Beautifully Bittersweet: An Interview with Billie Marten and Gig Review
By: Katie Rice
Friday afternoon, I was sitting in a cosy little coffee shop in Mayfair when I got a call from the ever-lovely Billie Marten. The seventeen-year-old folk singer graciously agreed to do a phone interview with me prior to her ‘mother of all beautiful gigs.’ Here’s what she had to say about autumn, her debut full-length album, and the future.
How did you choose Billie Marten as your stage name?
Billie Marten: It took ages, actually. It’s a mix of everything really. I love Doc Marten shoes and grew up listening to John Martyn; it was kind of a family interest sort of thing.
How long have you been pursuing music?
I don’t even think I’m pursuing it now (laughs). When I was twelve I started posting videos on YouTube and it’s crazy to be where I am now.
Why did you choose Writing Of Blues and Yellows for your first album title?
I had been working on it for ages! It was so hard, almost harder than making the album. I just named it what I saw when I was listening to the songs: blues, yellows, oranges, etc.
That’s exactly what I see that when I listen to your music, it’s beautiful.
Oh really? Thank you, that’s so lovely to hear!
How would you describe the album?
Hmm, I think it’s quite hazy. It feels like autumn, to me. I really like writing about nature and draw a lot of inspiration from it.
What was the song writing process like?
I didn’t really set out to write an album. It’s just really a collection of everything from the start. It’s been a long time coming now and I’m very proud of it.
Is there a certain song that stands out from the rest in your mind?
I would have to say ‘Teeth’. It was recorded at home and I think it’s the saddest song as well.
I first discovered you on Spotify. What’s it like to be 17, playing gigs in London with a full-length album and being able to hear yourself on Spotify?
It’s ridiculous (laughs). It’s not a normal thing at all. I’m not quite sure how I got here, I’m just moving along really.
That’s so crazy to me, I’m 19 and I haven’t done anything remarkable (laughs).
I don’t believe that! I think everyone’s done something.
What would you like to happen in the future?
Not a lot really. I just want to be happy, doing my own thing and keep making music.
I’m from Utah where there is a huge folk scene, do you plan on heading to America anytime soon?
I would love to, hopefully before Christmas. Which doesn’t give me much time (laughs).
The sold-out show itself was absolutely stunning. The opening acts, Jasmine Kennedy and Siv Jackobsen, were both wonderful. Jasmine Kennedy opened the show beautifully with songs about missed chances and her dream of becoming an accountant. While the subject matter may seem odd and mundane, the songs were anything but. Stories unfolded in a wondrous way that made you forget completely that the song was inspired simply by a tweet. In addition to her fantastic set, she may be the only person able to sell pillow cases with hand printed cats on them at a merch stand without anyone thinking it odd. Siv Jackobsen also put on a lovely show, creating a melody mainly with her voice with her guitar simply supporting her pipes. Her set was melancholic in the most wonderful of ways.
Following the mood of the evening, Billie Marten delivered a stunning performance of hazy and beautifully depressing songs. While she would describe her lullaby-reminiscent songs as ‘hideously sad’, never has a broken heart been lovelier or more bittersweet. Her vocals were sweet and pure like honey and her words were wise beyond her years. The entire performance I couldn’t help wondering how a seventeen-year-old could eloquently write such deep and insightful lyrics about lost love, not being enough, and finding it ‘hard to breathe’.
I have never seen or met a more authentic and pure soul. Her music evokes the kind of sadness that you don’t mind feeling; eliciting the very essence of nostalgia. Listening to her incredible set, I found myself looking out the window and watching the autumn leaves dancing in the chilly air and couldn’t believe how fitting a scene it was. She closed the beautiful show with ‘Teeth’ as the encore. She finally sat on the creaky piano bench and sang the most heart-wrenching song of the evening. The crowd hung on every word and note she sung. At one point I looked next to me to find a woman wiping away tears. After a performance like that, you can understand why she saved the best for last.