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Martha Tilston, A Musical Goddess

She grew up surrounded by folk legends, art, and theatre from England and Ireland. It all mixed up to create Martha: An earthy lady who sings like a heavenly bird and paints like a dream. She's touring in May, so do read on.

Written by Helen Martin

 Gareth A Hopkins _ Martha Tilston _ Ameliasmagazine _480dpx

Illustration by Gareth A Hopkins

If you’re feeling a bit delicate and would quite like to be wafted by a soft feathery fan type device, as you contemplate, Martha Tilston is for you. With songs entitled; Wild Swimming, Rockpools, Space and Firefly, she is all about sweet country and looking out from under the covers. But with the protection of delicate notes and kindness.

I first discovered Martha Tilston a few years ago and to be honest, I didn’t really want to tell anyone about her. She is my safety blanket and makes me feel at home. Back when she and I met, I had just left University in Cornwall and was at a loss as to what the hell to do next. My boyfriend and I moved to Bristol and temped for a hideous agency. All winter we were stuck working together inputting money off coupons for Tena Lady. Fabulous for any relationship. We’d cycle there, numb ourselves for eight hours, then cycle home. I kept a notebook by my desk and had my i pod streaming Tilston. I wrote loads in those endless, dark hours.

Then our bikes got stolen, we were laid off Tena Lady, our rented flat was put up for sale and I wrote even more. Tilston is good as a background to “Why is the world doing this to me?!” She restores faith. I give you Lucy:

Literally surrounded by art, Martha Tilston must have found it hard not be inspired as she grew up. She was born in the West Country and is the daughter of English folk singer, Steve Tilston. When her parents split, she moved to somewhere just outside London with her artist mother, who remarried a theatre director. As a teenager she would play the piano every night to the family. This led to Tilston writing songs and then picking up the guitar. Throughout she also visited Bristol, where her father and stepmother, Maggie Boyle- also a folk singer – lived. There she would spend time with folk legends like John Renbourn and Bert Jansch. Imagine! How could she not be arty?

Illustration by Karina Yarv

In 2000, she formed a duo, Mouse, with guitarist Nick Marshall. Releasing two albums, they became extremely popular with the more underground loving, festival goers. However, Tilston decided to go solo in 2002, supporting Damien Rice on a tour in Ireland. Then in 2005, she released her first full length album, Blimbling on her own label Squiggly. This album holds Brighton Song, (which is where she was living at the time) a song I adore and makes me think about my years growing up in the hills next to the coastal city. Ah – nostalgia. Bimbling was funded by selling the original canvases she had painted to provide the artwork for the CD.

Martha Bimbling

Bimbling album available on Squiggly Records – Art work by Martha Tilston

Tilston was nominated for Best New Act at the BBC Folk Awards in 2007. She has since become increasingly popular and has opened the Acoustic Stage at Glastonbury. However, she still loves impromptu and small shows. Her love of music outshining any desire for glitz. Her latest album Lucy and The Wolves, (Squiggly Records through Proper) is out now. It features her glorious band; The Woods, comprising of a host of instruments, including the mandolin, cello, violin and double bass. They truly add and compliment the atmospheric, delicate sound. Favourites include the aforementioned; Wild Swimming and Rockppols. The former, a slow, purposeful song full of delicious lust and feeling. The simile of liberating and beautiful night swimming, illustrating the purity of her love. Whilst Rockpools is also dedication to love and nature, it is centered more on her comfort found in the landscapes and nuggets of beauty. Eyes clapping on a tiny piece of peace, that at that second is shining only for you to see.

Martha Lucy and the Wolves

Lucy and The Wolves available on Squiggly Records through Proper. Art work by Martha Tilston

To summarise; Tilston is thought out, dancing on the hills, living in yurts complete with outdoor fires, English folk. If you like artists like Mary Hampton, Alela Diane and gentle Bellowhead, and you don’t know about Martha Tilston already, then you really should listen. If you don’t like folk, listen anyway, as she will make you feel wrapped up and safe on a blustery January day. Like today.

Martha Tilston‘s albums are available on Squiggly Records and she is touring in May, with dates to be released – Watch out for listings on Amelia’s Magazine.


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