By: Jennyfer J. Walker
The day after 17-year-old Billie Marten signed a management deal, she sat in a stuffy school hall and took her mock exams.
“I had to bring my maths revision to the signing,” laughs the Yorkshire-born acoustic-folk singer. “It was awful.”
While she says “a school schedule does not fit with a music schedule at all”, she manages to make it work. “Whenever something huge is happening, I will be doing exams or revising at the same time. But it’s not too bad is it…”
Billie, who also goes by the non-stage name of Isabella Tweddle, juggled both on her first ever tour, supporting Lucy Rose, last October by taking nine bags with her, packed full of essay writing materials and art supplies.
“I ruined several hotel rooms with oil paint in the sink,” she says sheepishly.
While trashing bathrooms comes naturally to her, performing live was something of a struggle at first...
“My whole awkward presence was really difficult,” she admits. “I just don’t know what to say – it’s like you’re having a weird first date with 30 people and you don’t know their names and you don’t know why they’re sat there.
You wanna just shake their hands and introduce yourself, but you can’t, you just gotta sing (laughs)! I’m getting used to this whole gig thing, but it’s still very alien…”
The singer-songwriter’s first industry recognition might have come in November last year, when she was shortlisted for the BBC Sounds Of Poll (previous winners of which include Adele and Ellie Goulding), but the first people to appreciate her talent were her family.
When she was 12, Billie’s mum would film her singing songs in their living room, and put them on YouTube for her grandparents in France to watch. While she’s grateful those videos are no longer online (“They are so bad,” she says), it was a slightly more professionally-filmed video uploaded to YouTube channel Ont’ Sofa that landed her a management deal, after it was discovered by her manager’s son Kier.
Despite being grateful that social media afforded her a music career, she’s one of the few millennials not glued to her iPhone and struggles to get on-board with keeping her following updated on her life.
“I just find it very self-absorbing. Every tweet is about you and what you’re doing and how great your life is, so I found it really difficult, because in actual fact, I’m just sat at home, eating Nature Valley bars or riding my bicycle (laughs).”
Of course, Billie does more with her days than sit around making crumbs – she’s written her debut album, Writing Of Blues & Yellows, which is due out September 23. While she’ll be busy starting her English Lit, Art and French A-levels around then, too, she’s finding time for a UK-wide tour in October.
“The highlight of my career so far is people coming back and showing an interest, rather than feeling like you forced it on people,” the modest singer says of playing live. “I’ve always tried to keep things really natural and organic, and done barely any press things or photo shoots. I’m not gonna be all over the place. So [it’s nice that] people are actually turning up to gigs.”