Ripon musician Billie Marten on brilliant new album and growing up in public as a young woman
Known nationally for her delicate acoustic sounds, musician Billie Marten has travelled far in her career from Ripon since she was discovered by a Harrogate producer aged 12. But, as Graham Chalmers discovered, she has no intention of leaving her roots behind, no matter how much she changes.
A music industry veteran at the age of 21, one of Ripon’s most successful ever musicians is preparing for another round of tours, videos and interviews.
The occasion is the imminent release of Billie Marten’s new album Flora Fauna, the third on a major record label since her debut aged 17.
A taster single has already been hailed on BBC Radio 1 as “the hottest record in the world”, joining previous plaudits in recent years for the talented singer-songwriter from the likes of the NME, Q Magazine, the Sunday Times and one Ed Sheeran.
It’s a big moment for the former Ripon Grammar School student, as much about her own personal maturity as her musical growth.
Growing up largely in public - she was “discovered” at the age of 12 by a Harrogate music producer - has not been without its downsides.
Billie said: “I’m incredibly excited for the new album to come out.
“It feels like a real moment of change for me.
“I wanted to get out of the narrow range of things I was writing about and the relationship problems I was going through.
“There’s not a lot of room for error when you’re growing up at the same time as being a performer.
“I wasn’t fully developed as a person and I felt vulnerable.
“But I’ve changed in loads of ways. My musician boyfriend is 30 but we’ve been through the same things at the same time almost.
“I don’t identify with being 21.”
She may have moved to London as a teenager after being signed to a division of Sony Records but she hasn’t lost her bonds with Ripon or her family - and nor would she want to.
Billie said: “As soon as I left Ripon I felt a longing to go back. I was born on a hill in Risplith and my dad took me outside and showed me the world literally within minutes.
“I wouldn’t have had music in my life without my family or my love of the natural world.
“It’s easy to disappear inside the music world but my family are very important to me.”
Billie was already on her way to success even as she began secondary school.
Although aware of the need for hits to sustain a career, this intensely thoughtful and sensitive musician still puts people first.
The man who discovered her incredible musical talent, Jason Odle of independent Harorgate music production company Ont’ Sofa, remains a close friend and supporter.
Billie said: “Jason is my everything. He was there at the very beginning. He became my manager when I was 12. He’s still my tour manager, is a member of my band and my best friend.”
Billie’s original reputation was based on her beautiful vocals and hushed acoustic intimacy.
Set to be released on May 21 on Fiction, her new label responsible for indie legends The Cure, Flora Fauna sees her stretch herself musically, as well as lyrically.
Billie said: “I wanted to stop all that late night whispering style.
“It’s important to be yourself and spread your wings.
“I don’t want to be just a wistful songwriter girl.
“If I dart around musically it’s harder to pigeonhole me.”
Billie Marten's rise of fame from Ripon
Born Isabella Tweddle in 1999 in the village of Risplith five miles from Ripon, Billie Marten started singing at the tender age of eight.
Billie had her own music channel on YouTube by the age of nine and was discovered
as a 12-year-old by Harrogate music producers Ont Sofa after her mother Sally put a video of her singing on YouTube, so her grandparents could watch it in France.
Her debut single Ribbon came out via Burberry in 2014 on her 15th birthday,
At the age of 16, Billie was signed by Chess Club Records, a division of Sony Music. A year later she was shortlisted for the BBC Sound of 2016 award.
Aged 17, she recorded her first, self-written album called Writing of Blues and Yellow in London and Ripon while studying for her AS level exams at Ripon Grammar School.
Her second album, Feeding Seahorses by Hand, was released by RCA in 2019.
Among the live dates Billie has chalked up are Latitude Festival, SXSW in Texas and a US tour supporting Snow Patrol.
Success in the BBC Sound of 2016 award
2016 was the year Billie Marten featured in the BBC’s prestigious “Music Sound of” stars of the future.
The then 17-year-old was hailed as an “adolescent prodigy” of “yearning, breathy folk”.
One of the other nominees that year was singer Dua Lipa.
Flora Fauna: Billie Marten’s new album
Billie Marten’s new album Flora Fauna will be released on Fiction Records on May 21.
it’s the Ripon musician’s third album and the new material sees her blending her signature hushed, resonant vocals with a rapid pulse and rich instrumentation, allied to a wider range of inspirations than her original acoustic heroes of the 1970s.
Shedding the fragility of previous work in favour of a more urgent sound, the songs mark a period of personal independence for Billie as she learned to nurture herself and break free from toxic relationships - and a big part of that was returning to nature.
Billie said: “All these songs are about getting myself out of that hole - they’re quite strong affirmations. The name Flora Fauna is like a green bath for my eyes. If the album was a painting, it would look like flora and fauna.”
The album’s ten tracks are:
Garden Of Eden, Creature Of Mine, Human Replacement, Liquid Love, Heaven, Ruin, Pigeon, Kill The Clown, Walnut, Aquarium.
To pre-order a copy of Billie Marten’s Flora Fauna album, visit www.billiemarten.com.
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