2016 Artist Survey: Billie Marten
Marten on 2016's Best Albums, Bowie, Brexit, Vivid Dreams, First Kisses, and Scary Movies
Feb 15, 2017
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For Under the Radar's 14th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2016. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2016 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions. Here are some answers from Billie Marten. The 17-year-old British singer/songwriter released her debut full-length album, Writing of Blues and Yellows, in 2016 via RCA.
For our annual Artist Surveys we emailed the same set of questions to musicians about Trump and the election, 2016's deaths, self-driving cars, Stranger Things, first kisses, scary movies they shouldn't have seen as a child, which Friends character they are most like, and much more.
Pick up or download Under the Radar's Best of 2016 / 15th Anniversary Issue for Artist Survey interviews with Amber Arcades, Austra, Faris Badwan of Cat's Eyes and The Horrors, Boxed In, Caveman, The Charlatans, Cursive, Lucy Dacus, The Dears, C Duncan, Sadie Dupuis of Sad13 and Speedy Ortiz, Dutch Uncles, Ezra Furman, Robyn Hitchcock, The Invisible, Justin Lockey of Editors and Minor Victories, Lost Under Heaven (LUH), Lush, Midlake, Phantogram, The Range, Springtime Carnivore, Sunflower Bean, Surfer Blood, TEEN, The Thermals, Nick Valensi of CRX and The Strokes, Jenn Wasner of Flock of Dimes and Wye Oak, and Yuck.
Top 10 Albums of 2016
1. Radiohead: A Moon Shaped Pool—Of course it's my favorite. It's them. Saw them on my birthday at the Roundhouse [in London] this year and it blew my tiny privileged brain.
2. Kendrick Lamar: untitled unmastered.—When this came out of the blue, I listened to it for a week straight. Nothing else but Kendrick, I think it's absolute genius.
3. Warpaint: Heads Up—They're my favorite band this year. I'm obsessed with the way their heads work and they make every sound I want them to make. Highlights are "Don't Wanna," "Whiteout," and "So Good."
4. Bon Iver: 22, A Million—Isn't this on everyone's list this year? Beautiful, beautiful. Favorites are "8 Circle" and "00000 Million." Silly names though.
5. Angel Olsen: MY WOMAN—I just love her carelessness and strength when she sings. Angel is an inspiration of mine this year.
6. Soft Hair: Soft Hair—I woke up to Sean Keaveny (6 Music) playing this record each morning. "Lying Has to Stop" is a banger. Any song that has an imitated wobble board gets my vote. GREAT hair too.
7. Kanye West: The Life of Pablo—I can thank my Mum for this love of Kanye. Not my favorite album of his by any stretch but still brilliant. "Fade" and "Famous" are fantastic songs. Hope he gets better soon also.
8. Campdogzz: Riders in the Hills of Dying Heaven—My best discovery this year!! Love them a lot. Listened to "The Well" on repeat for a long time, and "Take" is wonderful. Listen to them if you're quite angry but don't know how to express it.
9. Andy Shauf: The Party—I wasn't really into this until I played it too many times. "For You" has a brilliantly timed piano riff and his accent hooks me, you can't quite figure out what he's saying so it's like decrypting a foreign language somewhat. Also I love the idea of the conceptual album, all of these songs are from different perspectives of one party.
10. Whitney: Light Upon the Lake—I would absolutely love to see these people live. Lovely voices and lyrics, soul and country mix really works. "No Woman" is my favorite.
2016 was regarded by many as a fairly tough and negative year. Was it also a hard year for you personally? If so, how? And also what were the high points for you?
What a horrible wet towel of a year. I think it was for us all, but this year really didn't pan out the way I thought it would. I never expected to make a record and release it, or do any of these crazy festivals, and never would I imagine my own tour happening. So musically, it has been fantastic. Personally there's been a lot of struggle coming to terms with understanding it all.
What are your thoughts on how the U.S. presidential election played out?
It's a real joke, a bad one.
What are your thoughts on Brexit and the future of the European Union? To what extent do you think the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump were motivated by the same factors?
This generation's distorted view of the 21st Centuryworld—it's rather scary people make these choices based on propaganda and the media that is specifically served to them, they are essentially agreeing with themselves and being backed up by false arguments. We get ourselves so easily worked up and mislead by things. You must watch HyperNormalisation.
We lost three highly influential music icons in 2016. What are your thoughts on the passing of David Bowie, Prince, and Leonard Cohen? And what are your favorite albums by each artist?
The morning I found out about Bowie, I put on Hunky Dory and cried on my bedroom floor. Then I went out and ran to Ziggy Stardust. And then proceeded to listening to his songs all day every day for the foreseeable future. So overwhelmingly sad and unexpected. Prince I never really got into, purely because my parents I think had one record by him and it was never played. But I admire him. And Cohen, started out late and finished too soon. I think he's an advocate for simplicity in song. I watched Keaton Henson play "Hallelujah" to finish his London set recently; it was all a bit too much.
What do you think Prince and Bowie's afterlife project sounds like?
I don't know much about it at all.
What scary movie did you see way too young as a child, how'd you end up seeing it, and does it still scare you now?
I had the misfortune of watching Requiem For a Dream far too young, and now I know it can never be watched again. But brilliant film nonetheless.
Are you ready for self-driving cars and a more automated future?
No thank you, I won't be having that.
Tell us about the most memorable fan encounter you had this year.
This is where the dreadful name-dropping begins—I had a hazy conversation with Robert Plant in March this year. I walked away and couldn't feel my legs or get any sentences out. I think I shook his hand and looked him in the eye and just said "Thank you." How embarrassing.
Tell us about your first kiss.
Well, being the stud that I am I had many the boyfriend back in Year 6. I managed to kiss Harry Slater underwater in the swimming pool. Passionate stuff at age 10.
Under the Radar has been around for 15 years now, since December 2001. How do you feel the music industry has most changed in that time, both for the better and the worst?
Well I feel I know very little about it, but everyone sort of gathers his or her own collected view. I feel this year especially has been more about pushing out more and more music, regardless of how good it is, just for peoples' consumptive needs. But I know this year has had some of the best music ever made and new artists are sort of starting this DIY generation where you can create anything irrespective of who you are or how much money you have. I love this under-the-radar focus, it allows anyone to be anyone and make the music that they really do love.
What band, besides your own, has the best name?
I like Goat Girl this year. Also Cabbage, but I've not listened to their music yet.
What's the most vivid dream or nightmare you had in 2016?
I keep having repeated post apocalyptic dreams at the moment. Weird.
What VHS tape or DVD did you wear out growing up?
There was a lot of Parsley the Lion [from The Herbs and The Adventures of Parsley], and I absolutely loved Dumbo.
What song, past or present, best sums up 2016?
"God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind)" - Randy Newman. Dark but true.
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