BIRDY – Interview

Foto-© Lotta Boman

Birdy ist nach fünf Jahren mit neuem Album Young Heart zurück und kehrt auf diesem, wie sie uns im Interview erzählt, zu ihren Wurzeln zurück. Entstanden zwischen ihrer Heimat London und auf Trips nach L.A. und Nashville nahm sie sich Zeit und Raum, um ohne viel Theater möglichst nah bei sich selbst zu bleiben. Vorab trafen wir uns via Zoom, sprachen über ihre Arbeit am Album und mitwirkende Kollaboratoren und erfuhren auch mehr über die vorab erschienene EP Piano Sketches.

You’ve released the EP Piano Sketches in 2020. When did the idea form to lead up to the album like that?
I wrote so much for this album, because it had been five years since I released the last one. I had these songs which I really loved but that didn’t quite feel right for the album.. The album was actually gonna come out last year, but then because of the pandemic and me also needing a bit more time and because everyone had been waiting for so long, I thought it would be nice to put something out. Something that was really stripped back and felt like going back to the start, when people first heard me. Because it has been so long it almost feels like a reintroduction.

It must have felt like a really special gift to your fans, to receive in times of such isolation. And us inevitably going inwards and reflecting on things probably creates quite a receptiveness for such raw music?
It felt nice to do something like that, to strip back and also to actually just do something. I had been in the countryside and, like all of us have kind of just been at home, so it was actually really nice to go and play and to record something and to be in London.

Do you feel like the pandemic has changed you as a musician?
I haven’t written or tried to write anything since. I had written so much prior, that I thought right, I’m done now, the album is done. I’m kind of waiting for stuff to come up because I think a lot of it will be about the last year and how I’ve been feeling with all the ups and downs. For me that’s always the way it works. It takes a few weeks to digest and then something comes out. We’ll see what happens.

Surrender and Loneliness you released so far – what made you choose these songs?
Surrender I wanted to be first, because I felt like it sort of gives the most indication of what the album is and how it feels. It’s probably one of the more personal ones on the record, well they all are but that one is quite good at summing up the record. It’s about the conflict I was feeling of missing someone and also kind of making these decisions on my own for the first time. A lot of it is about fate, this record. It questions if it’s going to be okay in the end. Am I doing the right thing? It just felt like a good entry that one. And then Loneliness is quite contrasty and I just felt they’ve fit well together.

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The video for Loneliness was directed by your old collaborator Sophie Muller. What was it like to come together again?
I love her so much. She did all the early videos like Skinny Love and Shelter and Wings. We had the idea to do something backwards and so I had to learn the whole song backwards, so she’d reverse it and I’d be singing the right way around. It was quite weird and it was like learning this whole new language. It’s really beautiful, how she shot it and and all the colours. And I feel like it’s quite different to any of the other videos that we’ve done. With that song I felt like it’s slightly mischievous. I felt like it’s almost two characters. One of them is the loneliness which is leading the other character astray. So it’s not so much about leaving someone, but more just a love song to loneliness.

It’s just such a gorgeous album. I do keep on finding myself replaying Little Blue a lot. What inspired you to write this song?
Thank you so much. That’s been my favourite one, I’m really glad that you like that one. Little Blue is about.. so in the beginning of this record I was in a relationship that ended and the album is about that. Little Blue for me is about the feeling of grief that you have when you separate form someone and it almost is a bit like they’ve died. You can’t talk to them anymore and it is about that feeling. It’s one of the saddest ones for me, on the record. It’s very much in that moment of when it just happened and you are a bit of a mess. I’m trying to remember all the lyrics and what I was thinking when I wrote it, but I think it’s kind of about almost wanting to sit in that sadness. Because once you’ve lost that it means you’re kind of over that person and it talks about you know ‘little blue reminds me of the love I had that’s gone’ it’s like you don’t want to let go of it, you rather want to hold onto this feeling of sadness, because it reminds you and brings you back to that person.

It’s probably that time, when the door is kind of still open and you’re still connected deeply in some ways, right? So you rather feel sad than to let the person slip away..
Exactly, yeah.

You said about the album yourself, that it’s a lot more raw and stripped back to what is essential. How has your journey in the last five years, since Beautiful Lies has been released, impacted that?
I feel like I’ve kind of gone full circle and gone back to the very beginning and when I first started putting out music. I think this came from the last record being the opposite. It was quite dramatic and it really felt like a performance. I really wanted this next one to just be very honest and I don’t want to get to a point where I’m touring it and I feel like it’s a performance. I wanted it to be real and was really determined with everything the I wrote had to really be from the heart. So much of how I’d been writing, I could almost hear a formula to it, just almost. I really try not to do that but I kind of started to hear and to know what’s coming next. I wanted this album to be very from the heart and almost as if no-one is listening. Just how I play when I’m by myself.

