For Billie Marten lockdown was a time to recharge her energy and cut herself off from toxic relationships. The result is her third album, Flora Fauna, which focuses on nature and tranquillity…
BM: Writer Lilia Hadj Said had the opportunity to talk to this incredibly talented young singer and ask her not only about her new album, but also to go back to the time of her first release when she was a shy melancholic teenager.
LS: You were seventeen when you released your first album, Writing of Blues and Yellows. Are you still that bit insecure girl from Lionhearted times?
BM: I’d like to think she got over herself a bit more. It’s an absolutely enormous difference between your teens and twenties. You just gain a lot more perspective and confidence. But I am really proud of that first album, it needed to be full of emotions, and sentiments.
LS: What was your lockdown experience and how it influenced your album-making process?
BM: Actually, I loved lockdown. I had a really great time and I spent the first six months with my parents. We were cooking together and lying in the sun. I also did a lot of walking and reading and all the things I needed to do for so long. I wanted to shut off and shred a lot of weight I had before. During the summer I managed to come back to London and record the album.
LS: Your time during the pandemic sounds a lot like the lyrics of your single Garden of Eden. Was lockdown an inspiration for this song?
BM: Funnily enough, I wrote this song before the pandemic, but we made a video with my friend Lydia during the lockdown. And luckily it managed to explore the sentiments that everyone was feeling at the time. It was a wonderful stroke of luck.
LS: Flora and Fauna seems much more optimistic than your previous, more melancholic albums. What is the reason for this change?
BM: I just got tired of my melancholy. I think I was living it too much at the time and I was only focusing on negative factors in my life and it really gets very tiring. Recently a lot of positive things started happening and it gave me the inspiration to change a tune a bit and explore these new feelings like euphoria and joy. I think sometimes we tend to ignore happiness and we just focus on negativity. For example, I don’t remember any positive reviews but If I get a bad one then it stays with me for the end of the times.
LS: You are proving right now that art doesn’t have to focus solely on negative emotions to create something meaningful. Optimism is also a good material to work with.
BM: Yeah, I never thought I would but it’s happening.
LS: You also used much stronger instruments. What made you decide that?
BM: I just decided one day to buy a bass and start working on it with no experience and this is how the new sound came out. There is still a lot of acoustic and electric guitar, but the chorus is different and I hope it’s something new and interesting.
LS: Your new album focuses on nature and its power. Would you say that nature helps you overcome your harder moments?
BM: Absolutely. I think It’s the one element that doesn’t judge you and it’s always there. It takes on so many different forms as do we and I love that. Especially living in a place like England, I do get quite sad in the wintertime, because it’s so gloomy, but I think it’s also important to enjoy that feeling, sit in the winter with our melancholy whilst we hibernate and getting ready for summer. But yeah, I just think it’s the most profound creative tool we can use to keep living and creating. I just want to shout about it all the time: “Nature is good!”.
LS: The song Aquarium reminds me more of your earlier work and it talks about interpersonal relationships. Do you find it difficult to cut yourself off from toxic relationships?
BM: Yes. During making the first two albums I was much more vulnerable around people and quite often I merged myself over into them like a comedian. I was kinda imitating people a lot and I didn’t really know who I was. Aquarium is about doing destructive things to your body and to your mind with other people when it’s not necessarily the best option. That’s why coming out of lockdown was amazing for me because I kind of chopped of those relationships and now I feel more like myself.
LS: Yes, Lockdown was very useful for many to check the validity of relationships with others.
BM: Exactly, maybe we all needed a bit of that.
LS: One thing that is present in every album are people portrayed as always wanting more. Is it something that has always bothered you with others?
BM: It’s very common that people just always want more. They get one thing and then they always have to multiply that. It can be very simple like for example, renting a house then a bigger house then buying a large house. Getting bigger and better jobs all the time.
I’m a very strong believer in just sitting and absorbing. Being thankful for what you have. It’s always very apparent in London. Everyone is like: Hey how are you? What have you been up to? And Everyone is very aware of what the other person is doing all the time and comparing with each other. I don’t think It’s very healthy.
LS: Are you excited about the tour and did you find a way during lockdown to connect with fans?
BM: I didn’t do the Instagram stuff just because it was another trend that I knew would go away. But I did a lot of online gigs and I made sure to still keep in touch with people. I like putting very simple things on my Instagram and share of what I see with others. But yeah, the touring is going to be great.
LS: Long time without playing for the audience.
BM: Yes, 2 years, which is mad! I really miss it.
LS: What has been the highlight of your career so far?
BM: You are going to laugh about this, but I was on Radio 4 the other day on the program called ‘Loose Ends’. I’ve listened to that since I was a baby and my dad is also a huge fan. It’s not very well-known but for me, that was the highlight.
LS: Is there anyone you dream of performing with?
BM: Well, most of them are dead now, sadly, but it would be someone like David Bowie. Actually Kate Bush is alive, I would love to perform with her.
LS: How would you describe the album to a person who has hearing loss?
BM: Oh, great question. I would probably describe it as lying down under the sun on wet soil and being very close to the ground.
LS: What is the best way to escape during these crazy times?
BM: Just leave your phone at home, go for one walk and see what happens.
By Lilia Hadj Said
Billie’s new album Flora Fauna is out 21 May
Feature image credit: chuffmedia