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An Interview with British Singer-Songwriter Birdy at Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival

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Sixteen-year-old British singer-songwriter Birdy (Jasmine Van den Bogaerde) has been on musical roll ever since releasing her cover of Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love” last year. The pop song exploded on both the radio and YouTube, and earlier this year she released her self-titled debut album on Warner Bros. Records. Birdy was able to answer some questions about the new album ahead of her Sunday afternoon performance (her first at such a festival) at this year’s Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival in San Francisco.

Your self-titled debut album was released last year in the U.K., and was released earlier this year in the United States. Has being a recording artist finally sunk in yet or has it just been a whirlwind since unleashing your rendition of Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love” in early 2011?

It’s still definitely very surreal, especially being at school and balancing the two. I’ve started to get used to traveling a lot and performing, but still everything has grown so quickly and is very exciting! 

You’ve said that choosing songs for the album was “fun, but also hard work.” What do you look for or hear for when choosing songs?

Sometimes with the songs I could imagine my own version straight away in my head. Others I would focus on a section that stood out to me and try to make it my own, then build the rest of the song around it. When I listened to the songs there would be something about them that moved me, which is one of the reasons I chose them.

What did you ultimately want out of this album, either in sound or style? Or in other words, what did you want to show people with this album?

I wanted the album to be quite natural and soulful sounding, but also the songs with more instruments to have an edge to them. I wanted to give people a taste of my own music through the sound and style of my covers. 

A few songs don’t feature you on the piano. How do you decide when to play the piano or when to just sing? Do you play any other instruments?

I find that usually my voice is driven, and I sing better, when I’m playing the piano and so mostly all of the tracks I am playing the piano. Although on one or two songs, recording with a band, I found just singing got the best from my vocal. I am also learning to play the guitar, which I hope I can use in songs to come. 

Do you have a favorite song on the album?

One of my favourite songs on the album is “White Winter Hymnal” because it’s short and sweet. It reminds me of a nursery rhyme.

Having started out at such a young age, do you feel any expectations about how your life and career should be progressing or will progress in the short term or long term?

Everything has come as such a surprise so far, and I have no expectations for the future. All I can do is work hard and stay steady and hopefully carry on doing what I love. 

You’ve been writing songs for most of your musical career. Can we expect more songs written by you on the next album?

The next album will be all originals, which I will be writing and recording over the next year. 

What is your favorite venue to perform: cafes, parks, or festivals like Outside Lands?

I love the atmosphere at festivals, and I’ve never performed at one so I’m very excited to be playing at Outside Lands! 

And finally, is there any particular artist or band that you’re looking forward to see at Outside Lands?

I don’t think I will have time to watch any artists or bands, but it would be amazing to see Stevie Wonder!!

Birdy’s recently released “Live in London” EP can be purchased at her official website.

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About Tan The Man

A proud dork and loser, Tan The Man writes mostly about film and music, and has previously covered the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, South By Southwest and WonderCon.