Billie Marten on YouTube Fame and Finding Success Her Own Way
Billie Marten is only 17, but she’s already been performing for nearly half her life. After her dad gave her a guitar at the ripe old age of eight, the U.K. singer and songwriter hasn’t put it down since. Literally. When she was 12, she posted a video on a YouTube channel so that her grandparents in France would be able to see her play. “It’s a channel for people who literally just want to get their music out,” Billie explained via Skype from London, where she was visiting for a few days. “Something happened with that video—don’t ask me what!—but now I’m doing all these ridiculous things.”
Ridiculous things, in this case, means thousands of fans, a Burberry collab, and this year, being shortlisted for the coveted BBC Sound of 2016 prize. But perhaps most impressive is the fact that throughout her quick rise, Billie’s remained refreshingly down-to-earth. We’re not just saying that. When we talked, she had just finished her exams—“I’m so glad they’re over!” she said—and manages to balance both school and music. Her secret? Pacing herself. “The most important thing for me was, because I was 13 when things really started to happen, I had so much time and space to think about what I wanted to write about,” she explained. “So many artists get pushed into the industry, and they’re expected to put out two albums in two years.”
Instead, Billie’s gone a different route, turning down TV talent shows and instead releasing her debut EP Ribbon in 2014. She’s got a folksy, stripped down vibe that’s drawn comparisons to other heartfelt lyricists like Marika Hackman and Lucy Rose, and that’s not too far off. But Billie’s unique talent is capturing the experiences she’s going through—as a 17-year-old girl, who sometimes feels lonely and confused, just like all girls—so perfectly. “So many of my songs are retrospective,” she said. “Some people will sit in a café and people watch and write a song in an hour, but I can’t do that. I do a lot of reflecting and looking back, and that’s where my inspiration comes from.”
Just take her latest lovely, blissed-out track, “La Lune.” With lyrics like “I find the heat is too harsh on the skin/ Drowning in light need the cold to sink in to my soul,” it’s a reference to both intense sunburn and the immense pressure to succeed. As Billie said of the song’s inspiration, “I was thinking about a time last year when I really badly sunburnt my face at a festival—so it's kind of about how I can't really take the 'heat' of everything very well.” Despite her juggling act, Billie’s got it all under control. She plans to study in Paris, continue making music, and find success her own way.
As she jokingly reveals her five year plan, “I’ll be 22, probably living as a recluse somewhere in Cornwall or Iceland, and hopefully with some Alpacas.” With a bunch more amazing albums under her belt, we predict. For now, listen to Billie here.