With a pair of singles heralding her as yet unnamed sophomore album and no chance at touring due to the ongoing pandemic, Jade Bird is enjoying a moment in her new home of Austin, TX. “If I’m talkin’ a bit quiet, it’s because we’ve literally just got a little foster pup and she won’t leave my side,” says the English-born singer-songwriter. At the suggestion that her new friend may move on to someplace more permanent, a reserved sadness creeps into the 23-year-old’s voice, “I’m already in love, so we’ll see.” Bird’s 2019 self-titled debut featured smart, pop-driven effusion that impressed audiences and peers alike with reaching vocals and an affinity for the craft that belied her years. Her palette ranges from quiet balladry that suits her charming lilt to glammy rock n’ roll that carries the hallmark of England’s glorious and glittery past. On February 13th, Jade will perform from the lauded RCA Studio A where she recently completed her new album with producer Dave Cobb. The virtual concert will feature a larger revelation of Jade’s latest effort and showcase a welcome opportunity to play with other musicians– an experience she’s dearly missed.
AI- I read a wonderful quote where you said, in regards to maturing as a songwriter that it’s like, “You’re writing as you’re watching, instead of writing to see.” I think that’s such an articulation of what can happen when you hit the next level, especially during extraordinary times.
JB- I agree. I think for me, being a writer, I definitely wanted to write about others a bit more than myself on this record. And I think I succeeded in doing so, which was a big leap for me like I said, ’cause when you’re young, you really only write about yourself and your own experience. It’s nice to tell other stories a little bit on this next record,
Yeah! I mean, maybe even summer! We’ll see. My plan was just to release it whenever there’s at least a little bit of hope to play live. I just feel like it’s such a musician’s album! It’s pretty much a lot of live instrumentation on there. It kind of happened in two takes, so it so makes sense to release it when I can play live.
Well, then let’s delve into that. You started the project– did you finish it with Dave Cobb?
I certainly did! Yeah! Over, I think, a two week period. He’s just the best! It felt like a meeting of the minds, you know? We both like to work really fast, but you know, with real care and respect for the craft and he made the process so much fun! So much fun! It was not laborious.
I just recently spoke to Charlie Starr of Blackberry Smoke about being up there in the studio with Dave. He talked about Dave’s ability to truly capture the moment and what was going on. And I think that contributes to being able to work at that kind of pace.
A hundred percent! It’s like, for example, we’ll do a few takes and I’ll say, “Oh, you know, I don’t think we got it yet.” Dave would be like, “Absolutely not! No, we got it on the second take… But we can do one if you want to!” And then whenever you do one again, it’s always the take he said it was! He’s just got that ear for the magic take, the best moment. He’s just got that kind of set-up for it as well. Honestly, I say this with no kind of jest, he’s a proper genius. But he’s just funny as well (laughs)!
Who’s on the album with you? Can you talk about any special guests or any co-writers that worked with you on puttin’ it together?
Less co-writers. Weirdly, I’m quite protective of my work and have been since being a kid. My partner (Luke Prosser), who plays guitar for me, kind of wrote three or four with me but more came in after I’d already written the theme almost. If that makes sense? Like the chorus or something. But yeah, as far as features go, it’s more the musicians. I think we had a few of Brandi Carlile’s band play. Like the drummer [Chris Powell], he’s just this big hairy dude, looks so Texas but is actually from LA! But yeah, it was more the musicians, I’d say, than sort of feature features.
You arrived in the United States, started puttin’ all this together in a really, really unique and terrible time. What’s it been like to experience the pandemic so far from home and watch our political savagery while trying to navigate the music business?
It’s a hefty weight to try and do that. For me, I’ve always stayed very true to myself politically in terms of like, I really care about my generation and the future of that. So I’ve been quite clear on where I stand with all that. As far as the actual recording went, we had to fly over to England and due to the pandemic, we had to spend two weeks in Mexico City quarantining– literally quarantining! It was no palm trees and beaches (laughs)! I ended up writing half the album in a little apartment that we had to stay in. I just kind of forced myself to write every day– and that wouldn’t have happened without the climate. So 2020 was a year of very big ups and very big downs for me.
For so many musicians– touring, venues being shut down– it’s been destructive in a lot of ways. And I don’t think that there’s quite an end in sight yet. You mentioned sharing your feelings on the ramifications of the pandemic and what that’s gonna do to the future of music, particularly in your native UK. Do you feel like that kind of adversity could also be more empowering? It’s a rock n’ roll notion, of course, but that idea of having something legitimate to rebel against. I kinda flash back to Brando in The Wild One, you know, What are you rebellin’ against? Whatta you got?
