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press conference

BILLIE MARTEN on her newest album Drop Cherries


WORDS by Tessa Swantek  TALENT Billie Marten  PR°1824 

Billie Marten’s newest album, Drop Cherries, feels like a baptism. In the album she learns to let go as her limbs loosen like weeping willows, each golden strand of hair surrenders to the water’s welling, and her lips part letting all that’s been drowning her to swim out. She then rests on the water’s lull as it sings its gentle lullaby.

The first track of the album, “New Idea” is entirely instrumental and is aptly named - it feels like a lustral purification, it smells like sea spray. The next track, “God Above” lyrically starts the album with “Here as I am like the toes on my feet,” which Billie says is “me in my truest form.” She shares, “There’s a song called ‘Aquarium’ on the last album that’s super defeatist and I made note to never write a song like that or feel that way again,” so Billie’s intention was to start Drop Cherries in a newly presented fresh form.  

When asked about words that have impacted her in her life, she shares three quotes that she pinned to her notes app when making the album. Two are quotes from Herbie Hancock - “Real artists worship the ground that music walks on” and “Create the direction you want to move in.” The third quote comes from Alan W. Watts - “Belief clings, but faith lets go.” She says, “For me it means that we spend so much of our lives wanting to believe and we are clinging to success and hope but what we actually need to be doing is resting in ourselves and letting life do its thing.” Both “Acid Tooth” and “I Bend to Him” hum to this notion. In “Acid Tooth” she sings “Ever so slow/ But oh lettin’ it all go/ And oh lettin’ it all go,” and in “I Bend to Him” she sings, “He is the sea I want to swim in/ I bend to him/ I wash my sins/ In the water of his eyes/ And he hears me when I cry/ I wash my sins.” While all tracks of Drop Cherries are recorded on tape, “I Bend to Him” sounds the most stripped back in each audible glottal stop and crackle.


"We spend so much of our lives wanting to believe and we are clinging to success and hope but what we actually need to be doing is resting in ourselves and letting life do its thing.”


As we talk with Billie, she brings up a performance by Nina Simone that she recommends everyone to watch called “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free.” She recalls a section of the performance where Nina leaves her body and says “The spirit’s really moving now.” Billie has always been transfixed by that performance and shares, “There’s something about an outer realm of creative input that happens.” What seems to happen in that performance is faith in music  letting go as her fingers float like a surfer on a foaming wave. Nina Simone’s performance is so highly revered for it being regarded as music in its purest form, and in Drop Cherries Billie plunges into that same purity.

There is purity in each creative element - in analog recording, in knowing when to lyrically subtract, and in color palette and art choices. When talking about the decision to record on tape, Billie says, “In modern music, you can get caught in this chasm of eternal takes and layering. Then you have a full song but it’s not necessarily a performance." She mentions that there is a robust nature to tape which is in contrast to the flatness present in a lot of modern music. “Nothing But Mine” is a track that sounds especially full-bodied as the music shifts from ear to ear like a rolling wave. When asked what track best represents the album, Billie chooses the track after “Nothing But Mine” called “Arrows.” She points out the verse, “Climb the whole tower without ringing the bell/I’m at war with my shadow/Roads dark and narrow/But I am the arrow.”

on Apple Music she describes each track and writes of the song, “[It is] reminding myself to stop talking to myself that way. And originally it was going to be ‘I am the arrow that shoots,’ but that brought a different image to me and it was more of a bow and arrow rather than an arrow that’s shooting through the heart, the Cupid cloud. And it was like, no matter how vague and aloof things are, I know what I’m doing.” In “God Above” she also chose to subtract as she says for Apple Music, “I had the female deity thing in there for a while, and the original lyric was ‘I know God above… And she’s everywhere/And she’s everywhere/But I go nowhere.’ That [last line] was something that came very quickly to me because I’m very good at bringing things back down. Then I thought, ‘No, she’s everywhere. There is this thing and it’s a conscience and you must trust that. Billie was careful in each creative decision and her writing on this album is just one example of falling into simplicity.

“In modern music, you can get caught in this chasm of eternal takes and layering. Then you have a full song but it’s not necessarily a performance."

This simplicity is very present in the album art by Katie Silvester in its cerulean blue and red palette and in Billie wearing linens and a pastoral knit vest. When asked about the album art, Billie says, “If I’m looking back to the first albums, everything was very warm, soft-focused and reminiscent. They weren’t accurate to the time I was in. On this one I wanted to make it powerful in its lack of substance which is what this whole album is - the power of silence. The album art is actually one of the first pictures we took.” Her 2021 album, Flora Fauna, for example, is warmly lit and shows dirt and grass spread across her skin and teeth. Dirt is a common theme in much of her music, however in this album, it is being washed away in a steady stream. In “This is How We Move” she sings, “And I dug myself right up/ The earth was pouring on my brow/ And I knew I was enough” and in “Nothing But Mine” she sings, “I have faith in our love/ Wash my mouth/ Empty out/ All the dirt that you found/ You are nothing but mine.” The latter is perhaps the most evocative of this idea of “faith” flowing through the album.

The album closes its final chapter with “Drop Cherries.” Billie says, “The album ends with lyrics, ‘Now I know what I’m here for.’ It’s very much each song as a chapter and the last one is that I’ve arrived.” When asked about what she has learned over the years she says, “You know what is good and you must follow that instinct. No one is allowed to change your musical opinion.” In this album, she breathes fresh air after all the dirt has been washed from her tongue - she knows what is good and perhaps she finally knows she is good. She references struggling with others categorizations of her music in the past, as she says, “I think ‘ethereal’ and ‘whimsical’ come with the tone, but it also implies to me that it’s weak and that’s something I’m trying to move away from, especially being a woman in music.” While she has a valid point, I believe that ethereal beauty is anything but weak. If there’s anything to learn from Drop Cherries it is that there’s cosmic power in simplicity and lightness. Drop Cherries holds an otherworldly weight that feels as light as a feather, almost like how your body feels when it floats atop the ocean's waves.

To listen to the full album, click here. 

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