BBC Music Sound of 2018 Focus: Jade Bird

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It’s that time of year again, when the BBC Music Sound of 2018 nominees have been selected and revealed, with a list including some of the most exciting, up and coming artists to watch out for. Among the nominees is Hexham-born Jade Bird, who started playing piano at the age of just seven, with the songwriting starting at 12 years old. 

With her father being in the army, this led Jade to move from place to place around the UK on a regular basis at a young age. This, combined with her ever-evolving influences such as The Civil Wars, Chris Stapleton, Neil Young and Bob Dylan, helped in creating the artist we know today.

We caught up with Jade following the BBC Music Sound of 2018 nomination. She spoke to Northern Chorus about making the list, as well as her musical background, plans for 2018 and much more. Here’s what she had to say…

First and foremost, congratulations on the BBC Sound of 2018 nomination. You must be over the moon, how did you hear about the news?

It’s an amazing feeling. I got the call from my management and I definitely wasn’t expecting it. It’s pretty crazy thinking about everything that’s happened in the space of just a year. I recorded the EP in Woodstock around September/October time, and I’m well aware that my music is a little bit different from the usual grain right now. There’s a focus on pop and hip hop right now, so I’m grateful that my music is getting a chance to shine. I’m quite overwhelmed really.

I know it is quite soon after the announcement, but have you noticed changes already in terms of followers online, people listening to your music etc?

Yes, definitely. I’ve noticed a big shift on social media and I’ve had lots of nice comments on Twitter, with people thanking Sound of 2018 for introducing them to me. It’s really nice that more people are being exposed to my songs. My mate was at a gig recently and somebody came over to him and said ‘I’ve been listening to Jade Bird you should check her out’. It’s crazy.

For anybody who hasn’t heard of you before, can you tell us a bit more about your back story and your journey so far?

My father was from Chesterfield but I was born in Hexham and moved around a lot throughout my life. I always say I’ve been a bit cursed in the sense that my grandparents and parents split up when I was young, but this has really contributed to my writing and gave me a better insight into relationships. With tracks like Cathedral, there is an ability to go a little deeper and this is why I feel my songs are so genuine.

Despite also having a storytelling atmosphere about them, I feel my songs are also a commentary on relationships. Country in the UK can often be a bit of a dirty word. I grew up listening to Blues when I was 13, as well as Neil Young and Bob Dylan. More recently I have been listening to the likes of The Civil Wars and Chris Stapleton. Although my music seems to be rooted in Americana because of the focus on songwriting that the genre has, it’s still definitely got a British feel to it.

Another of my big influences recently has been strong female songwriters. Alanis Morissette and Patty Smith, for example. Every day I wish I’d have written Jagged Little Pill!

Do you feel travelling around so much has been an influence on your songwriting and music? 

When I went to Woodstock, I remember people were saying ‘don’t just start writing about landscapes’. For me, it’s always been about people. Moving around has meant that I have found myself in lots of different environments with lots of different types of people. My songwriting has definitely been focused more on that.

You are heading out on tour next year, you must be excited for that?

Yes I can’t wait, playing live is the real deal for me. This and songwriting is what it’s all about. If you come to one of my live shows I always try to get everybody laughing and smiling, and everyone’s been amazing so far. I’m gritting my teeth now because I’m not ready for criticism, I want people to discover my music but please don’t slag it off (laughs).

What else have you got planned for 2018? Have your plans changed somewhat following the Sound of 2018 inclusion?

I’m playing the Scottish Highlands with Lewis Capaldi who has also been nominated. You know what the Scots are like, they are always up for it. Lewis is a nice guy too, I played with him in Nashville before any of this had happened so it should be great. I will be releasing a new single in January and it is one of my personal favourites. I’m excited and nervous because I really want people to love it as much as I do.

It sticks to the core of what I am all about, but it also brings with it a new lease of optimism. I’m not sitting there feeling sorry for myself, so expect colour, brightness and more energy in the whole production. My songwriting really reflects this at the minute.

I just want to tour as much as I can next year. I would love to visit Australia at some point and I’m just generally looking forward to getting more people on board. I’ve written enough for an album and I’ve got the title for it now, so these are exciting times for me.

And you recently released a photo album of your journey so far, what have been the highlights?

When I first went to America I was exposed to new things and without sounding too cliche, it really made me appreciate the opportunity. It was a big game changer for me. London was great too. When I first moved there at the age of 16 people were supporting me and to see them still rooting for me and to look at how far I’ve come since then is crazy.

Jade Bird will be touring in 2018, so make sure you get tickets to see her during what promises to be a huge year for the young singer-songwriter!

Sean Marsh

Sean Marsh

Founding Editor of Northern Chorus

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