You probably haven’t heard of British musician Jade Bird yet, but soon she might be a household name. At only 21 years old, Bird has taken North America by storm with her Billboard-dominating singles Uh-huh and Lottery — the latter topping the charts at No. 1.
She’s promoting her upcoming debut album on an American tour with her current band, which features her explosive vocals and powerful guitar-driven tunes. This is her second North American tour and the first as a headlining act.
WATCH BELOW: Jade Bird’s Billboard no. 1 single, Lottery
It’s not only her music but her talent, infectious charm and unpredictable wit that have won over an influx of new fans. She’s gaining heavy traction rapidly.
Global News sat down with Bird before her only Canadian show in Toronto. She talked to us about her passion as a songwriter, her biggest musical influences and her breakthrough inaugural EP, Something American.
Global News: You’re here in Toronto wrapping up a North American tour?
Jade Bird: Yeah, this is the last week of it, it’s kinda crazy!
How does it feel so far? Doing another American tour for your EP?
It’s kind of like there’s peaks and troughs of pressure. All the shows have been amazing, but you feel more relaxed outside of the big cities. We’ve had Austin, L.A., New York. They’re always a little more high-pressure. With Toronto, I think there’s a little bit of pressure tonight at the Horseshoe Tavern. The Pixies used to play that venue, so y’know. It’s all fun really. You’ve got to enjoy it in the moment.
You started playing music at a young age. Was that always your ambition? Or was there a specific person or influence that pushed you towards it?
I’ve always been into music. My mom and dad used to always play music in the house. They were ’90s teenagers when they met, so it used to be a lot of club music and stuff like that. Like trance. My parents were really into trance. Evil Queen was one.
They weren’t into Oasis or Blur? The big U.K. rock scene?
Less alternative, less rock, more dance, more electronic. But when I was 12 or 13, I found the acoustic guitar and got into guitar music ultimately, like Black Motorcycle Club, obviously Neil Young, Crosby, Stills and Nash. For me, it was like a rebellion. Whereas I feel most people start with their parents’ records. Then I went through this big long journey where I found The Civil Wars, Alanis Morrisette — who, y’know, is from Canada . Since then it’s been constant, really. I’m always looking and discovering.
That shows in the music. This year, you were nominated for the BBC Sound Award, so congrats on that!
Obviously, that gave you a lot of publicity. Do you find that people are pinning you down to one genre, or how do you like to see yourself?
I’m a product of my generation in terms of … I’m exposed to each and every genre and artist that I could possibly want. So I guess it plays out in my music. I’d consider myself an alternative singer-songwriter, whereas “Americana” is being said a lot. If you write your own lyrics now, and those are the main focus in the EP… people tend to approach it as Americana, which is wild. That’s what leads people to it. But it’s just whatever people want; as long as they like the music.
You’re working on your debut album now, is that right?
Yeah, I’ve written six new songs in the past three months and they’ll all be on the album. We’re testing them all out in my live show now, to workshop them into an album space. It’ll be out early next year.
WATCH BELOW: Jade Bird’s smash hit, Uh Huh
When it comes to writing, do you go into the studio and just record some songs or are these ideas that have been with you for a long time?
Well, Something American was ready for a long time. It was everything up to that point. I’ve been writing since I was about 12 or 13 and playing the guitar the same. I used to write a song a day as a kid for a really long time, so I’ve probably got hundreds of songs now.
Do you think any of those songs from earlier on in your life will make it to a future album or recording?
I wouldn’t be surprised at some point. I feel like I’m just getting better and better, and the artists that I admire, y’know, Patti Smith, Bowie, all these massive greats that you aspire to … they never look back. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if it made its way out of the woodwork, but I really don’t think you can be reliant on previous material.
That means new material. But I imagine you still play some of that stuff live?
Sometimes. There are a couple of staples. There’s one I always start with, called Run and Hide, which I’ve been playing since I was like 15 years old. It’s one I wrote when I was 14. There’s a couple like that that make you feel comfortable, but you do have to launch out of your comfort zone sometimes. I’m finding that with the band that I do that more so than I’ve ever done before.
With songs like Lottery and Uh Huh, do they come from personal experience or are they ideas that you’ve thought about?
Lottery was an experience I had. #4 Ferdinand Street was a blues bar I grew up playing from about the age of 16. I moved to London with my mom to pursue a music career. So that was direct. It’s in the lyrics: I was 19, you were 23/We stayed in #4 Ferdinand Street. It’s so literal it hurts. Whereas Uh Huh, I wrote both of them in the same day in upstate New York, where I record everything, and it was kind of imagination. It’s about karma. He cheats on you, he gets cheated on. Cheating tends to come up a lot in my songs. Betrayal fascinates me. I think the fact that you can trust someone so much and then they go against that has always plagued my writing for some reason.
Karma is real.
It’s true, karma is real!
Is there a specific direction you’d like to take with this new album?
Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been listening to a lot of punk, which has influenced this new guitar style. Sonic Youth, Bikini Kill — who my manager introduced me to — just a load of heavy guitar stuff. There’s a new band called Cherry Glazer which I really like. That’s all whittled down into a lot more heavy electric guitar and as we’re seeing now, that’s dying in terms of a style of music; indie bands aren’t really coming through, so we’re getting some electric guitars back and getting that feedback sound.
Jade Bird plays the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto on Oct. 2.
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