Ahead of her Connect Festival appearance, we take a dive into the songs soundtracking the singer-songwriter's trips to the ponds
Earlier this year Billie Marten released Drop Cherries in the peak of spring. With lines such as “Water flowing over your horizon/ You are growing warmer every day,” it’s seasonal release was hardly coincidental. But the Rippon-born artist has always been attuned to the fruits of nature – you’ll find a cornucopia of willows, birds, peaches and mice throughout her work over the past decade.
Marten recently took Drop Cherries on tour in the US, which reignited her love for her record. “Going to America is the best for your album self-esteem,” she says, “because they love music so hard and they make incredible hand-made merch and gifts and letters and stories of how people got together to do it, so that’s what makes you go, uhh, so glad I put the album out. I’m here for the relentless positivity, they’re so wonderful and present in the live scene.”
Now home and working on new material ahead of a UK tour in December, her fulfilment spurs a creative conundrum as it fills the place where she would normally bring darker and downcast feelings to life. “I’m just very content, I’m enjoying my own space and with that comes no words at all.”
Finding a different way in, Marten has taken to her natural muse, the outdoors, to do more physical activities such as walking and wild swimming, that encourage her to come at music from a different perspective. “After I swim I always come back getting really into an album or a song, or come back and straight away pick up the guitar and then something happens. I’m trying to force myself into adjacent productivity, I’m not actually doing anything worthwhile, but in the long-run it will provide.”
Joining friends addicted to the cold rush of wild swimming, the singer-songwriter soon caught the bug and can now be found in the ponds of London twice a week. “Making that effort has totally changed my headspace. It changes your whole day.”
This meditative headspace informed her selections as she curated a playlist perfect for late summer outdoor swimming, featuring tracks from Gillian Welch to Youth Lagoon. “A lot of these songs are anti-travel songs. There are certain songs that you have to be moving with, and I often say that about my own stuff, that it’s ideal to listen to on a train, plane or car journey. It’s reflective and you go to your past self. But with these ones, and the act of diving into a pond, it’s very present and it’s much more about the vibe and situational feeling rather than thinking about yourself some more, you know?”
‘Walrus’ – D.D Dumbo
Some of these I went with sea or water related lyrics, so I went with ‘Walrus’, haha! But as I started to think about the playlist, it just popped into my head straight away. You know when you’re trying to DJ and you have certain pockets that you want to get, the feeling of this one sounds to me like a dive. It sounds like you’re in: the pushing and pulling, the woooffp, the weird rhythm. It’s a pond song.
‘Look At Miss Ohio’ – Gillian Welch
Whenever I talk about production with anybody, they always reference Gillian Welch in terms of space, recording drums, and especially how to have that female vocal leading. It’s not anything to do with ponds in any way, but it’s just a nice country-esque mood and has a very good character to listen to when you’re in anti-capitalist mode. She’s a country gurl. Some of her stuff was done by Ethan Johns, who I also did a record with.
‘Rabbit’ – Youth Lagoon
I didn’t know that I knew about Youth Lagoon. I had a song saved for years called ’17’, but I did not put two and two together. With this one, I didn’t know if it was a man or a woman, I didn’t know where they were from, it’s genius. The thing about a good album is, if it doesn’t sound like anything else then they’ve made it. I’m so into the world that they’ve created.
‘Groovin’’ – The Young Rascals
Groovin! I often don’t get the chance to share songs like this because I’m tied to my melancholia. Again, it’s the act of cannonballing into a pond.
‘Ku-Isa Tama Laug’ – David Darling & The Wulu Bunun
‘Ku-Isa Tama Laug’ was a song recommended to me by my good friend Clara Mann, who has impeccable emotional taste. I thought it suited pond life, it reminds me of a group of hopefuls canoeing through the bulrushes in the hope of finding something magical. This is also the sound that plays in my head when I’m swimming.
‘Gonna Be’ – Rosie Lowe and Duval Timothy
I love the combination of these two people, I think it’s very smart. This whole album is great, but this is the best song on it by far. I love the mix of double bass and these flutey vocals, very modern but also old school jazz fusion. I never skip this song. It’s also one of those that you put on and someone says “what’s this?” It’s a completely different soundscape. I did some research about pond playlists, by the way. It didn’t really exist.
This song reminds me a little of ‘Liquid Love’ in its production and playful use of vocals and piano. Drop Cherries traded that in a bit for a more natural or organic sound, what made you drift towards that sound again do you think?
I think I wanted a record that would be perhaps more stationary and longterm impactful, rather than something that is a current sound with the potential to fade away. I just wanted old-school tape record, live musicians, one room, lots of wooden instruments, very few takes. You know.
‘It Is So Nice To Get Stoned’ – Ted Lucas
This one makes me laugh every time. The rest of the album is very emotionally aware, the song ‘Baby Where You Are’ is one of the most beautiful love songs I’ve ever heard. People often cover it and I think everybody secretly has this record in their collection. But at the end of it, he’s just a very laid back gentleman who obviously really enjoyed the ganja. I love that the only lyric really is “It’s so nice to get stoned.”
‘Cockroach’ – Miya Folick
Miya Follick is very good, very talented, very beautiful and a wise presence. We met each other in LA at the start of the tour in June through a mutual friend, and I also met the producer who she made ROACH with. You know when someone talks about an album and you’re just kind of nodding along, but you can’t really say anything about it until you hear it, and I was very intrigued. In one sentiment, ‘Cockroach’ is don’t f*ck with me, you can’t kill me. But her vocals are quite nymphy, which is a nice juxtaposition. It’s got really interesting production, I didn’t see those drums coming in. Those wonderful, soft synthy sounds took me by surprise and I listened to the whole album in DC when I had an hour spare on the tour.
‘Dream Puppy’ – The Sweet Enoughs
We were DJing in the van and Laurence Hamilton, one of the guitarists in my ever-changing band, put this one on. We were on our way to or from Green Man festival last year, he was driving and it was a very hot, slumber-eqsue day. He put Dream Puppy on and it was a real switch in gears.
You’d hope so, given that he was driving…
Anyway, I love the woodblock and the classical guitar melody. It’s pure kushty vibes.
‘The Lighthouse’ – Daniel Herskedal
I first heard this when I was doing a yoga class. It’s rare for me to listen to it, because people’s playlists are often too yoga-y. But this girl was a legend and had a really good music taste. She finished the class with this and I like the righteous ending, blurring the waters and coming out clear. It’s a positive ending.