An Interview with Jade Bird

The notoriously difficult second album. Throughout music culture, there lingers this idea that your second record will make or break your career. This is entirely subjective, of course, but some artists do go through the motions. Not Jade Bird. Jade has returned with a more mature, confident, and altogether expanded record that is bound to launch her even further into the stratosphere.

When I meet Jade on a quiet Wednesday morning over a zoom call from her respective Air BNB, which she will be calling home while in London, and from the off, she was smiling, friendly and talkative as we got into the flow of the interview. Eventually, the conversation shifts towards her new album, Different Kinds of Light. The album came after a time where Jade felt creatively exhausted. With touring almost constantly for the past three years, she needed a break. The creative spark for the album came in the form of the Stevie Nicks song Storms, and from that then worked its way into the tracklisting on DKOL, using that as inspiration for the track Different Kinds of Light. “I remember writing that song, and it was sort of a premonition for the whole next year and of my life, and the next phase of my life, I didn’t know soon after that we’d lockdown.” Over the next year, the album came together, under the watchful eye of legendary producer Dave Cobb who has produced tracks for A Star Is Born, along with a myriad of talent such as Chris Stapleton, Brandie Carlile, plus many more.

“I needed a producer to put them all in together and someone who just believed in me as a songwriter, and that would carry the way, and honestly, I did find that in Dave Cobb.” Different Kinds of Light is the kind of the second album a lot of artists would dream of. It feels more expansive in the range of different influences but doesn’t overpower Jade’s powerful songwriting. Songs like Now Is The Time are heavily Bee Gee’s inspired, and all the better for it with its infectious qualities that are bound to get festival audiences going. Houdini offers a vignette about all the men in Jade’s life, “doing a disappearing act.” While her first single, Headstart, which appears here as a bonus track, offers an optimistic look at heading into a new and hopefully more positive year. A lot has changed in the last few years. Back in 2019, Jade put out her self-titled debut to widespread acclaim in the music press and a top ten debut in the album charts. Her songs were intensely personal, drawing from family conflicts on album highlight Love Has All Been Done Before, which references her mum and grandmothers respective divorces.

A lot can change between the first album and the notoriously difficult second album, but Jade has a fondness for her first project, but not without fondly talking about her family of producers. “I think my first album, I should feel very fondly of, you know, I discovered upstate New York, which is where I first you know, I always return if I’m feeling crap about creating stuff. So I found that place I found a new family and my producer’s family, you know, they sort of like took me in, so I think of it fondly.” Jade has matured between her first and second album with finding love, a pandemic, along with a new life in the USA. “I feel like in my maturity in my songwriting and myself as a musician,” Jade beams. “It’s definitely something I’m extremely proud to get to; I feel like it was a big leap from my first.”

It also shows that hard work pays off in spades, with Jade now having playlisted singles such as Headstart Open Up The Heavens and Houdini regularly spun on Radio 1. Live-streamed shows and a live EP entitled RCA Studio Sessions also feature on Jade’s recent line of work along with a socially distanced tour in America and a slot on Tonight With Jimmy Fallon. Jade’s star is shooting stratospheric, and her hard-working ethos reflects that.

When listening to Different Kinds of Light, you sense the elevation of Jade’s songwriting and how her voice and songwriting style is leaps and bounds ahead of the first record. Jade also talks about how she avoided working with co-writers on her first project and even on the second, preferring it to come from a personal place. Jade seems very reticent about having co-writers on her records, and rightly so, individuals need their voices to shine through. “At the end of the day, writing songs is literally right, like writing a diary.” Jade mentions how songwriting for her is all about writing down or dialoguing to make yourself feel better and just seeing what comes from it. “I think it has to start from honest beginnings, and I just didn’t want to dilute that straight away. I wanted to get there myself and have my own unique voice.”

America has been a huge part of Jade’s life over the last few years and has gone into how she has been molded into the confident, insightful performer we hear on Different Kinds Of Light. Mentors have been vital to her, whether it be Brandi Carlile, Sheryl Crow, or Linda Perry, who she has met along the way and helped nurture her talent. Jade enthuses how the “I’ve met and been very humbled to just be around, to see how they work and how they’ve lived and how they’ve had these really long careers because it’s always what I wanted and I never knew how achievable it was.”

Jade seems to radiate a relaxed aura and seems wise beyond her years of 23. Even with touring on the horizon, Jade has plans on recording her third project very soon. “In an ideal world, I want to go into my third record quite quickly and then take a break my fourth.” Jade also mentions wanting to go to Japan for six months in the future to rejuvenate and grow before going into her fourth album.  She says it’s “to sort of refill creatively and grow. I do a lot of growing in the dark, which was quite the new revelation after the pandemic.”

Jade’s fanbase also provides an insight into how connected she feels to her audience, with keeping a close social media presence with people who are fans of her music. She feels that if they’re going to support her and spend money on her music, the least she can do is be there for them. Jade continues by saying how people can often be going through more than we realize, and feels that connection with her fans and to be there for them,  “when people you know, send me a really long message, or if they’re going through something, I like to be there for them.” How many stars like Jade really take time out to talk to fans so personally? Far fewer than you’d think actually. 

One thing is for sure with Jade Bird, with Different Kinds of Light, she continues to soar higher than ever before.

Found in New Sounds Issue 3

Illustration: Martin Conway