Wallis Bird: My music aims to heal me from the inside out
For some solo artists the easy route just isn’t appealing. Rather than decamp to East London with a banjo and simple melodies, County Meath’s Wallis Bird opted to explore her personal contradictions in Germany’s introspective spaces, allowing her vitriolic song-writing to thrive.
Eschewing the singer songwriter’s current dogma of accessible immediacy, Bird’s songs are both delicate and rabble rousing, fluttering between styles to constantly surprise people; similar to Tori Amos’ or even Peter Gabriel’s eclecticism.
Despite winning awards in her native Ireland, mainstream UK success has so far eluded heryet Bird is un-phased by the success of fellow solo artists, citing authenticity as paramount, nonetheless declaring “I could happily take both. And so could my ego.”
On the eve of her third self-titled album’s release, she discusses her personal pressures and growing song-crating confidence.
You’re living in London, but are Irish and lived in Germany. How is this internationalism reflected in your music?
The majority of my inspiration comes from constant travelling getting out of my comfort zone, connecting with cultures. It’s where I get new rhythms, new phrases, and viewpoints on life, and that’s what I write about in general
What are your musical ambitions and how are you achieving them?
The only musical ambitions I’ve ever had were to play and travel and experience as much as possible through it. I’ve had a colourful life so far and I just work to make sure that doesn’t change at the very least. It’s a simple wish.
How has your approach to song writing changed since you started?
Nice question. When I was a child, it was about childish things like the moon and the sun. Then as a teenager I grew to understand the construction of things, like verses and c-parts, but I was still writing blindly about all sorts of things that you can imagine a busy and confused teenager might write about. They were free of expectation and were purely for enjoyment or their healing processes. Then I got into doing gigs at about 16 and began to write about more private things that were kept from my parents, but I knew I wanted to just hit the road and sing these songs regardless ofhaving a roof over my head. Luckily I found Germany and that took me towards a “professional” career and gave me this big mix of madness, excitement, opportunity, and freedom, so my music reflected that. My second album was driven by annoyance, heartache and some pressure, but I still got something very real from it. All my music aims to heal me from the inside out. I can’t understand life if I don’t write about it in real time.
What kind of pressures were you under this time around?
None. After New Boots I just didn’t give a shit about pressure. I wrote the album I wanted, and realised that’s the best way for songs and creativity to come through. I write with ease these days, though not in as many numbers as before. I’m spending more time refining pieces, but I’m making sure I find time to jam so that it doesn’t become a formula I turn to. I don’t like to do the same things twice.
Does the constant touring and recording suit your personality?
Absolutely. To be honest, I need to be on the road constantly. It does conflict with my lust to have to a good home with love and domesticity, but I have an excellent balance with my partner. But being home makes me itchy after a while and I don’t like that I become narky when static for too long soI find myself craving the road.
Your new album is self-titled, so is it your most personal release reflecting who you are?
My intention wasn’t to self-title it as a statement, my intention was to take away the judgement of a title, to un-entitle it, so it could mean anything at any time, but in doing that, it became a statement. But the process of this album was indeed close to the bone for me.Contradiction, control and deception are the red lines throughout the album, so I wanted everything to reflect and inflect itself. I first released 1,000 copies of an acoustic version of this album which I recorded and mixed in my bedroom, and packaged themin hand-stitched material wallets then sold through my website with the intention to confuse, entice, endear and personalise. For the released version there’s no title and just my face on the cover, creating a meaning to stand behind my work, with a trusting face also creating an instant judgement. I didn’t want lyrics in the booklet; they’re replaced with a story of how each song became itself, with illustrations of the rooms it was recorded in. So yeah, this one’s personal.
It sounds like a melting pot of influences: from Tori Amos to Paul Simon, and folk to jazz and even a twinge of electro goth. How important are varied influences to you?
Well, I don’t stay put too long on any thing in life. I dive into things head first with probably stupid openness, so that gives me confidence to do what I feel like and not care about upsetting standards or ticking boxes.
What makes you different from other solo artists?
I’m going to quote Oscar Wilde for this one; “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”
Wallis Bird’s third album ‘Wallis Bird’ is released March 12, 2012 on Rubyworks.
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