All Access With Birdy
In many ways, English singer-songwriter Birdy is just an average teenager. The quiet, unassuming 16-year-old loves ‘The Hunger Games,’ spending time with friends and shopping, and she’s a fan of the boy band One Direction. However, these ordinary adolescent qualities are definitely overshadowed by extraordinary ones. Birdy, whose cover of Bon Iver‘s ‘Skinny Love’ catalyzed her career, is a gifted pianist with a hauntingly beautiful voice and an easygoing, comfy-chic style that would make even the hippest girl envious.
Diffuser.fm recently had the privilege of getting to know Birdy a little better. We followed the artist — whose real name is Jazmine van den Bogaerde — around for the day, trailing in her shadow as she visited the Warner Music Group office, performed at the ad agency Droga5 and stopped at a nail salon for an MTV interview. Although she tends to remain quiet, when she speaks, she is eloquent, humble, polite and an absolute joy.
During a short interview at the WMG offices before our NYC excursion, the U.K. native discussed her full-length debut, what’s coming next and her collaboration with Mumford & Sons. Fresh off a performance at Outside Lands, one of her biggest shows to date, Birdy also explained the meaning behind her stage name. “It was given to me when I was a baby by my parents,” she said with a shy smile. “When they used to feed me, I’d open my mouth really wide like a little chick.”
On top of being a classically trained pianist (her mom, a concert pianist, began teaching her at the age of 6), Birdy is a songwriter. This is why it’s particularly interesting that she decided to make her debut with a collection consisting mostly of covers.
“The covers album was after ‘Skinny Love’ did so well on the radio,” she said. “Being at school, although I had lots of original material … it wasn’t enough for a whole album.”
But the attention that ‘Skinny Love’ got her was enough to secure a collaboration with Mumford & Sons on the track ‘Learn Me Right,’ written for the Pixar movie ‘Brave.’ With a big smile, showing off her perfectly straight, now braces-free teeth, Birdy talked about working with the band.
“I think they heard me singing on the radio and they needed a female vocalist for the song,” she said. “They really liked my voice and just got in touch. I was so excited because I’m such a big fan of theirs. It was so much fun recording with them and they’re great.”
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And although no Mumford & Sons tunes appear on her covers LP, she mixed personal favorites — she’s a huge fan of Fleet Foxes and Phoenix and she grew up listening to artists like James Taylor — with suggestions from others. But like her idol Adele, she writes her own songs, too, and the newcomer wanted fans to get a taste of her own style — ergo, the inclusion of ‘Without a Word.’
‘Without a Word’ isn’t the only original Birdy song floating around, however. She wrote and recorded the track ‘Just a Game’ for ‘The Hunger Games,’ and she performed the tune while we were at Droga5. Later, during lunch, Birdy revealed that she actually half-wrote ‘Just a Game’ and pitched to the franchise before its completion. She’s a huge fan — FYI, she read all the books in a week and loves Katniss and Rue — so she was really gunning for a spot on the record.
From this move alone, it’s clear Birdy has a lot of guts when it comes to her own songwriting, and it’s steps like this that have paid off, since her song made the cut. And if her follow-up LP, which will consist of all original material, is anything like ‘Without a Word’ and ‘Just a Game,’ we can’t wait to hear what Birdy’s got cooking.
“I’m writing lots of new stuff and I’ve [have] lots of ideas,” she said. “I haven’t finished anything yet, and there’s no like names of songs. I’m just experimenting a lot.”
“I think the topics will focus around the past year and the experiences that I’ve had,” she added. “It will be about change and people and just life, really. I think it’s gonna be quite a similar sound but a bit more of my personality, since I’m writing the songs … For me, my goal is definitely just to get my own music out there and that people like my songs.”