band crush: billie marten
a 15-year-old folk wunderkind
It's hard to believe that Billie Marten is just 15 years old. The British singer and songrwriter still wears braces, yet she crafts melancholy, patient folk music that bares a soul mature beyond its years. She was 8 years old when she started posting videos of herself singing on YouTube, as a way for her grandparents in France to see them. "They were absolutely horrendous performances but I think they pushed me to be better," she says.
Last year, a much more polished Marten—who began performing live when she was 12—impressed Burberry creative force Christopher Bailey with her debut EP, so he recruited her to perform her stunning first single, "Ribbon," for his Burberry Acoustic series. That video has been viewed more than 200,000 times on YouTube.
For her follow up, Marten released "Heavy Weather," another spellbinding song that begins sparsley, and reveals delicate layers as it surges to an emotional climax (it will be available in hard copy on May 25). Marten, who admits she is still finding herself as a person and an artist, took some time away from her homework to answer some questions.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
It’s so difficult to answer when you’re not sure what you are or how you’re doing things yet, but I’d say my sound is folk-inspired with current acoustic sounds mixed in. Who knows.
What’s your next project?
Currently working on the next EP following up from the single, "Heavy Weather," which will hopefully be out later this summer. I love production stages especially because you can completely remake a song that is so bare, and by the end of it you’ve come out with something fully grown that everybody’s proud of. That’s always nice.
What are you most proud of so far in terms of your career?
I think holding the first press of my 7” vinyl was groundbreaking for me, something I’d always thought would never happen, but it did.
What famous person dead or living do most wish you could have as a roommate?
I reckon Maggie Smith and I would make a pretty cool companionship (there’d be lots of tea involved), or James Stewart maybe? He’d give you spectacular speeches every day, so I think it’d be almost impossible to be down around him.
Whose career would you most like to emulate?
One of my biggest influences, Kate Bush. She’s got all the woman power you could ever want, and she’s free. If it’s even possible, I think she’s done everything right. I’ll look up to her always.
What activities do most enjoy doing alone?
Playing whole albums through on Sundays with tea, reading, and walking. I’m spending quite a lot of time on my own recently which gives me way too much time to think.
How do you wind down before bed?
Watching a toned down film or listening to Sigur Ros is always a winner for sleeps.
Do you have any phobias?
The classic large spider is terrifying, and gigs are pretty tough, too.
What’s a serious side of you that people are unlikely to know about?
I love a bit of scrabble (who doesn’t?) and I tend to keep myself to myself in terms of feelings, so people never really know what I’m thinking.
What are some new hobbies you would like to take on?
I’ve just found out that Alpaca walking is a thing, so that’s definitely happening.
What are some of your favorite Internet “memes” of all time?
You can’t beat a good alpaca meme or anything remotely involving pets.
How do you hope to grow as a creative person?
I am always listening to new music (and old), and I’m thinking about the way songs work production-wise. I'd love to experiment further with techniques and get to know much more about that process, which will hopefully mean working with different writers and producers and just feeling things out. If I move into something awful, at least I can tick it off. I think it takes time to fully understand what you’re trying to say, and I’m definitely far from that.
If there was a phrase that you think best sums up your approach to life, what might it be?
Don’t get too excited, but stay quietly thrilled.