When last we spoke in February ’21, Jade Bird was hovering somewhere between anticipation and dread, elated with a new album in the can but wary of its street date and increasingly dim pandemic tour prospects. Flash-forward to today and the 23-year-old English songstress is currently supporting the much-anticipated release of Different Kinds Of Light with a fun run through UK record stores while champing at the proverbial bit to dive headfirst into her first United States tour since COVID-19. Recorded in Nashville over a 2-week session with it producer Dave Cobb, DKOL sidesteps the Americana chanteuse cannon often leveled in Jade’s direction, blending guitar alt-magic and sophisticated tone with lean confessional, confrontational compositions full of Marr-ish Britpop caution and reverb-drenched attack.
AI- You’re in the UK right now. Was there a tour happening back home? Is that what was goin’ on? Or is this just a trip home before you get out on an honest-to-goodness tour?
JB- No, this is a record store tour. I’m goin’ to all the local businesses and playin’ for a few smaller crowds and then a few festivals. And then I come back to do my American tour! So it’s all very much go!
I love record store shows! Obviously, it’s an intimate setting, but you work so hard, you put so much effort into making a record, and then to actually be able to watch people physically have it in hand– that’s got to be a thrill!
Yeah, it’s amazing! I’ve found people are just so enthusiastic because it’s been so long since they’ve been out. I’m a lot of people’s first gig back in England. That’s been a huge honor!
When we had a chance to talk about [the album] before, there were so many things that were still under wraps as far as songs and content– even the album title at that point in time. It amazes me, and I know it’s something that you’ve spoken of in-depth about, how you are perceived as an artist, oftentimes in the realm of Americana. But you have made just a wonderful Britpop, rock n’ roll album, I think, from start to finish! I don’t know if I want to say it defies genre, but it certainly encapsulates more than what you have been labeled as up ’til now.
I’m glad you said that. At the end of the day, I think what comes through is just a passion for music. The good thing about me and Dave Cobb, who I recorded it with, is we do go from lovin’ Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson and Brandi Carlile to Oasis, Blur, and Cocteau Twins. I think the album speaks to that. You have some of these raucous guitar records and then you have the tones of all the country records I love. So it does walk that line– no pun intended!
I also love, while there are some songs that sort of stretch out the narrative a little bit, that you’ve also got it just perfectly compartmentalized with two to three-minute excellent songs.
Oh, thank you very much! I never write long songs. I think I’m maybe Gen Z or something! I always wrap it up in two minutes. I guess the Beatles did it too. Maybe I’m takin’ after them!
I watched your Songwriting Session video about the title track, “Different Kinds Of Light”. I absolutely love the acoustic guitars that underwrite that whole track. You didn’t talk too much about that, but you did dive into the blending of the Mellotron and a great story about Gillian Welch and those drum sounds from Soul Journey that you’ve been tryin’ to replicate. Somethin’ that really struck me throughout that video, you talked about how in the past, you wouldn’t keep songs that you didn’t finish. You’d just toss ’em away and go onto somethin’ else. Which I find extremely strange. Once upon a time, I myself wanted to be a songwriter, and there were times where I had things that I held onto for years that eventually… I dunno, I grew into them? But you don’t do that anymore. You are a little bit more careful about what you preserve now, right?
I guess. I mean, I go back to songs. I don’t just toss ’em to the side straight away. My recycling period for songs is still incredibly low. I move so quick– maybe because I’m young in style and maturity of lyrics. It’s almost impossible for me to look back sometimes ’cause it almost feels like another phase and era of myself. So I think maybe that’s the reason I do kind of toss ’em to the side is I’m almost growing out of everything I write– in a good way!
That’s something that we did talk about last time– you growing at the rate that you are as a performing artist and as a recording artist, and where you would be by the time this album came out. It’s vast. We talked about some of these songs being these perfect pieces, but at the same time, we are talkin’ about 15 tracks in total. That’s a lot of music for you to have to put out at one time. How are you feeling about that now? You’re doin’ the record store tour but then you’ve got another huge tour on the way. Having lived with these songs for so long, are they just bustin’ to get out? Or are you ready to move on?
Oh, totally! I think it’s a testament to the record that I’m still not bored of it in any way! I lost the link to my own album– so I was waiting on Spotify, like everyone else (laughs), to remind myself of it! But I’m just so excited for the American tour! I feel like the live show has just come on leaps and bounds, and I’m just so excited for people to see that, really!
I saw some of the footage from your RCA studio show, and yeah, when you talk about that live performance, the guitars and the amplifiers and just that energy and everybody into it, I can see how you’re excited to make that happen. You’re slingin’ your Telecaster and everything! I love “1994”, that grating distortion, the reverb– that’s the kind of stuff that gets my angst acting up in a very good way! It reminds me of a time when radio was more revolutionary and more confrontational, I think than it is now.
