The Local: Martha Rowsell at The Jericho TavernMartha Rowsell’s favourite venue was a retro clothes shop back home in Brighton. ‘I was surrounded by all these dresses from the 1930’s. It was really quiet, and the woman who owned the shop had make homemade cakes and coffee and stuff. Everyone was packed in amongst the clothes and there were only about twenty people there, so it was really nice and intimate.’

Perhaps that’s how you’d describe Martha’s sound when I saw her at the Jericho Tavern – ‘nice and intimate’. In her second year at Brasenose, she plays alone, accompanied only by an acoustic guitar. Her set in support of indie outfit The Vice was pretty varied, ranging from the mellow and romantic to the more ebullient. Much of her writing comes from her own experience as a student. ‘It always makes me worried that if I wasn’t a student, and was a full-time musician, I wouldn’t have enough material!’ Does it qualify as procrastination, I wonder? ‘The guitar’s in my room, I’ll write a song – anything to avoid writing the essay! My favourite song of my own is always the one I’ve recently written; the latest one is about the noises the radiator makes in my room.’

I ask her about what Oxford has to offer for budding musicians, and after some positives, she offers me a horror story. ‘I got offered a festival by a guy in a music shop. He said it was just half an hours bike ride out by Abingdon.’ This ‘festival’ turned out to consist of a few drunken punters in a field watching her and another band. ‘The stage was a plank of wood, like a pallet. It was pissing down. In the end we all drank and chatted, but it was pretty weird!’

Martha sees her life as split between the two pressures of studying and performing. ‘Half the time I’m doing a degree, half the time it’s music’. And where does she hope it will it take her? ‘Carolina, Tennessee, Jacksonville,’ she answers, jokily. ‘I’d like to be a musician. I want to play as much as possible. If I get a job out of it, that’s brilliant, but if I don’t I’ll still love it.’by Nick Coxon