Alongside this year’s release of Beautiful Lies, Birdy is going on a European tour which shall incorporate many dates in the UK. She is set to perform in Southampton at the O2 Guildhall on Friday 21st October. In light of her performing, we caught up with the artist to discuss her new album, her influences and the evolution of her sound.
If you haven’t had a chance to listen yet, the album is one of great depth and emotion. It’s an album which takes you on a musical journey and as the album suggests – is beautiful. It is a progression of the sound Birdy has developed in her first two albums culminating into a piece of work which grips the listener from start to end. This is achieved through music which ebbs and flows with tempo and tone changes, coupled with a high standard of production that unites a large variety of sounds – particularly of a Japanese influence.
This newest album seems to me to have stronger influences to it in comparison to some of your previous work. Do you believe this could be linked to your move away from the New Forest to London?
Birdy: Yeah it has definitely changed a lot, most of that has actually changed from me growing up and knowing what I want a bit more.
I felt like on my first two albums that I was really experimenting and trying to find who I was.
But this time yeah, it does have a lot more upbeat and uplifting feel to it and a lot of that has come from being in London and being a bit more independent and being more open to new things.
Where do you find inspiration when writing an album?
Birdy: A lot of the sound on the album has been inspired by a book I read called The Memoirs of the Geisha. That was about a girl who gets taken away from her family in the country in Japan and was taken to the city and forced to become a Geisha. It is about her journey and her learning to fight for herself and she has a horrible time but she’s really strong. But a lot of it was the imagery of Japan that I fell in love with, and because of that this Album has that feeling about it, it has a lot of Asian influence, the melodies and the pentatonic scales. So yeah it can come from books, it can sometimes come from just where I am, if I am in London or the countryside, it can create different feelings.
When you say you take inspiration from books, does this mean your mind creates music whilst you go along to the tone of the book?
Birdy: Yeah because I really love doing things for films, so yeah when I’m reading I sometimes imagine music to go along with what I’m reading, because my music is quite cinematic.
Yes, with your first album whenever I listen to it now I always think of the Hunger Games because I listened to it whilst reading it, and they fitted perfectly.
Birdy: I was really inspired by that as well, by that book – it’s amazing.
The album has a strong sense of depth and layers, is this something which you actively attempt to achieve or is it something which naturally flows as you produce the album?
Birdy: It’s not something which I thought about at the beginning – that it was something which I wanted to have lots and lots of layers. It was just something which happened naturally. And the songs I think do stand by themselves without anything on them, which is really important to me that they are good songs on their own without anything on them. But yeah it was quite fun actually to have new sounds, we had a Theremin player* on there, which is so weird, it has such a strange sound, such a ghostly sound, and we had strings – there is a lot of depth to it and I love it.
Parts of it remind me of a Bon Iver album with the different layers of instruments.
Birdy: Oh that’s so nice, I am actually a big fan of his.
Would you ever consider using your creative skills to write a novel or poetry or something along those lines?
Birdy: When I was little I dreamt of writing and doing something along those lines, but I don’t know, I think I am more inspired by them I think to write my music rather than actually have the need to write them myself.
When you finally get to the point of releasing an album to the public is it a relief or is it difficult, having poured your whole soul into it?
Birdy: It is kind of both. This one I had it for so long and I really wanted people to hear it and I was so bored of keeping it to myself. But also it is really scary, especially this album – it is much more personal because I am a bit older and I am writing more from experience – they are my stories. Also I have been involved in everything in this album, from the production to the artwork to the song writing, it all feels very much me which I’m putting it out for everyone to see, so it is scary.
Yes I would imagine it is like stripping yourself bare and allowing everyone in the world to see.
Birdy: Yeah it is that, it is definitely a release, I am definitely free now because I have been holding it in for such a long time.
How has it been performing the new music to audiences? Has there been any particular songs which you have really enjoyed?
Birdy: It has been really fun actually, there’s a lot of different themes in there, and the music move quite nicely. One of my favourites is near the end Winter from my new album which starts of really softly and everyone is getting tired by that point and it is a nice lullaby but by the end it gets quite psychedelic and people are like “oh my god what’s happening” they aren’t expecting it, it’s really fun.
What are your plans for the next year or two? Do you have any more albums in the pipeline, or is it going to be a time to perform the album and then take a break?
Birdy: Well I have been touring so much for this album this year already and I am writing all the time. So I definitely have songs ready to start working on a new album but I’m not really sure when that will be yet. I would love to do some festivals as I haven’t done any this year and that would be really fun to do some of that next year, but I’m not really sure yet.
Yeah festivals are awesome, have you been to any actually on your own for fun?
Birdy: No I actually haven’t really, I went to one when I was 16 which was Wakestock in Wales, that is the only one I have actually been to just for fun, just never had the time.
Is there any albums which you are listening to at the moment?
Birdy: Yes I really love Laura Mvula. I haven’t actually got to listen to her new album which I know has just come out, but I have been listening to her older one Sing to the Moon which I didn’t actually like to begin with. A few years ago I heard it and didn’t get it, but now I’m completely in love with it. So weird how you change, but that and The Staves I’m really enjoying.
Is there any albums which you return to as a staple part of your musical diet?
Birdy: Tracy’s Chapman’s first album, it was always played when I was growing up. It is beautiful, the songs are just so meaningful and so much in there, the lyrics so special.
A bit off topic, have you been enjoying the wonderful weather of late or have you been working too hard to make the most of it?
Birdy: I have been actually enjoying it quite a bit. I live in London now but I come back to the New Forest all the time. I have been swimming in the sea and having lovely picnics by the sea.
I hope you have a nice end to the summer and I am looking forward to seeing you in Southampton.
Birdy: Oh thank you, thank you so much for having me.
As I hope you can pick up from the script of the interview Birdy is a delight to interview. She strikes me as someone who is very humble and a hard worker. If her shows are even half of what her latest album is, it shall be incredible. I hope everyone takes the chance to go see her live and listen to one of the greatest talents performing at the moment.
* A Theremin usually has a controlling section which consists of two metal antennas that sense the relative position of the thereminist’s hands and control oscillators for frequency with one hand, and amplitude (volume) with the other. The electric signals from the Theremin are amplified and sent to a loudspeaker.