Birdy broke big internationally with her self-titled debut album of covers — topping charts around the globe. Last month the 17-year-old returned with a sophomore set of original material — packed with similarly somber songs but also the occasional booming pop chorus and catchy hook. It’s a subtle transformation but an important step in the evolution of an already prodigious talent.
I recently caught up with Birdy for a quick chat about her US campaign. (She’s not releasing her LP here until 2014, choosing to lead with an EP of old and new material called Breathe instead). She’s a woman of few words but exceedingly polite and endearing. See what the Brit has to say about Fire Within, teen contemporaries like Lorde and her new direction after the jump.
“Wings” has a booming pop hook, which is something new for you. Was the move in that direction intentional?
I think it’s always been inside of me but I didn’t really get to explore it in the first album because each song was quite stripped back, so it was really nice to explore that and I think Fire Within is an interesting mix of old and new.
Was the change a result of the people you worked with?
I think it’s just from being inspired by different things and traveling a lot. The main inspiration of the album has just been change really and the different people I’ve met and places I’ve been.
Is it scarier to release an album of original material in comparison to covers?
Yes. I’m definitely nervous but more excited than anything writing is what I’ve always wanted to do, so it’s exciting.
The rest of the world already has the album but the US got an EP called Breathe. Please explain.
I think it’s nice because in America it’s better to introduce everything a bit slowly. The first album wasn’t played as much there, so people really haven’t heard anything of my own material — so there’s a mix of old and new on there. Hopefully I’m coming to America in spring time.
Tell us more about the video for “Wings”. It looks like you’re the loneliest girl at the party.
[Laughs]. The is actually about having a really wonderful time with your friends and it’s kind of about that memory of it. All my friends and family were involved in the video, so it was really fun. It’s just looking back on a party, I guess. I wanted it to be almost like a festival and then the director Sophie Muller decided to make it a bit weirder with a carnival theme.
It’s quite a change from the themes on your first LP.
Yeah. I think on the album it’s a real mix of old and new, so I think “Wings” especially being the first single — it was kind of like a stepping stone. To me it is different but it also has that kind of melancholy feel to it. Which is a bit more like the first album.
Is “No Angel” the next single?
It’s not decided but it’s one of my favorites. I think it’s the most like the first album. I wrote that with Ben Lovett from Mumford & Sons.
What was it like working with him?
He’s really great. I got to work with the band a while before that. So it was really nice to work with him. I went to New York to write the song and we had a few days to think up ideas.
Is the song about you?
The song is actually about the fact that nobody is perfect and noone should ever expect someone to not make mistakes. Everyone is human.
It sounds personal.
Yeah it is. It’s about someone I know. It’s just about relationships and how things can change.
So it’s your favorite?
That one and a song called “All About You”, which is one of my favorites just because I wrote it on the guitar. The first one I ever did. It was really new to me and means a lot to me.
How did you learn to write songs? It’s a craft.
For me it’s always just been something that I love doing. I just wrote songs and wasn’t really worried what the outcome was. It’s just been something that is quite natural and I had to do. I don’t know. [Laughs].
There are a lot of young female artists coming through at the moment. Lorde is an example. Does that inspire you?
Yeah definitely. I’m definitely a fan of Lorde. I’ve heard her music, I think it’s great. I think it’s really cool just to be discovering new music from artists that are young.
What music are you listening to at the moment?
I really like Jake Bugg. I’ve been listening to him a lot. A new band called London Grammar, I think they’re really good. And also HAIM. I think they’re really great.
Back to your American campaign! Will there be new songs on the US version of Fire Within?
The EP has “Wings” and “Shine” that are from the album and two old ones. I’m not sure what the plan is at the moment. I’m always writing new songs so who knows what will happen.
Maybe you could just stick on a couple of bonus tracks? I’m kind of greedy.
Fair enough. If you could pick up the phone and collaborate with any artist, who would it be?
I don’t know. I’m a huge fan of lots of different artists. I love Fleetwood Mac and Keane and Paolo Nutini is one of my favorite artists.
I’m pretty sure they would say yes. Anyway, love the album. Can’t wait to see you in the States.
Thank you so much. Nice to talk to you.
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