Life Changes Inspired Singer-Songwriter Birdy's Latest Album, 'Beautiful Lies'

click to enlarge Life Changes Inspired Singer-Songwriter Birdy's Latest Album, 'Beautiful Lies'
Olivia Bee/Atlantic Records
Given that her mother is a concert pianist, it’s not surprise that Jasmine Lucilla Elizabeth Jennifer van den Bogaerde, the singer-songwriter also known as Birdy, found music to be a powerful muse.

Birdy, whose new album, Beautiful Lies, suggests a newfound maturity and compares favorably to the confessional approach that Tori Amos takes, says she was “surrounded by music” while growing up.

“I always loved the piano based on what [my mother] played and what she taught me,” she says via phone from her London home. “ She would give me lessons. I’d be recording songs, and my parents loved it. My dad made me record the first songs when I was 8, so it was an album of like six songs, and I’m so glad he made me record them.”

Winning an open mic competition at age 12 provided a confidence boost.

“It was really exciting for me; it was the first time I played for people,” she says. “I was playing for a new audience. I got my own songs on YouTube, and I did a video thanking the fans for liking the song so much.”

Someone from a record company saw the video and got in touch with her. Things happened quickly after that. She put her cover of Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love” online, and the song became a sensation.

“I always loved the song and I’d never done covers before that and I thought it could be really fun to do,” she says of “Skinny Love.” “I remember I was still in school; I was 14 when it came out, and it was on the radio. It was a crazy surreal time.”

Thanks to the success of the anthemic first single, “Keeping Your Head Up,” Beautiful Lies, her third studio release has become a hit. Birdy co-produced 6 of the 14 tracks on her new album with other producing credits going to Jim Abbiss (Arctic Monkeys/Adele) and MyRiot (London Grammar), while mixing duties were taken on by Craig Silvey (Arcade Fire/Florence and the Machine). 

Birdy, 20, says she had a “vision” for the album as she started to write the songs for it.

“The songs are about change — part of me not wanting to be a grown-up but wanting to be free and to do my own thing,” she says. “The album feels so true to who I am. I’ve grown up with it. I could speak my mind on it, which was so nice.”

Recorded in both London and Los Angeles, the album features more production than previous efforts. It commences with the soulful “Growing Pains,” a song that features Birdy’s distinctive falsetto and lush instrumentation. Birdy says it was “quite natural” for her to handle production duties.

“I think I’ve always had it in me,” she says. “I’ve just been getting more confident and becoming more and more of a part of it which has been really nice. It just feels natural. It has gotten more natural on each album. It feels really comfortable.”

Bridy’s vocals seem to have evolved too, and her voice sounds more soulful.

“I’ve been experimenting with my voice,” she says. “I discovered this whistle-y high voice actually. I love singing and had the soulful voice since I was little. It’s really nice for me to be soulful.”

With its cooing backing vocals and uptempo piano melody, “Keeping Your Head Up” might be the most infectious song in her catalog.

“It’s kind of about looking to the future and remembering that if you are sad or alone there are really good things coming,” says Birdy. “I think a lot of that was from me moving to London and feeling quite lost without family or friends. I was living alone and had to meet new people and look after myself.”

Birdy expresses a range of emotions on the album; some songs seem really uplifting and others come off as very pensive.

“I was excited to be writing more uplifting songs, but I feel they are in a dreamy way,” she says. “I wanted them to sound quite peaceful — about finding peace and being happy. The first two albums had to be more restrained, but I feel like they were dreamy. I wanted the next songs and new album to be peaceful and happy and upbeat.”

For the current tour, Birdy says she’ll have a band in tow.

“The people in the band are really brilliant and have become my best friends,” she says. “It’s a drummer, a bassist, a violinist, a guitarist and me on the piano. I went to see Kate Bush play in London a month ago, and it felt like stage production. I would love to bring some of that to the show as soon as possible.”

Birdy, Bahari, 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 14, House of Blues, 308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583. Tickets: $20 ADV, $23 DOS,
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About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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