a while I wasn’t sure what it meant, so I said “it’s brilliant!” But now I see that it’s given me some pretty silly perks like playing all these incredible festivals. I’m very thankful.
You’re juggling your music career with your A-levels – do you anticipate ever choosing either music or academics, or do you hope to continue both?
I really really love both equally, so I’d like to carry on with them and do uni in France maybe, something that’s far away from music but still expressive is really helpful so I don’t drive myself a little bit insane.
“Milk and Honey” addresses consumerism – tell us how you came to write the song.
I wrote it with my friend Fiona Bevan, at a time last summer when I was thinking a lot about the all-round greed of today’s society, and how we’re all (myself included) expecting and anticipating more from everything; be it happiness, success in life, wealth etc. But it’s in no way a preachy “you should stop doing this and listen to me” song. Just a little light-hearted twist – hence the switch of the word “money” with “honey” ha.
Your lyrics are often heavily metaphorical – do your lyrics come before the melodies, or do you develop them together?
I usually start with guitar/piano, and i’ll have a riff or something that I’ll keep playing for a while until some tune comes out and then eventually, some words (only occasionally).
Tell us about your experience supporting Lucy Rose on tour.
Well it was my first ever experience of “tour” so that word in itself was daunting. But everyone I met were so insanely lovely, and it made me realise that gigs are more so about enjoyment than the dread and fear that I usually get. So it’s helped me out a lot, and I can’t thank Lucy and co enough for letting me join them for a while.
You’ve played at Reading in the past, and you’ve got a string of festival dates lined up this summer. What’s special to you about playing festivals?
Festivals are places of complete carefree happiness which I love. Although I guess it’s harder for me to play them because i’m so quiet and boring, but I like the challenge – and I usually end up smiling a lot more at festival gigs. I cannot WAIT to play Latitude, I’ve wanted to go for years.
You’re currently working towards your debut album; what can you tell us about it – and the experience of making it – so far?
I can certainly tell you that it’s been one of my favourite things to do in the entire world. And it’s looking like it’s got some shape now so hopefully it’ll be in the universe soon! I think these songs have been made into some beautiful sounding noises (all thanks to producers Cam Blackwood and Rich Cooper) and I’ve seriously loved working on creating an actual, fully formed, record.
Much has been made about your young age. Do you feel pigeonholed by the “young” label, or do you think it’s something that’s integral to your music?
My biggest worry is that too much is pinned on to the young age thing, and that in years to come I’ll be so embarrassed and angry at myself for releasing such terrible music at 16. Although I’m trying not to take myself too seriously, and this music has just been what’s floating around my brain at that time, so later on there’ll be new and different things floating around.
What’s your biggest musical ambition?
To make music that I like playing always. And I would so so love to be on Desert Island Discs.
Friday 1st July Blissfields, Winchester
Saturday 2nd July Barn on the Farm Festival, Gloucester
Saturday 16th July Latitude Festival, Suffolk
Sunday 17th July Citadel Festival, London
Sunday 24th July Secret Garden Party, Huntingdon
Friday 29th July Standon Calling, Herts
Saturday 30th July Camp Bestival, Dorset
Sunday 31st July Leopallooza Festival, Cornwall
Saturday 10th September Bestival, Isle of Wight