Martha Tilston is a captivating performer, an enchanting singer-songwriter blessed with a gloriously clear and seductively beautiful voice. Weaving her magic spell over listeners wherever she plays - from the concert hall to the campfire, from folk clubs to main festival stages - she is a rare gem who has the power to draw an audience into her world and create an intimate space where her words and music dance and delight, leaving all those present with a smile, a warm feeling inside, and a few issues to ponder, too.
It is hardly surprising that Martha is such an original and accomplished performer. She grew up surrounded by music, art, poetry and drama, always encouraged to express herself through the creative arts. Her father is acclaimed singer-songwriter Steve Tilston; stepmum the glorious London-Irish folk singer Maggie Boyle; her mum Naomi is a talented artist, while stepdad Frank is a theatre director.
Hearing folk luminaries such as Bert Jansch, Ralph McTell and John Renbourn playing in the kitchen with her dad, and learning traditional songs from Maggie Boyle formed the background to Martha's love of folk music. Having inherited her mum's artistic talents, Martha paints the artwork for her albums.
A lo-fi release, Rolling, mostly sold through word-of-mouth and at gigs, came in 2003. Steadily gigging, and adored by an ever-growing fanbase, in early 2005, Martha released her first full-scale album, Bimbling – a term meaning wandering about aimlessly but still arriving somewhere pleasant, readily recognised by the alternative protest and festival crowd. It is an enchanting and intimate selection of songs, the tracks interspersed with ambient soundscapes from summer music festivals. The whole project was funded by selling the original canvases she had painted to provide the artwork for the CD. In 2006, a free download album, Ropeswing, followed, the first to feature her backing band The Woods.
Ever brave in her songwriting and never compromising her principles of independence when questioning and confronting social issues and drawing attention to causes close to her heart, this album featured Corporations which highlights the immorality of corporate culture and relentless materialism.
It was in 2007, though, with the critically acclaimed Of Milkmaids & Architects, that Martha began to come to the attention of a more mainstream audience, and in that year she was nominated for best new act at the BBC Folk Awards. The album included Artificial, a song that struck a chord with so many of her audience, telling of the frustrations of working in an office and dreaming of an escape route...
It was this song that formed one of the central points of her imaginative, Arts Council funded "Into The Woods" tour, where her dramatic and musical backgrounds combined. With inventive stage settings, Martha managed to bring the woodland and campfire experience vividly to life in venues throughout the country. IT was followed by an EP Till I Reach The Sea. Sshe appeared on many radio shows and festival main stages, though she continues to adore small, underground, alternative festivals and gigs.
Having had a break from live performing last year to have a baby, Martha’s new album Lucy and the Wolves, to be released in the UK in April. The album, which again features members of the Woods - including Lamb bass player Jon Thorne - is a stunningly beautiful selection of 11 songs.
As always, she remains the free spirit questioning without confrontation, and finding a way directly to people's hearts with her exquisite words and music.
Website: Martha Tilston
YouTube: Martha Tilston, Kingston, Surrey in April 2007