Yeah. Bruce Springsteen as well. And Tom Petty represents a little bit of that freedom in music in a strange sort of clever way. So I think we might see some amazing albums this year. For me, more so when I say I’m looking out for a generation of artists, I know a few cities now– you know, LA, New York, London– they really are pushing artists out of the ether due to like the price-up or the small venues closing. I think that’s gonna take an effect. Hence why I’m moving down here! I’m moving to Austin. I’m moving to spend a lot of time in Nashville. I think artists are gonna start flooding to different places now. I think we’re gonna see a real change in where they are and what they’re creating,
Do you think that change is gonna stem into brand new locations outside of the tried and true? As you mentioned, Nashville, Austin, LA… Do you think that, particularly with social media being involved in the way artists are able to… Well, it’s kinda leveled the playing field to a degree. Do you think that you’re gonna see new centers of creativity?
I really hope so. It’s interesting because usually there’s a scene in a location, but social media’s just kind of blown that up, and there can be a scene online, which is just such a crazy concept! You can have people from four corners of the world creating in the same scene. That’s such an amazing thing! Honestly, it’s hard to say. I’ll never forget that Bowie interview I was watching the other day when he was kind of saying, “Oh, we’ve not seen anything with the internet.” You know, how it’s gonna change the world and he basically predicts it. And the UK hosts is like, “Are you sure? It’s just the internet. What’s it gonna do? And he’s like, “No, this is gonna completely change everything!”
I remember that! And watching him do that. I remember him releasing that first online, digital album. You’re right, he absolutely always was ahead of the curve when it came to the music business and all of it. He knew it then, and we were all just like, “How?”
When was the last time you did a live show in front of a real audience?
Oh, that’s a great question! I think it was February 2020– which is just insane, isn’t it? That’s a whole year gone! Well, to be honest with you, I also did a live stream show in RCA. We did the whole record in RCA studios, and we recorded a live stream, which is full band, biggest band I’ve ever had, comes out on [February] 13th. We all got in the studio and were able to do like an hour set. And honestly, being back up there, it was just so much joy in the room! Even though there was no crowd, even though it was never gonna be the same, it was still enough after a year of being deprived of playin’ live. But I’m looking forward to that!
Is that a concern that you have? That it won’t be able to be the same when you do get back to it?
I think it’s more the adapting. I think everybody’s changed. I mean, we’re now like plant moms and dads and new dog owners and so, you know, quite introverted. I think artists are gonna have to probably navigate through their mental capacity for being back in. It is a machine at the end of the day, so I think that’s gonna be more tough than the experience because the experience of playing live is always magical. I think that’s gonna be tough.
Let’s jump left of the dial just a second. I have to tell you, I am a big Linda Perry fan. I saw you had spoken about making a punk rock record with Linda Perry. I think that is an amazing idea. That may only be in the planning stages or in the dreaming stages, but can you talk a little bit about that idea?
Yeah, of course! Linda, I think we ran into each other a bunch of times, but mainly at Newport Folk Festival. We sort of went on stage with Brandi Carlile, Dolly Parton, as you do! I sang her song “What’s Up”, and we’ve kind of been on each other’s periphery for a while. I went over and I wanted to see if we could create something, and we had a few days in the studio. I was in a bit of a tricky place creatively, but she really just is so honest and brought me out of it. Kind of, “Snap out of it, girl! You’ve got this!” In the best possible way! The concept for the rock record is still really in my brain. It just happened that I wrote more songs for this record upcoming. But you know, I really think I might do it for my third record. I really think that’s in the cards and on the table to work with Linda and to do the third rock record is what I want, I think.
You’ve talked about that freedom, the ability to change from album to album. I wondered and I wanted to ask because this last year has been so emotional on so many levels, are you concerned that you’re gonna be a completely different artist by the time this new project is able to come around? Or are you in fact hoping and counting on that?
That’s always a concern. The good thing is that there’s 14 tracks on this record– 16 cuts and 14 actual tracks. So I feel like I’ve set myself up quite well in terms of like, there’s a lot of music on there to get bored of! And I always test stuff out, you know? I always test my music out first on an audience before it makes the cut. I use them as sort of clearers, I guess. If they like it, then it goes on the cut. If they don’t like it, I assume there might not be something that’s special about it. So that’s been different. But I think I might be all right. I’ll continue to write, and I think there’s enough on this record to keep me entertained for at least a year (laughs)!