Bright olive-green eyes, pale porcelain skin, cascades of blonde hair and the softest voice set only the slightest level above a whisper – perhaps in another universe, Billie Marten could have been a mystical wood fairy, serenading wild tree creatures with her heartfelt ballads. In this life, however, the stages of this world have become the garden of choice for the young British singer-songwriter and audiences all over the globe have been the ones she has put a spell on with her gentle, acoustic folk songs, as her expressive and sugary vocals wash over the ears. Since her discovery and the release of her first EP back in 2014, the enthralling artist has been taking her listeners on a journey through realms of wonder and enchantment. Now, the vocalist is working towards the metaphorical birth of her fourth full-length record, the magical ‘Drop Cherries’. Speckled with new instruments, Marten as a co-producer and a shift in direction, the album is set to add another pathway to the singer’s musical expedition. New beginnings are lingering in the air.
“If I could speak to my younger self, I would tell her to drop her shoulders. Back then, I just felt so kind of shocked, I wasn’t used to any of it. Suddenly, there’s this public image of you, all the pictures and videos and shoots and album covers and press things,”, the 23-year-old vocalist states, remembering the early beginnings of her career when Marten had just started to gain prominence after she uploaded videos of herself singing to YouTube and everything happened all at once very soon after that, right before her fifteenth birthday. “I think there’s a certain romanticism about a teenager not having a clear idea of themselves. You know, you have Facebook photo albums and one bedroom mirror that is smeared with makeup and dust. And then for me, it was very much like, this is who you are, and you’re going to look at your face and talk about yourself all the time. Which isn’t necessarily healthy for a young person to do. So, reflection is important. It’s such a backwards thing to say to anyone, but instead of looking at the whole wider picture, which is what you’re made to do early on, I should have focused on nice little lovely moments like making my first record or playing festivals and travelling the world. And music gives you terrible posture. I’m only 23, but I just feel so ancient.”
Looking at the young singer, this might seem like a peculiar statement to make, but with nearly twelve years spent in the music industry resting on her back, Marten has already earned the title of a veteran when it comes to music. Over the years, the London-based artist has established herself in the industry, become more present, confident and deeply rooted in her ideas and morals, while her natural prowess of enchantment and loveliness have continued to grow. Three albums deep in her very accomplished career, and after the release of her milestone record ‘Flora Fauna’ in the midst of the pandemic in 2021 – an album that touched on a myriad of topics ranging from self-care to personal growth and all the way to discussions of women’s safety and religious faith – the singer has come to a place of ease and self-understanding. Something that has also turned into the driving force behind her upcoming album ‘Drop Cherries’, which is set to be released on the 7th of April and sees Marten lift the curtain on some parts of her life that had been safely tucked away until now. “The album is primarily about forms of love. I always thought of love and relationships to be no-go subjects because I was so young when I became a part of the industry, and I think that worked in my favour, as I decided to reveal things about myself through nature and my surroundings and environment. And those feelings were very much sadness and melancholy, and I love that people empathised with that. But this record is me trying to work from a place of positive feelings and the ultimate quest to find myself. I don’t feel like I have to try things to gain people’s interest or change my musical genre anymore,”, Marten describes, explaining the bewitchingly beautiful story behind the record’s mystifying title. “I needed something to encapsulate the relationship that I’m in right now. I was talking with a friend, and he was describing this relationship that never happened, but the love that they had was really strong and powerful. And it was just such a great love story. It’s a tale to be told for hours, but the gist of it is that this guy would do anything for her, despite them not being able to be together. She told him things like that she wanted to lay in a bath of silvery water and stamp blood-red cherries onto a cream carpet. And I heard that phrase and instantly thought, well, that’s what this album is. I like the act of love being a gift rather than something that you receive. So, in some way, it’s less about me, but everything still is.”
An ode to the arguably best feeling in the world, Marten’s fourth upcoming long-player has already been receiving waves of praise from both the fans and her peers, with the effervescent ‘This Is How We Move’, ‘Nothing But Mine’ and the freshly released ‘I Can’t Get My Head Around You’ offering a first taste of what is to come. Exploring a more complex instrumentation with the new addition of a band, and marrying enchanting piano melodies with warm and grounding acoustic guitar strumming patterns, the songs shine bright with a new finish from Marten, while still maintaining the singer’s usual sincerity and gentle air. Imbued with a sense of dazzle and wonder, they seem to have the power to make even the most mundane moments feel like something out of a fairy tale – something the artist was even more involved in as the co-producer of the record, next to Dom Monks, who she crafted the album with during sessions taking place in Somerset and Wales late last summer. “It’s funny, I’ve always had a deep hand in recording as it’s my favourite part of music, but, unfortunately, I think I sometimes let other people do jobs that I could have done myself, especially male producers. In my early days, I just felt like I didn’t have a voice there, which is ironic because that’s the whole point. But it was very different with this album and with Dom, my engineer and producer,”, the singer-songwriter retells, jokingly recounting the evening she proposed the idea of ‘Drop Cherries’ to Monks. “I remember having taken him out for dinner, and I said, “how would you feel about co-producing with me?”. And he started out with this long answer where I thought he was going to say no, like, “this is my record, and I‘m the producer and you’re the artist”. And then, after all that, he sucked the whole speech off, and just went “yes”.”
