Billie –born Isabella Sophie Tweddle – got her early start in music thanks to parents who surrounded her with the music of Nick Drake, John Martyn, Joni Mitchell, Joan Armatrading, Kate Bush, Loudon Wainwright III and northern folk artist Chris Wood (who once told a nine-year-old Billie to “go for it!”). The family lived in the cathedral city Ripon, North Yorkshire, where Billie grew up in and around the Dales. “I feel a lot of emotion [in nature],” she says. “Like this extreme form of empathy. I find it a very comforting blanket. It cradles you, it’s always there. It’s not going away.”
Billie was then signed to Chess Club Records, an imprint of Sony, “the day before my Maths GCSE”. I was revising and then signing in this big glass boardroom.” Not long afterwards, she was nominated for the BBC Sound of 2016, making fans out of Radio 1 tastemakers like Annie Mac and Huw Stephens. Her critically acclaimed debut album, Writing of Blues and Yellows, was a diarist, open-hearted collection of quietly beautiful songs released in 2016, when she was still just 17. The following year, she moved to London, where she worked on her 2019 follow-up, Feeding Seahorses ByHand, which The Line of Best Fit declared a “gentle and reserved masterpiece”.
Towards the end of 2019, Billie underwent a total overhaul, leaving Sony and choosing a new management team. She signed to Fiction records, a division of Universal, in lockdown via zoom. She then went back into the studio and reunited with producer Rich Cooper – whom she worked with on Blues and Yellows – Billie felt empowered to experiment andrediscover herself. “I picked up the bass instead of the guitar – which made all my rhythms different, because I can’t play bass,” she laughs. “That made everything a lot punchier and more direct.” With Rich adding drums to the songs as they were being written, the sound they developed together was one with a rapid pulse and rich instrumentation. The list of inspirations Billie brought to the studio roamed from krautrockers Can – “their rhythms are just bizarre, and don’t make any sense” – to Broadcast, Arthur Russell, and Fiona Apple. “It was such freedom to play, and just be, and explore different corners of me that I hadn’t before.”
Since then, she has toured frequently throughout the UK and US, returning home to record her fourth record, soon to be released in early 2023. Her writing themes explore social commentary, the struggle with modernity vs tradition, nature, mental health, relationships, and a general voyeurism on the world as she sees it.
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