Singer-songwriter Billie Marten, coming soon to The Portland Arms, Cambridge
Yorkshire-born singer-songwriter Billie Marten put out her third album, Flora Fauna, in May. She is set to visit Cambridge in September.
Having released her critically acclaimed debut album Writing of Blues and Yellows in 2016 when she was just 17 years old, Billie Marten’s new album, Flora Fauna – released on May 21 – is more mature, fostered around a strong backbone of bass and rhythm.
The album, which has a theme of growth, sees Billie shed the timidity of previous work at the ‘dreamier’ end of the folk spectrum in favour of a more urgent sound, marking a period of personal independence as she learned to nurture herself and break free from toxic relationships – and a big part of that was returning to nature. The album’s lead single, Garden of Eden, certainly celebrates the outdoor life.
Raised in the rolling hills of North Yorkshire on artists such as Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell, Joan Armatrading, and Kate Bush, Billie’s 2019 follow-up to Writing of Blues and Yellows was the similarly lauded Feeding Seahorses By Hand.
Recorded with Rich Cooper in London, this new material blends those signature hushed vocals with a rapid pulse and rich instrumentation, her inspirations now stretching from Krautrockers Can, to Broadcast, Arthur Russell, and Fiona Apple.
Speaking to the Cambridge Independent from her home in East London, Billie admits she misses Yorkshire (she hails from the city of Ripon, in the north of the county), calling it her “favourite place”. She tries to get up there as often as she can to get her “fix of green and good walking” but admits it has been hard due to the pandemic.
“But London’s done a really good job this year, I think,” she notes, “I’ve been very happy here.”
Billie, 22, reveals that she has been working on new material at a studio in Tottenham, when she could just sit back and bask in the glory of her recently released LP. “This is the sort of time where you’re not really supposed to be writing, and you’ve definitely got a free pass not to for a few months, but if you can get it in early it’s quite a nice feeling,” she laughs.
At the start of lockdown, the artist, whose real name is Isabella Sophie Tweddle, says she found it hard to write - and “couldn’t even read a book properly” as she felt she was in a “weird black hole of creativity”.
“Then a few months passed and we all got used to this different rhythm of living,” she says, “and I won some things on eBay [auctions], just some bits of gear, because I was staying at my parents’ up north and didn’t have anything there – just one guitar. So I got some kit and then just slowly started demoing and that hasn’t really stopped, I guess.”
Billie says she started work on the new album with her producer before lockdown. “Maybe five or six months prior to that March we were working on things and just demoing things out,” she recalls, “and some of the songs were written before then. So I’d say the whole process started around two years ago, which is kind of what ends up happening every time.
“Then some of the stuff was written towards the end of lockdown and we recorded mid-August. So the whole record spans quite a lot of time, which I like because it means you’re not just getting one facet or style of writing that you’re into momentarily; it gets everything you’ve been feeling for a couple of years down.”
Is Flora Fauna influenced by the Earth, as the title suggests? “Yeah, I think the Earth and the strife that comes with that,” she says, “some of it is basing the voices around social commentary and letting out some of my cynicism that I get from my dad...
“And there’s other parts that are shedding the Earth in a really positive light and all about personal growth and expressing confidence and just feeling at one with nature, which I think is really important.
“It’s kind of just a mish-mash of feelings in there, which is why I wanted to call it Flora Fauna, because that just kind of encompasses everything.”
Billie is grateful to all of her fans who keep listening to her music and buying her albums. “It just makes you feel like people are listening already, which is an amazing feeling to come back third time round and still have people there,” she says. “It’s quite an honour.”
Flora Fauna is available now. Billie Marten is scheduled to perform at The Portland Arms on Tuesday, September 28. For more information, visit theportlandarms.co.uk. For more on Billie, visit her official website.