Photo credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OorvN9kOfGE
Arriving with no idea what to expect from the venue or the artists of the night, I arrived at The Deaf Institute, a small and accommodating venue for what was to be three beautiful and very different female singer-songwriter sets. Despite its size, The Deaf Institute did not compromise on character and energy, something that headliner Billie Marten’s friends and family happily contributed to in the crowd. I found myself chatting with some of them, and learnt that since her elegant voice was discovered at 13, her name has caught the interest of tastemakers such as Lucy Rose, BBC Introducing, Reading Festival and Burberry. Now just 17 years old, Billie has found herself headlining her own UK tour.
The night began with Yorkshire trainee accountant and singer Jasmine Kennedy. Humble and slightly shy on stage, Jasmine’s even and soft voice sung of dead rats and Facebook posts. Her artistic inspiration seemed to come from the everyday things we all overlook, and the way she captured the audience with her beautiful voice and impressive guitar accompaniment was something which could be likened to someone bashfully reciting their poem in front of class. Similarly to both Billie and Siv who performed after Jasmine, they all possessed a sweet, self-deprecating humour which successfully created a relationship between the audience and the artists, without being cliché. A clear standout was her LP title song ‘It Made My Teeth Hurt’, allowing us to hear the scope of her voice with her best song of her set.
This paved the way for the next act Norwegian-born Siv Jakobsen, who possessed the same whimsical air as Kate Bush and Lykke Li. Her vocal range danced from smooth oak to celestial heights in her melancholic twist on Britney Spear’s ‘Toxic’, and she fostered an intense relationship between the audience and her, conversing over her love for performing in churches and her album ‘The Lingering’.
After the venue seemed to have packed out and Billie’s band had set themselves up, Billie walked on stage and shyly picked up her guitar, going straight into her set. What was ironic was that Billie seemed almost surprised that all the people before her were there to see her, despite it being her headline show, murmuring to the crowd “Isn’t it wonderful that you’re all here!”. Needless to say, her voice was delicate and sublime. ‘Lionheart’ in particular was chilling; her singing against the cello, drums and keys was so tender it sounded like a scene from nature. She has a voice which I would be readily put money on its ability to summon woodland creatures due to its beauty. Placing the room in a dream-like atmosphere, Billie portrayed skill and diversity; at one point playing without her band and going acoustic for her song ‘Live’, and even covering with absolute elegance La Roux’s ‘Going in for the Kill’. Overall, the whole set was stunning, with her pure lyrics in the song ‘Milk and Honey’ making the song stand out to me. The gig itself felt intimate and personal; being surrounded by the loved ones of the talent bestowed girl, the way she could notice a phone light when she was being recorded and her humble tone when she mentioned her merchandise on the table a couple meters to her right, created a soft and comfortable bubble I barely wanted to leave. Billie Marten is on her way up, gently and steadily. Make the most of the time she has left in intimate venues, because it reflected her artistry wonderfully and is an experience totally worth going to.