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."