Although London-based musician Birdy hit 20 just last month, she already has three-full length albums to her name (in addition to award nominations and wins, collaborations with the likes of Mumford & Songs and David Guetta, and over 400 million views on YouTube). Her latest LP, Beautiful Lies, hit shelves this March and was largely inspired by her move to London, away from home, and her reflections about living such an un-average teenage life, in the spotlight. The album has Birdy taking far greater control over her sound than on her first two LPs, both in terms of writing and producing. The album is comprised of pop songs that are as soulful and sultry as they are dreamy and uplifting, but with the poignancy of a true singer/songwriter. Birdy is currently on a US tour, which will have her playing Theatre of Living Arts this Friday, June 10th, and just the other day she took some time to tell me about her career (which began at around 14), her latest album, and her hopes for 2016, which she is spending more or less entirely on the road.
Izzy Cihak: Not to start with an enormous question, but what have been some of the highlights of your musical career over the past five years or so? Your music has wound up in a ton of really prominent places, you’ve achieved and plethora of accolades, and it seems like you’ve been afforded a ton of really incredible experiences.
Birdy: Some of the most surreal and exciting things I’ve done over the past five years are: touring Australia and playing three nights at the Sydney Opera House! I also got to play at the opening ceremony of the Paralympics, which was such a moving experience. I loved writing music for The Fault In Our Stars movie and The Hunger Games. Writing for film is one of my favourite things and I’d love to do more of it.
Izzy Cihak: You recently released Beautiful Lies. Have you had any favorite reactions to it, whether from critics, fans, or just friends? I understand you approached the album a bit differently than you did your first two.
Birdy: For the first time making this album I really knew what I wanted and what it should sound like, which just came from growing up and getting to know myself a bit better. I co-produced six tracks on the album and all of the songs are very personal to me. It’s my favourite thing I’ve made so far and so it’s been so nice to hear that family, friends, and fans are enjoying it.
Izzy Cihak: I love how upfront you are about the album’s non-musical influences, but I’m curious if you think it has any particularly significant musical influences. Was there anything you were listening to a lot at the time, or do you try to largely shut yourself off from other music when you’re writing your own?
Birdy: I write and play every day so I find my ears just need silence a lot of the time, especially when recording, because I’m listening to things all day. I’ve always been inspired by classical music because I grew up with it and so you can hear some of that in my playing. I never grew up listening to Kate Bush but I went to see her play live in London and was so inspired by the world she takes you to, I wanted this album to have an overall feeling like that.
Izzy Cihak: I really love your recent videos for “Wild Horses,” and “Keeping Your Head Up,” in addition to your own personal sense of style. What is it that most influences your visuals? Are there any visual artists you’re really into or style icons that have had a major impact on you?
Birdy: On this album I was really inspired by Japan from a book I read called Memoirs Of a Geisha. The imagery was so beautiful and to me the Geisha represented something strong, yet soft and fragile. I’m wearing a kimono in my album artwork. I’m also inspired by pre-Raphaelite art. I love romantic, eccentric, vintage style clothes. People who I think have amazing styles are FKA Twigs and also Florence Welch.
Izzy Cihak: You have a ton of touring coming up throughout pretty much the end of the year. Are there any gigs you’re especially excited to play or just cities that you’re especially excited to visit or revisit?
Birdy: San Francisco is one of my favourite places. I love being by the sea. I’m also really excited to be coming back to Philly because I didn’t get to try a cheesesteak last time!
Izzy Cihak: What can be expected of the live experience on your US tour? You’re playing some really big venues, including our very own Theatre of Living Arts.
Birdy: I’m playing with a band of five: we have a drummer, bassist, guitarist, violinist, and keyboard player. I play piano and some guitar in the set. My shows are really intimate but there are a few moments where it becomes a bit heavier and psychedelic. I feel much closer to the songs and more confident on stage and I hope people get to know me through my performance.
Izzy Cihak: So you seem to have very little downtime in-between treks of live dates, so I’m curious if you’re planning on sneaking any work into your brief downtime, or time in the bus/van, or if you’re solely focused on these upcoming dates. Can we expect more YouTube videos, even if they’re just live footage or tour diaries from your time on the highway?
Birdy: At the moment I’m focusing on the upcoming shows but I want to make sure to document more of this tour and take loads of videos to share along the way!
Izzy Cihak: And again, you seem to be booked pretty solid throughout the end of the year, so (And this is the earliest in the calendar year I’ve ever asked a musician this.) what do you have planned for the tail end of 2016 and then ultimately in 2017? I’m guessing a brief break will be in order before delving into next year.
Birdy: I’m touring till nearly the end of the year. After my US tour I go to Asia, which I’m so excited for, as I’ve never been! Then after that I do some dates in the UK and Europe. I’m sure I’ll be writing lots and hopefully at some point work on some music for a movie! I’d also love to have a holiday by the sea!