Jade Bird’s success on online platforms like Spotify and YouTube took off to hundred thousands of listeners. While fusing Americana with folk and alternative rock elements, it are the honest and relatable lyrics of the singer that really go to the heart and have gained her a reputation as a fierce feminist talent on the rise in the alternative rock and folk circuits. Being out on the road comes hand in hand with a certain level of success but luckily has never been a problem for Jade Bird. She grew up with both parents in the army and while moving around a lot, learned “not to see home as a place but as the family and friends” surrounding her. Today the singer is always backed by a female power duo: her mother and her grandmother, whose guitar was the first one she ever picked up – and never put down. Before she flies away we had the chance to catch the Bird in Berlin for a quick interview.
Red Pants, green cardigan and converse sneakers, the musician surely does not come off like your basic music starlet from the 21st century – and not just because of the throwback shirt with the Velvet Underground pop art print. Nothing tells you more about a person than what kind of music they listen to in certain situations. So to really understand Jade Bird let’s take a look at the some songs that accompany the singer in her everyday life.
Getting angry with Jade Bird: Tori Amos – “The Waitress”
Nobody who has ever listened to a Jade Bird song will wonder why anger is the first emotion to come up on here. Her songs are dripping of rage and wonder about how badly some people treat each other in relationships.
So when I am really furious I listen to this song by Tori Amos I have been obsessed with lately. It is called The Waitress. The snare in the background really gets you going and the lyrics are “I believe in peace bitch”. The track is about this waitress who really cannot stand her coworkers and it is so kickass.
I am certainly a fiery character and I think that anger is an emotion like any other and it should be expressed on a record. There is nothing bad about tracking your vocal and just getting rid of all of your demons. By pouring out your heart and not caring about sounding pitch perfect all of the time, you create magical moments that you would miss out on otherwise. My Motto for example is one vocal and piano take that we were tracking and magic happened. You have to allow that otherwise it is kind of contrived and that is not music.
Being this honest is not easy, especially if your songs get over one million clicks. Has that ever been a problem for you, expressing yourself and your feelings this openly?
I guess we will see if I am too honest. But I am just an incredibly straightforward person and I find it easier to go sleep at night with a clear conscience. The anxiety of lying is too much to take for me, I would probably be up all night writing songs about all of the pressure of it – but again then I would not be a liar anymore. I am probably fascinated with betrayal for that reason. Of course, I have made a lot of mistakes and the record is also about that but I do not think that I am capable of a long-standing betrayal. That is why I write about it so much, because I cannot believe how people can lie like that. But it is so common it is bizarre.
Getting emotional with Jade Bird: Andy Shauf – “I’m Not Falling Asleep”
When I am really sad I like to listen to Andy Shauf‘s I’m Not Falling Asleep. He sings “when I close my eyes I‘m not falling asleep, I am opening drawlers, I am sifting through papers” and I just love how it produces the image of an office in your head constantly working. His lyrics are really stunning.
How intensively you have concerned yourself with the emotions she feels clearly shows on these tracks. Each one is different from the other but in the core they are all telling the story of a young girl figuring out who she is. Has the touring life, which you started at an incredibly young age, taught you valuable life lessons about yourself?
I learn something new about myself every year. For example this year I went on a break over Christmas and I felt really down. I felt like nothing and no one without my music because I did not take my guitar with me. It was really interesting to realize how purpose dictates my feelings. Especially bad emotions do teach you a lot about yourself.
And they make the best songs. A lot of artists claim to be more creative and productive when they are feeling sad. Is that something that you have experienced too?
This is interesting because I wrote half of this album while being in the happy relationship I talk about in some songs. That was a breakthrough for me because I also thought I would never be able to write anything while I am happy.
We glamourise sadness in the means of art and it felt nice to be able to triumph over that.
Falling in love like Jade Bird: Chet Baker “It’s Always You”
My go-to love song would probably be anything by Chet Baker. It’s Always You was playing in the taxi when I met my boyfriend. It was very romantic and I kept thinking how this was so stereotypical. I felt like a walking cliché.
Your songs are mostly about love – the good and the bad aspects of it. Do you still consider yourself a believer in the happily-ever-after kind of love singing about how rough its endings can be?
I fell in love a year ago, pretty much so. So of course I have to be a believer in it. But also I am a believer in the demise of it – as you can tell – and sometimes it plagues me even when I am happy. That is what Love Has All Been Done Before is about, this doom and gloom of wondering whether it is all going to end the same. But I do believe in love. I think it is a very powerful emotion.
Getting hyped with Jade Bird: CAN – “I Want More”
To get super excited and into a good mood I like to listen to Can‘s I Want More. It is off this disco record they did called Flow Motion and I am obsessed with it. It is a get up and go kind of record. We always listen to it before going on stage. My team and me really got into a habit of dancing before each show it boosts the spirit and gets you warmed up. But you can’t bet on your emotions; sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes you just feel shit and it doesn’t matter if you are on stage or off stage. Equally sometimes you feel absolutely great. It’s a gamble I guess. But I kind of enjoy it. It is more personal; you are not getting on stage and doing the same thing over and over.
You have been playing gigs since you were thirteen and went on your first big tour at eighteen. Have you ever been confronted with prejudices concerning your age and skill?
Yeah I get that all of the time. I feel like often it is in the form of labels. You’re country, you are Americana, you are this and that, and I have always felt so confused by that. The expectations are always there and I try to succeed them – even my own. And I have been quite successful at that so far.
Looking at the future with Jade Bird
We are all eagerly waiting for the whole album. Can you give us a little hint about the other songs, like what is the message of the record?
My songs and the entire upcoming album are about my guidance as a young woman through the world. It is less a message and more a biography in a way. It is everything that I have thought about in the last two years.
Twenty is kind of a contradictory age. You are just trying to get things straightened out, but it is impossible. You don’t know where you are half of the time. But just because you don’t know where you are in life does not mean that you are not smart and intelligent. That is one thing I love about Alanis Morissette’s message in particular and that, I guess, is the message I want to get across with my writing too.
How did the writing process come about? Was it all you, or have you done collaborations with other artists?
I wrote the entire album by myself and that was intentional. I felt disillusioned and disheartened with co-writes and teams of people working on your song, telling you how you feel. There is nothing more manufactured than that.
Now, that you are gaining a certain echelon in the music industry, do you see yourself collaborating with other artists in the future?
It depends. Some people are really good at collaboration, like Ryan Adams on his first album Heartbreaker. He is a fantastic collaborator. But I don’t like forced stuff. I would not want to collaborate just to reach more people. I want to collaboration with a person and not only with their name. You know, you won’t be seeing a rap feature on my songs anytime soon.
You described yourself as a very ambitious and I bet thoughts about the next album have already crossed your mind. Do you have any special ideas you want to put into practice in the future?
Yes, of course I am thinking about the second album already. It is always the hardest one in an artist’s career and I want to get on it as soon as I can. I have this idea of recording conversations throughout the year and putting them on the album. Like a reality TV show in an interlude of an album. But I don’t know if it is a second or a third album idea.
There is a lot to expect from this artist on the rise. Jade Bird‘s self-titled debut album will be released on the 19th of April via Glassnote Records.