Birdy: I got tired of it feeling like a performance
Shortly before starting work on her upcoming fourth album, Young Heart, Birdy suffered a painful break-up.
Like many women in their early 20s, she looked to close friends and family for support, and the music of heartbreak queens such as Etta James and Nina Simone for comfort.
Jasmine van den Bogaerde, as she is known to friends and family, even went travelling across India for three months, in a bid to shake the sadness. All these things helped her.
But when she came home, she still had an album to write.
“It was a real journey of finding the right people to work with,” she explains from her London flat, the album finally finished some four years after she penned the first song.
“Because it is a heartbreak album, some of it was really hard to finish. Sometimes I would sabotage myself because it was a bit painful and I didn’t want to.
“So, I was pushing it to one side like, ‘Oh, I will finish it later’ and then it would take another six months. It was a bit of a journey, the whole thing.”
Birdy, whose grandfather is a peer and great-uncle was film star Sir Dirk Bogarde, is now 24.
Looking at her age alone, one would assume her to be an industry newcomer.
In fact, she has been making music since 2008 when, aged 12, she won a talent content, fending off competition from some 10,000 other entrants with her own song.
Two years later, she released her now ubiquitous cover of Bon Iver’s song Skinny Love. And since then she has released three increasingly successful albums and a bevvy of hit singles, all while managing to stay below the radar.
One magazine profile described her as “the most famous singer you’ve never heard of”.
Before she started work on Young Heart, Birdy had never written about herself – and her relationships – in such a direct manner. It was not an enjoyable experience, she explains, but it was a fruitful one.
“I felt really connected to it and it’s definitely my favourite music I have ever written. But it was definitely harder than anything I have ever written. It was like going back into that place every time, so that was quite hard to do.
“I was really excited when I finished it, and when I had finished each of the songs, as I was able to put those feelings to bed a little bit.
“Even when we went to record the album, that was again really difficult, because I had been holding onto them – and suddenly I had to record them and share them with everyone.
“There was a lot of letting go with that process.”
The new album is quite unlike the melodrama of 2016’s Beautiful Lies.
“On the last record, when I was touring towards the end, I got tired of it feeling like a performance,” she divulges. “It is very dramatic and theatrical, that album. There is a lot going on and I wanted something the opposite of that. And then the songs just lent themselves to that anyway.
“I also really wanted to capture that feeling of when I first write a song – when it’s just me and the song and no one else has heard it, when it is really quiet and I am almost singing to the keys right up close.
“It’s really soft and intimate and it has a different feeling about it to when you have sung a song over and over – it becomes more of a performance and you are acting a little bit.
“A lot of vocals on the record are just the demo of the first time I sung them, because it had that feeling of not thinking too much.”
Voyager, which opens the record, describes the end of a relationship in painfully intimate detail.
The protagonist has made up her mind but not yet revealed her choice.
“I won’t wait for you, I’m already gone,” she sings. “Like moonlight leaves with the dawn.”
The rest of the album delves into the emotions that follow – doubt, regret, liberation.
When coronavirus struck, Birdy left London for her parent’s home in the New Forest where, by her own admission, she binged Netflix, squabbled with her siblings and fine-tuned her album.
“Once I’m there, it is really hard to leave again, because I get so used to being babied – and also being with my siblings who are there at the moment,” she admits, with a girlish laugh.
“Everybody in my house is musical or artistic, so there are a lot of energies – a lot of big energies.
“Everyone is like, ‘No I am singing, I am playing the piano’. We all need our space.”
Young Heart by Birdy is out on April 30.