Her words grip – sweetly tempered yet viciously turbulent in emotion, this is underpinned by thoughtful introspection and observations of the world around her. This young songwriter is assuredly capturing the world’s attention one song at a time, with each breathtaking release, her confidence grows taller, and we as spectators are left in wonderment, hanging on the very delicate strokes of her husked, angelic voice.
We managed to grab a couple of minutes with Billie, in between touring with Lucy Rose and gearing up to release her latest EP ‘As Long As’ on London’s finest record label, Chess Club Records. We talk early beginnings, songcraft and why North Yorkshire will always be her home.
You signed a record deal at a young age, a path not dissimilar to a certain Miss Taylor Swift. To be able to follow your dreams and actually carve out a career path at 15, must feel satisfying? After all, I think a lot of people at that age are still trying to decide whether to go to uni or not…
Billie Marten: “When I started music, I was 12, and obviously didn’t know what I was doing, I still don’t now. The whole mentality was to not rush a thing, and to stay as you are, and don’t try and dramatically get signed and be that ‘big’ person that I really didn’t want to be. Obviously I’m still an absolute baby now but it’s with Chess Club Records, and they’re a little boutique record label and the thing about them is, there’s no pressure, which I love. So there’s no horrible deadlines, or anything major label-y but they still have the financial support of Sony, which is perfect. Nothing has dramatically changed since I got signed, which is lovely, because I didn’t want it to, and I just never, ever wanna rush and I always wanna keep doing what I intended to do, which is just to write music and see what happens. I didn’t have that big ambition that T Swift does, but yeah it is young, I know that.”
You signed to Chess Club Records, a label that has helped launch the careers of Wolf Alice and Swim Deep. How has it been working with them?
“Awesome. Absolutely awesome, because they’ve got such a small team, it just kind of fits. You have a casual conversation and then artwork will be decided and it’s like ‘okay, that just happened! That’s great.’ Nothing is ever intimidating or formal, you just get to be yourself which is lovely.”
When writing songs, how do you start – do song ideas come and go when they please?
“Definitely. Actually I do this quite a lot, I start a song and I think these chords are great and I’m like ’Yes, this is gonna be an amazing song’ and then I just lose it. Absolutely lose it. It’s more of a spontaneous thing. I have to have a really bad day for a good song to come out. Yeah, I can’t assign myself time to do it and expect to write a good song, it just doesn’t happen.”
What kind of songwriter are you?
“Oh my goodness, do I know the answer to that question? I don’t really write songs about massive, great big, life concepts. I’m really bad at storytelling, so I don’t really do a lot of that. I guess it’s just what’s in my head, weirdness and rural scenes, that’s what it is! [laughs]”
How did you get discovered?
“My mum actually asked me if I wanted to go on this YouTube channel called Ont’ Sofa and it was really near me, it was just 20 minutes down the road, and it was when that channel was just starting out as well. The sole purpose of the video was just so my grandparents, who live in France, could see it, it was just a family thing. So I went in when I was 12 and did that, I did a cover of Lucy Rose and one of my songs, which I thought was really good but it’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard. And somehow, I don’t know how, it just went mental. I honestly think, to this day, it’s horrendous, so I don’t know how it’s still on the internet but from that video, things just happened! Mental.”
You’re a northern girl. Do you see yourself moving to the capital at some point in the future?
“No. No. No. Never. London, I have to go there all the time and every time I come back, it is so nice because the air is clean, everything is just nice and quiet, I can see fields. You know, I’m really not a city person at all. I’m definitely meant to be in North Yorkshire. I hope I don’t move. If somebody makes me move, just stop them because I don’t wanna go. [laughs]”
I interview Lucy Rose recently and she was telling me how she first heard you cover her song ‘Middle of the Bed’ a few years back, it must be quite surreal to now be touring with her?
“It is so silly, that’s what it is. It is silly. When it happened I was like ‘Okay. This just happened.’ And now it seems really natural, as if we’ve known each other for ages, when we definitely haven’t so yeah, I’m really, really honoured to be here.”
She was just saying to me how pleased she was, when you said yes!
“Awww bless her, she’s such a cutie. I love her. Yeah I just can’t believe I’m here.”
This is your first time touring the UK, how is life on the road?
“Yep. Well so far I’ve been on the road for 3 hours. But as a total, [it’s been] pretty good, because I’m still doing A Levels, I’ve taken all my work with me and I have done half an essay so far.”
That’s good, you’ve been busy.
“Yeah. I’ve gotta take all my artwork as well, which is less easy to do so I’ll be doing that in hotels. Fun!”
Being out on tour, has it got you thinking about your own headline tour in the future?
“I don’t think I’m ready for that! I don’t know, nobody would turn up, literally nobody would turn up except my family. Yeah I don’t want to rush into things but I think I need to keep supporting before I can be confident, I think.”
‘Ribbon’ was your debut EP, it introduced us to a brave new voice and a songwriter whose delicate brush strokes could spark a thousand fires. There are still many sides to Billie Marten as a songwriter and performer, I’m sure, we are still yet to witness as you are still only just beginning your career but looking ahead. How do you see your career progressing?
“I would love to write an album, I don’t think I’m ready yet but I’d love to have that complete finished thing, and vinyl is my favourite thing so the day I can listen to my LP on vinyl, would be amazing, I’d be happy.”
What’s the plan for the rest of 2015?
“New EP, next month and vinyl obviously…”
I saw that you’re going to Rough Trade soon…
“Oh yes, I’m doing an in-store! My first ever one of them, so that’ll be fun. And then I’m just gonna get back into writing, because obviously it’s been a bit hectic recently so yes, [I’ll be] writing more stuff all the time.”
Billie Marten’s new EP ‘As Long As’ will be released digitally on 13th November, and on vinyl, 20th November. Pre-order a copy here. She is touring with Lucy Rose until 30th October.