Recorded solely on tape to give it that special grounded feel, the musical endeavour is yet again another step closer to all the things that matter the most to Marten and that certain sense of realness and authenticity that has become rather hard to find these days. It is something that can also be seen in her music videos for this new chapter, which exclusively consist of behind-the-scenes clips from the production days of the record and thus offer a unique glimpse into the enchanting world of the songstress’ creative process. “It’s all very simple, very hand-to-mouth. You know, I didn’t think anything through very much. The album mainly consists of first or second takes, it’s all live, it’s all on tape. Because that’s how easy and wonderful it can be. You often hear about all those bands who go into the studio for another six weeks, having these gruelling sessions and working late into the night. I don’t really like doing that. I believe you have three or four hours of actual productivity in a day and the rest you need to feed yourself and exercise and be outside and stop talking for a bit. I just wanted to show people what happened.”
I would love to be perfect. I’d love to be that thing that has reached perfection. But naturally, that will never happen. The moment I accepted that, all this weight on my shoulders and the fear of being who I wanted to be kind of lifted off.
Marten, in many ways, seems astoundingly self-aware and at ease with herself, upheld by nature’s gentleness and its peace and quiet as well as her wry sense of humour and continuous observations of her own self and her surroundings. The 23-year-old has spent most of her career and life getting to know herself and all the things she loves and hates, which hasn’t always been an easy task, especially while working in an industry that often tends to push and shape people based on the expectations and needs of others. “I always like to say I don’t believe in perfect, I’m just happy bumbling along. But that’s complete bollocks. Like, I would love to be perfect. I’d love to be that thing that has reached perfection. But naturally, that will never happen,”, the singer exclaims and recalls a series of struggles she encountered while growing up in the public eye and under the glaring looks of strangers who all suddenly seemed to have an opinion about her and the many ways she was supposed to function. “I think we’re bred to be squashed and moulded into whatever shape fits society, and I always felt like my shape never really fit that. It’s funny, the moment I accepted that, all this weight on my shoulders and the fear of being who I wanted to be kind of lifted off. And even just in rehearsals now, I notice that I’m nowhere near as quiet because I always got told that it was my fault for singing too quietly. We had to buy all sorts of specific microphones and work on these live techniques to get me to be louder, with people asking me why I didn’t just get vocal coach lessons. But that’s not me at all. So now we’ve got this album that’s formed around my voice instead.”
It comes as no surprise that Marten doesn’t shy away from asking the big questions in life, it almost feels like it is part of her very nature, which, if you listen closely enough, also weaves itself through her evocative storytelling and enchanting discography. Even her quoting famous scholar and philosopher Alan Watts in the middle of a conversation seems like the most natural act, like something that is simply part of who the young performer is, in all her greatness and introspection. “He’s this really cool philosopher dude, and he said this: “belief clings but faith lets go”. And I take that as faith is like having the unadulterated, profound feeling of trusting everything and trusting yourself and other people. And belief is trying to believe in God or Santa or that you’ll always be okay in the end. And you’re clinging to this thing, aka perfectionism, that you’ll never be able to hold on to, whereas faith is shedding all of that and sitting with yourself and taking each day as it comes and just trusting the process,”, the singer elucidates, while once more going back to the simplicity of life she has come to love and appreciate and also work into her current sonic environment. “I know the more I talk, the worse I’m sounding, but I just really like the idea of letting things go. So, if the people you’re hanging around with aren’t supposed to be with you, just let them go. If you’re in a bad relationship and you know it, let it go. If you’re not doing the right job, not in the right country, not the right house, let it go. We’re nesting creatures, we want our environment to be the right one, and I think we always know what that is.”
With the release of her imminent fourth record looming over her, Marten seems to have at last learned to stop thinking about what others want to hear and finally started to trust her own instincts. Creating this metaphor for offering someone your love and going out of your way to please them, the 13-track strong collection of melodious musings and unadulterated romantics sits proudly amongst the rest of her releases. Whether she is singing about love, loss, or the mysteries of the universe, Marten has found her own unique way of making her listeners feel like they are part of something special, something that transcends the ordinary. And while ‘Drop Cherries’ sees the singer-songwriter turn the page to a new phase in her musical wanderings, it is also a return to the things that truly matter the most in the artist’s life – the stuff that can turn the regular everyday into magical fairy-tale material. “It’s very simple to keep me happy or for me to exist in my little life as me. I just need nature, a nice plant next to me, some really good music, from the seventies, probably, something made out of wood, and a nice dog. Like, if I see one of those during the day, I literally come home and go, “I saw this great dog”, or, “I saw this beautiful field”. I think humans are so simple. And I’ve spent most of my life analysing and digging and digging and digging for the answers. And in reality, it’s just kind of like what I was saying in my song ‘Garden of Eden’ – we’re all just these organic beings that need light, food, water, and endorphins. I mean, I’m boiling it down to the mundane here, but it’s all about making these tiny, little, incremental choices that affect your life for the better. And I think we do have a really strong radar for that, but we ignore it all the time. So, I’m almost in a meditative state of going back to what I know and love. And for me, it’s nature, music, love, animals. That’s it.”
Billie Marten’s new album ‘Drop Cherries’ is out on the 7th of July. Follow her on Instagram and Spotify.
Written by Laura Weingrill // photography by Katie Silvester