Jade Bird Debuts Self-Titled Album

Apr 21, 2019
Originally published on April 21, 2019 6:04 pm
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SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

Finally today, some music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOMETHING AMERICAN")

JADE BIRD: (Singing) You don't call me now, and I don't think too much about you. But when she's not around, I can feel you're lonely. Oh, I can feel you're lonely somehow.

PFEIFFER: That's Jade Bird singing one of her breakthrough songs, "Something American." She's 21 but sings like a much older soul. And although her musical interests are diverse, she often gets described as a country and Americana musician. That's even though she's British.

Now Jade Bird is out with her first full-length album. She named it after herself - "Jade Bird." When I spoke with her earlier this week, she explained why she always writes her own lyrics.

BIRD: You're exploring yourself via music. And so I think for - in order to that - to be diluted - that wasn't something I necessarily wanted for my first record, so I made a real attempt to do that with myself. I think it's the only thing that you have that's kind of very unique to you. It's your voice on paper, in a way. So that's why it was so important - you know, being a young woman and growing up and having all these conflicts, there's no one better to tell it than me.

BIRD: You mentioned conflicts. And there is a heartbreak theme to several of your songs. One of them is called "17," and here's part of that one.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "17")

BIRD: (Singing) Stay, let me explain why I act so mean. Don't look away, baby. It's not all that it seems. I'm so afraid that you'll just get up and leave. My heart will break like I'm 17.

PFEIFFER: Anything in terms of the lyrics there that you feel comfortable sharing about what kind of relationships you've been through that result in lyrics like that?

BIRD: Yeah. I think, you know, I use the metaphor of 17 as kind of your first heartbreak almost, you know, being the worst because you're at your most vulnerable when you're young. And it doesn't necessarily have to be 17. I just - people always assume that your first heartbreak is your boyfriend or, you know, something like that. And I don't think it has to be. It's just someone you put trust in that ultimately lets you down. And I think, you know, that has happened, and that's been a big part of my past and my life and so therefore, that was quite a cathartic song to release, almost, and to write.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "17")

BIRD: (Singing) I say less than I should. I say more than I mean. I would try if I could, but I'm all I can be. If I had more, I would change the cover, you see. I have walls that have stood before you ever loved me...

PFEIFFER: Your childhood has been described as kind of tumultuous. You were basically a military brat. You moved around a lot. I think you watched both your parents and your grandparents split up. How did that influence your music?

BIRD: You know, I've been quite obsessed with what that means for me. "Love Has All Been Done Before," which is on this record, is basically about that. It's the fact that I'm - you know, could be in a really good relationship, yet I feel like, you know, my parents' past or my past might dictate what that means for me in the future. Love has all been done before - you know, that - in that respect, it's all going to end the same way. And it is quite a - you know, probably a cynical way of being, and I've kind of learned to come out of that via writing all these songs.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE HAS ALL BEEN DONE BEFORE")

BIRD: (Singing) You are good, and you are pure, the angel knocking at my door. But I need something, something more 'cause love has all been done before. And you are sweet, and you are nice, keep me calm and satisfied. But I need something, something more 'cause love has all been done before.

PFEIFFER: You've said before that you used to think that unhappiness was key to songwriting, although you've also talked about now being in a much happier place in life, a good relationship. Are you at the point now where you feel like having a balanced, joyful life can also make for good songs?

BIRD: Yeah. I've definitely come out the other side in that. The last six months of my album cycle - and it was a two-year process, all in all, which is crazy - I wrote, you know, the majority of my songs that made it onto the record. And I think that was a real lesson for me because, you know, I've got my best friends on the road with me. I'm with, you know, great - I'm in a healthy relationship. And it means I don't have to cause chaos to write good songs, almost, or songs that are of a certain quality.

And so that was a bit of a revelation for me because you always broach with the stigma that you have to be unhappy, and you have to be tortured and stuff. I think it's just processing. I think you always have to process something as a creative. But you don't necessarily have to be kind of morose to do that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SIDE EFFECTS")

BIRD: (Singing) Whatcha (ph) say we just get away? Pack up and save it for a rainy day. It's a side effect of love, my dear.

PFEIFFER: You have said in the past that you would rather be respected than heralded. I think that's the exact quote. What did you mean by that?

BIRD: I think that, you know, I don't really have a need or want to be famous, almost. I really value my anonymity, and I value being able to go and experience a city or a place. And so that's not really what I'm doing it for. But the artists that I really love - you know, Tori Amos, like Carole King, Fleetwood Mac - they seem to have a certain level of musical respect that I would really love to get one day. And that's why I kind of make music - not only to process how I'm feeling to connect with an audience but, you know, also to just know that I've made it on the way to making a really great album, you know. I really - I hope for that one day. That's my ambition.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SIDE EFFECTS")

BIRD: (Singing) Give me a sign, and we'll go. If it's tonight or tomorrow...

PFEIFFER: That's Jade Bird talking to us about her debut album called "Jade Bird," which is out now.

Thanks for talking with us.

BIRD: Thank you so much. Cheers.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SIDE EFFECTS")

BIRD: (Singing) Baby, please. It's just a side effect of changing your life. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.