Growing up can be a tough time, fraught with that push and pull of learning and growing. It’s something that burgeoning twenty-one-year-old songwriter Jade Bird is distinctly aware of.
“It’s a lot of conflict and contradiction,” she begins, taking a little break from her tour in the US supporting Hozier (today she’s in Virginia). “As a young person you’re constantly going back and forth; one minute you think you know everything, and the next you know nothing. You know, you’re in love, then you’re not. It’s very chaotic.”
It’s this ode to the chaos that’s given Jade status as an authoritative voice for a new generation. She covers everything from being bored of the same old romance (‘Love Has All Been Done Before’), to seeing an ex being played by their new partner (‘Uh Huh’), with songs full of wry smiles and deft earworms.
“That’s what music and songwriting do,” she explains. “[They] allow you to capture that feeling in one song. Nothing’s ever quite simple, and that’s why I try and explore the concepts a little bit deeper.
“At twenty-one, you’re trying to work everything out about who you are and, it’s like on ‘Ruins’ where one of the lyrics is ‘I don’t know who I think I am’, and I’m not sure who I am and blah blah blah. All of this is a rhetoric of trying to figure it out.”
Wherever she takes to the stage, crowds are singing along word for word with the same enthusiasm that Jade herself musters with that cracking voice of hers. Most notable however is the ease of which she brings together a little bit of this and a little bit of that to create the sonic joyride that is her self-titled debut album.
“I’ve found genres quite constricting up until now,” she says. “They hinder more than help. If you come to a live show you see me play the piano, you see me sing a ballad, and you see me rock out – to slap a label on anything is quite limiting. With this album, what it’s going to allow me to do, and not allow other people to do, is smack a label on it. I consider myself a songwriter, not an ‘alternative singer’ or a ‘blues player’.”
Just as all her musical peers are Frankenstein-ing their way into the hearts of the switched-on masses, Jade’s exposure to her influences has been made significantly more comfortable by the technological world we now inhabit. “I’m a child of my generation in that respect because you have so much access to so much,” she reasons.
Her ability to traverse whatever the hell she feels like listening to (“I can flip from Sonic Youth to Andy Shauf, to Florence and the Machine”) has given Jade a sound fit for 2019, breathing fresh life into Americana and folk with a hook everyone can get behind – hopefully, it’s just the start of something big.
“I’m twenty-one, and I hope this debut isn’t the best record I make,” she muses. “I know with this record it’s all I could’ve done up until now. I want to get better in terms of [being a] writer and guitar player. There are all those things that I want to get better at and that comes with confidence; you get conviction, and I want that journey. I’m really excited for that journey.”
As for the sudden influx of attention: “It’s a concern. I don’t have any real interest in being a celebrity. I don’t particularly thrive off anybody knowing the details of my life, so that’s a scary prospect for me. At the end of the day, it’s the price you pay for wanting everybody in the world to hear your songs, which I think is a normal ambition for any songwriter.”
“You want that universal connection just by being yourself and not changing for the world,” she continues. “I’m quite a private person. However, these songs are very personal. It’s a risk, but I’m happy that one person will listen and be like, ‘That’s exactly what I feel, that’s exactly what I’m going through’. I’m fine with that as long as you can help, more than anything.
“In some respects, you have to sit and ask yourself the question – ‘Do you want to be famous?’ I asked myself that question a few years ago – what is my intention, what am I in it for? I generally concluded that it wasn’t for fame or money; it was for the experience of life and writing to be heard. I guess pure intentions can get you to a good place.”
With a bunch of support runs and a headline tour booked in for the tail end of this year, and more importantly, that debut album, Jade’s heading to bigger and brighter pastures thanks to her relatable, no-nonsense charm.
“I think honesty is the most that I crave in any art form [but] I don’t know what the word for it is… that’s what I’m craving to see, and that’s what I’m producing. It’s honesty; it’s in my head, I put it down on paper and then sing it to people… there are no airs or graces.”
Taken from the April issue of Dork. Jade Bird’s self-titled debut album is out now.
Words: Steven Loftin