English singer-songwriter has risen from opener to headliner as she prepares her full-length debut.
Maybe it’s because she only has about a month before her 21st birthday, but Jade Bird radiates a genuine exuberance that is every bit as infectious as it is hard to deny.
She’s funny, self-assured, and more than anything, absolutely giddy over her burgeoning career. And why shouldn’t she be? The young English singer-songwriter is having a great couple of years.
After cutting her teeth in London pubs and open-mic nights, Bird teamed with New York-based producer Simone Felice for her 2017 debut EP Something American.
Although the five-song collection tackles a range of styles from pop and Americana to folk and blues, the EP helped get the sure-voiced crooner named as one of Rolling Stone’s “10 New Country Artists You Need To Know.”
Opening slots for the likes of Brent Cobb, Anderson East, First Aid Kit and Colter Wall followed, as did U.S. festival appearances at Stagecoach, Firefly and Bonnaroo.
But for an artist that considers Patti Smith, Kate Bush and Alanis Morissette as equally influential as Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash, Bird is continuing to push her sound.
“I do have a tendency towards the new,” she said recently from “somewhere in Oregon” between opening slots for Brandi Carlile. “I’ve recorded all of my stuff with the same producer, and I’ve written all of it 100 percent by myself. And it’s not easy, but I do think it’s important to shed the creative wings that came before in order to branch out into something more special. And that’s what I’m constantly trying to do.”
To placate fans ahead of her highly anticipated, upcoming full-length debut, Bird has branched out with three new singles so far this year — “Lottery,” “Furious” and “Uh Huh.”
Collectively, the trio of tunes has already amassed over a million YouTube views, and “Lottery” made it all the way to the top spot on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart.
While her methodical transition into a wider sonic palette serves as nothing more than a natural progression for the young musician, she is currently facing what might prove to be her toughest challenge yet — a headlining tour.
“I’m terrified in a way,” Bird said of her impending solo swing. “But really, I’m always terrified. And I think that’s why I try so hard to make everything perfect. But you’ve just got to remember that (the audience is) on your side.”
Bird trusts her fans perhaps more than most, happily using the stage to routinely test out new songs, and letting crowd reactions be the final say for whether new material makes the grade. She also relishes the opportunity for a longer set that will include deeper cuts and more room for variance.
And she realizes that as she pushes the boundaries of who she wants to be as an artist, her audience will have to grow along with her. Gone are the days where she can get away with a short set of crowd-pleasers designed to win over a few fans that showed up to see someone else.
“You have to take it as it comes,” Bird said. “And as the music progresses, I progress as an artist and a person. Music should be a representation of who you are at that point, a little snapshot of your career. And I feel like ‘Something American’ does feel a little further away than the new stuff now. But there’s always a little part of you that goes, ‘Oh well, you know, no one’s ever going to like it!’”
Despite the driving beat and howling vocals on a song like “Uh Huh,” fans don’t have to worry about the singer chasing trends or veering too far from her musical center. Even though the way she dresses it up might be changing, Bird’s powerful vocal delivery and guitar-driven songwriting will always remain front and center.
“Everyone is putting so much music out now,” she said. “And you just have to try and get your head around it. But I diverge from that by asking what does the world need from me? I don’t think the world needs a Jade Bird EDM track or a feature with a hip-hop artist. You really have to work out what it is you’re giving back to the craft.”
For now, Bird is working to make sure that her well-deserved transition to headlining gigs goes as smoothly as possible, as well as continuing to work on her upcoming full-length debut.
She and her band are heading back into the studio to work on it again in December, tentatively planning to release the album in early 2019.
Key word: tentatively.
“It should be out very early next year,” Bird said. “But I’ve been back and forth on that because when I start releasing music, I don’t want to stop. I want this to be a standard for myself, and my listeners, and that’s why I’m taking a bit more time on it. I don’t want it to be something I just throw out there. I want it to be something I’m proud of. But it’s all shaping up. And it’s going to be good.”
When: 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8
Where: The Casbah, 2501 Kettner Blvd., San Diego