SONGSTRESS Martha Tilston was living the life of a troubadour long before she picked up her first guitar.

Her parents, folk legend Steve Tilston, and artist mother Naomi ran a folk night at Bristol's historical venue The Louisiana.

Martha grew up amongst a bustle of touring musicians, with John Renbourn and Bert Jansch among the Tilstons’ regular houseguests.

“For me it was just normal,” explained Martha, “I remember asking someone as a kid what kind of music their dad wrote.”

On whether this made her creative at an early age, Martha said, “I think it’s our natural state as humans.

“In the West we’re often made to choose whether we’re creative or scientific - but all kids paint and play-act, and they all sing.”

When her parents divorced, Martha relocated to Surrey with her mother, while her father stayed in Bristol with fellow folk singer Maggie Boyle.

While moving between these two homes she started to write her own songs, explaining, “I had some tricky times as a kid and playing piano was my solace and a way of getting out what I felt.”

After a period of ‘rejecting’ her folk music background, Martha became drawn back to it by the storytelling and protest spirit.

“Folk was a beautiful part of my upbringing and it was the first music that made me tingle.”

After spending several years with the band Mouse, she released her debut solo album ‘Rolling’ in 2003 while touring Ireland with Damian Rice.

Martha chose to decline various offers from record labels after that and set up her own label, Squiggly Records, as ‘a way to stay free’.

In 2005 she assembled The Woods, and released ‘Of Milkmaids and Architects’, which earned her a nomination for best new act in the BBC Folk Awards.

Her latest solo album, ‘Machines Of Love and Grace’, includes meditations on modern concerns such as consumerism and urbanisation, and was partly inspired by her becoming a mother.

“It gave me a new sense of urgency,” said Martha, “I didn’t want to mess around anymore with just alluding to what I meant.

“I started to think about what kind of world I want to leave behind for my children.”

Martha Tilston and the Scientists play at the Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal, on February 1.