It’s certainly not trying to fit into any sound, I’ve never really done that. I always try and make something new that I haven’t heard before in a way. I think “1994”, that guitar is just insane! It really reminds me of Mick Ronson. I remember when Luke [Prosser] first did it in the studio and we were all like, “Oh, that sounds so good!” Yeah, one of my favorite guitar sounds on the record with that! I’m glad you picked that up!
You brought up Luke. I believe the song “Red White and Blue”, there’s a story there involving him, a guitar, and a Vietnam veteran?
I was writin’ the record in upstate New York, which is where I always go. It’s like a bit of a spiritual home for me. Luke always buys and sells guitars, and he told me one day he was going to go over to Virginia to do so. I was like, “What are you doin’? You’re a British guy just goin’ into the middle of nowhere!” (Laughs) I was like, “Is he ever gonna come back?” He phoned me up one day and told me he landed and told me this very moving story. He was bein’ driven to the bank– ’cause his card didn’t work– by this guy, and there was some really obvious signs of sort of PTSD and hallucinatory symptoms. This guy was obviously selling his guitar for healthcare bill reasons. I thought it was just such a moving situation. I think it’s so interesting in that record, the way I start it, you can almost tell, I never intended to write that song. It sort of just came to me instead. The first lyric is like, “Have you ever thought that the first chord you hit might be the one?” It’s not specific to that story, but then it just fell out of the clouds!
Do you often find that happens when you write songs? That there’s a real-life instance, real-life story from someone else that inspires you to take it and run with it?
Yeah! Sometimes it’s a word or a situation. I’ve been becoming more fictional. “1994” is super fictional. “Punchline” is not necessarily based on anyone, in particular, I just had this small town couple that reminded me of where I grew up in mind. So I think in that sense, it’s more boundaries that are just going. I don’t have to write about MYSELF anymore. I can write about whatever I want, which is really exciting!
And that brings us up to “Candidate”. “Every man takes me for a fool…” You’ve said that you feel sometimes like you’re singing for folks that can’t say the things that you are saying.
I think it’s more being a voice. I’m well aware that I’m very fortunate to express my feelings and my art on stage. And like I said, I have many a friend in the industry who haven’t had a great time due to males in the industry. When I sing that song in particular, that fury’s ebbing through me on behalf of them in a way. I feel like it gives us all strength a little bit when I sing it. That’s definitely my intention.
I think you excel when you are on the offensive emotionally and vocally with the songs on this album– and it’s stuff that you’ve done previously as well.
Anger is definitely an emotion I throw into my songs. I certainly feel a lot of it, and I think it’s definitely the most healthy expression through song. Not in a bar fight (laughs)!
You are in the UK right now, but you have been making your home in Austin. Tell me how that’s working out for you as things began to open up there, rooms began to open, people began to get back out and do small in-person things. Were you beginning to experience the city in a way that you hadn’t before? Or is that still not quite happening yet?
No, it’s still a little bit hard. I think the stakes are quite high for me right now given touring and stuff like that. It’s all quite precarious with the COVID situation. I’m just lovin’ the culture and the people I’m meeting. I met this artist called Dayglow and Nikki Lane and I played a show just outside of Texas. I feel very integrated with the community– like Shaky Graves I met and his girlfriend, Buffalo Hunt. It’s more these people I’m meeting that I’m finding so like-minded and that’s been such a thing as opposed to a taco restaurant I could tell you.
What you’re doing right now, how is that being received? Are people saying, “Man, I want to add more of that sound to what I’m doing?” What are people thinking about it?
I think I was very nervous and then I just had this really overwhelming fan reaction. Everyone’s saying there’s no skips on the record, which sorta means there’s no filler tracks– and I’m just so happy people are saying that because I hate that in albums! You know, when you get somethin’ that just feels very thrown together? And for such a large album, for people to say that, I thought it was really kind. I think it’s a little bit soon to tell what the world thinks of it, but all the reviews have been pretty wonderful.
Did I see that you have also very recently been at Abbey Road studios? Can you tell me what you’ve been doin’ out there? Is that a secret?
No, I don’t think it’s a secret? But I’ll tell you this secret! Basically, Amazon is puttin’ together some string sessions and they invited me to do it. So I basically got a whole orchestra in to do a version of “Honeymoon”, my track. That was in Abbey Road– which was just the most intimidating thing in the whole world (laughs)!
At the time of our first conversation, you had just adopted a foster puppy. Now, that relationship has become something much more permanent. Were you able to have the puppy with you in the UK or is she home in Austin?
She’s having the absolute best time! She has a second home, basically, at the Austin Pet Ranch. They take her in and honestly, I think she has more fun there than she does at home (laughs)! Every photo I get sent of her, she’s just in her absolute element! But she basically goes to boardin’ school while mum’s away! She loves it. She’s got so much energy that she just gets to play all day. So I don’t feel as bad as I would if she was just sad.
Are you gonna take her out with you when you go on tour?
I want to! It’s just, she’s not that fond of humans (laughs), which makes it all a little bit harder! She adores dogs, but humans, she’s understandably bothered!