Woman with blonde hair looking into the camera.
Billie Marten performed at Rescue Rooms as her fourth album topped the folk charts. Image Credit: Katie Silvester.

”The worst thing about music is having to talk about yourself all the time. I hate it.’’

Most aspiring 23-year-old musicians live for the fame and exposure that comes with having your name in the headlines – but not Billie Marten who wants her music to be separate from herself. The Yorkshire born singer songwriter is currently touring her fourth studio album, Drop Cherries, with a stop at Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms tonight.

”I tried to cheat the system by making the album about someone else,’’ Billie adds on her latest record which is structured as an extended love letter.

Drop Cherries was sort of a shedding a new skin, and about having the opportunity to make an album for someone else. Its a really fulfilling experience, and then you get to give it to them at the end. Whenever I write songs about myself, there’s a lot of unanswered questions. But I don’t necessarily have these on this record.’’

The record fits into the folk sound which her previous albums have explored, but the generalisations of fitting women into certain genres is something which Billie sees as an issue in the industry.

She routinely finds that as a “white, semi middle-class, blonde woman” she has to stick to one category of music. There’s no reason women should have to stay in their prescribed lane, she argues.

“For example, the support artist we’ve got with us is Léa Sen, who is incredible, and because she’s a woman of colour, she’ll get described as R&B and neo-soul. And in fact, she makes the opposite,’’ she says.

”Musical generalisations are one of the worst things, but I could go through a whole list.’’

The 23-year-old moved to London at the tender age of 17, working in pubs to source inspiration for songs and working on her second album. ”I was still very much a baby and it took me a while to find my crowd and really get to grips with London. I think it’s a tricky beast,’’ she says.

What drew Billie into the industry and motivates her through dealing with the daily inequalities, uprooting to the South and making no more than £2.47 on her past American tour is music’s community. ”The best thing is being able to share common feelings with people. And kind of isolating the existence of autonomy,’’ she says.

Billie has certainly been accepted by her community as Drop Cherries recently went to number one in the Official Folk Album Charts for April – and it was her mum who broke the news to her first, as her supportive family are ”very clued in on the socials,’’ she says.

”It feels amazing, especially to have recognition in a field that’s not mainstream top 40 music. And it means that people are actually listening to the whole album and buying the record and, you know, treating it properly.’’

Nottingham is a hub for up-and-coming indie and folk music, with Dot to Dot festival – happening in the city this weekend – and Rough Trade acoustic shows giving Billie a leg-up in her career, being some of her first gigs. And she has a soft spot for the Midlands hub which is close to home.

”I get to spend a bit of time in and around Nottingham, which is great. Being from Yorkshire, I guess it’s just a kinship. It’s just lovely,’’ she adds, as well as her affinity for highly-rated Nottingham restaurant Sexy Mama Loves Spaghetti.

Right now, Billie and many other artists appreciate the touring industry readjusting after the pandemic. ”There’s no sense of fear or kind of impending doom anymore. the general atmosphere is just overwhelmingly positive. So this one feels normal,’’ she says.

Looking forward, her focus is on being ”content’’ in life, which doesn’t come with a set plan.

”I would like to go to New Zealand and Australia, because I feel like that’s a territory that’s been unexplored so far. And one day, I quite fancy being an old woman knitting by the sea in Whitby – but maybe not right now.’’