And maybe that way, when you share what’s really coming from you, people can connect with it on a deeper level too?
Yes, I hope so. That’s always the music I really love, when you can really feel the emotion and the person is telling the truth.

Oh you see I came across some comments yesterday and it seems like you have such genuine, beautiful fans around the globe. ‘Birdy flies into our hearts for a few minutes, and flies away again, leaving chills.’ How sweet is that? They love you! Do you ever get used to that?
I’m always amazed, also because I’ve been away. And to then come back and still have this amazing group of people that are so enthusiastic and so excited is so nice. A lot of the fans were the same age as me when is started putting out music, so they were all around fourteen too. We’ve sort of grown up together and have been on that journey together, that’s quite nice and I feel like maybe that’s where that bond comes from a bit too.

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You were discovered at such a young age – what advise would you give your young self? If you could be your own mentor?
To just not be so afraid of things. For a long time I was quite afraid to sing and also caring too much for what other people would think. It’s such a hard thing to say to someone, don’t care about what others think and until you’re more sure of yourself and are a bit older. Being strong and believing in your ideas and knowing that when it comes to the music, you know best about that because it’s coming from you.

Would you like to share how the work with Daniel Tashian & Ian Fitchuk went? Where have your paths crossed for the first time?
I wrote a lot fo the alum in LA but then did a trip to Nashville and I met them there. They were so amazing and wonderful. We wrote Surrender and Riversong and just got on so well from the start. It was my first writing trip to Nashville and I loved it there so much. Everyone is a real story teller and that was exactly what I wanted for this album and that helped me to bring the words out. For me the music always comes first and I like someone to be there to be like hey, is this what you’re trying to say? I like to bounce off someone with lyrics. Daniel is an amazing lyricist and Ian is also so talented and very musical. It made sense for them to then produce it. We already got a bit of a sound when we were writing it and it all came very natural.

When you say the music for you always comes first. Did you learn to play the piano too, before you started writing?
I did, yes. I’d always sung and started writing when I was about seven. And I’d written little piano pieces that were a little classical. I remember writing them and one day just thinking oh I might just sing a too and just started humming. My parents were at the bottom of the stairs thinking oh no, what’s wrong with her? Why is she so sad? What has she got to be so said about? So yes but the music has come first always. Most of the time there will be a paint or a vocal melody and I have a feeling what the song is about and then it just takes a while to work it out exactly and hone in on that. Sometimes I write just a random paragraph that cones out of nowhere or just sing a line – which usually ends up as the title.

That way, being discovered at twelve doesn’t even sound as young any more. When you started writing at seven you’re kind of already a pro. Does that process change for you when you play the guitar, compared to the piano?
It does, a lot. It’s changing the writing, because with he piano it’s quite hard to write anything that’s rhythmic. Not that there’s any particularly fast or happy songs on the record, but as soon as I play the piano it becomes more mournful. The piano just does that to me and I think it just has that quality to it, it’s just quite sad. And the guitar makes it much easier to write something that’s feeling a lot lighter. Little Blue was in between, I wasn’t sure first if it should be on the piano or guitar. Because it is so sad so it works really well on the piano, but there’s something almost bitter sweet on the guitar that I liked.

How does it feel to be releasing an album when you’re not sure when you’ll be able to tour it in front of people?
It’s so hard. I’ve been making this for so long now and have been dreaming about playing it live and I really feel like it will translate so well live and it will be really beautiful. I want to get string players and a clarinet player.. I don’t know what we’re gonna do yet. I know lots of people are doing live streams now. It’s not the same, but maybe we could do something like that or I’m also hoping to play open air. Hopefully there’s a chance for that to happen, but probably not until next year.

Can you reign in what has inspired you to work on this album? As in, when you felt ready to create new work?
I’ve started writing it about four years ago. It did take a while, because I had quite bad writer’s block in the beginning. I think I was heartbroken and I had all these ideas that I wanted to write about, but I found it really hard to finish them at that time and I just needed a bit of space. I worked with lots of people in London and it didn’t work out most of the time, because I just wasn’t ready. I was so inspired by Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake and it felt like the right thing to go to LA and work there. So I did a few trips there and I met Wendy Wang and Ben Jaffe there, who I wrote Evergreen with. It was the first song and when I wrote it, it felt like they really understood what the record was. It was so exciting because I could then hear what it was gonna be.

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Sophia Kahlenberg

Sophia, 29. Fotografin. Dann kam das Schreiben. Verspürt starkes Herzklopfen beim Wort ‚Australien‘. Aber Berlin ist auch ok.

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