BIRDY ON THE ART OF THE BREAK-UP ALBUM“In the end it was a little bit like a diary, it was cathartic, like writing letters.”
“Take your broken heart, make it into art,” so said Carrie Fisher, an observationalist to the core. The thing is, sometimes – in fact, a lot of the time – it can take the long way round to get there. To arrive at that blissful state of acceptance and clarity, of finally picking up the shards of self and sticking this mysterious you, that was so intrinsically melded to them, back together again. In the thick of heartbreak, everything is far too muddled to fully make sense of – a feeling felt by songwriter Birdy (real name Jasmine Lucilla Elizabeth Jennifer van den Bogaerde) upon attempting to put into song the grief of getting over her first love. She couldn’t – for years. While being well-versed in heart dissection from the age of eight and finding fame at 14 years old after releasing a tortured-angel-voice version of Bon Iver’s song 'Skinny Love' a decade ago, drawing on her own lived experienced proved daunting at best, impossible at worst. Though time and travel helped to probe an emotional unblocking, which transformed into her latest album, Young Heart. It’s a beautifully raw record, charting the psychological seasons you weather when navigating a particularly bad breakup. The pain, confusion, longing, joy, enlightenment… all of it. To celebrate its release later this month, we sat down (virtually) with the singer, on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, to talk love, loss and starting over again.
“I don’t listen to much happy music”
“I DON'T LISTEN TO MUCH HAPPY MUSIC”
THE SOUND OF MUSIC
“I felt like I couldn’t listen to the music at the beginning of the heartbreak. For six months I just couldn’t – I found it too emotional. I remember my sister put something on and I’d just look at her, she’d be like ‘ooh sorry…’ I guess when you hear a love song you can relate to it and I didn’t want to be sad, I was trying to avoid that. I don’t listen to much happy music [laughs] - when I was writing this album I was listening to a lot of Nina Simone, Etta James, Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell.”
“I’m in my flat in London at the moment. But I was basically with my family in the New Forest for most of last year; I'd have to drive a few miles just to hotspot my phone. It was nice just to be with my family though – usually I’m travelling, away from home, but to have a summer and be outside together was lovely. I have three brothers and one sister – we’re all very artistic and musical, so there’s quite a lot of energy all at once. Though in this time I’ve learnt I’m actually quite good at being alone. I’m used to travelling and being in strange hotel rooms: that’s where I do most of my writing and most of my thinking. I’m not hugely religious but I’m quite a spiritual person and when I’m writing I feel quite connected to something, whatever it is, and trusting in that.”
"There’s never really closure when you break up. It always feels like a possibility that in the future you’ll come back to this person. At some point you have to move on and leave those questions unanswered."
THE JOURNEY OF HEARTBREAK
“There’s never really closure when you break up. It always feels like there's a possibility that in the future you’ll come back to this person. At some point you have to move on and leave those questions unanswered. The album explores the different stages of how you feel and how time changes how you look at a person and your time together. There’s one song called New Moon, which is about new beginnings. It deals with that grief, because it can feel like that. You can’t talk to this person anymore, they’re no longer in your life. It’s really hard to imagine experiencing a feeling as strong as that again. Ultimately, I think it [heartache] helped me musically to be truer to myself. Because it was such an important subject, so personal to me, that if it wasn’t right, I refused to do it. The heartache sort of guided me, whereas on past records I’ve been afraid to be completely honest.”
“IN THE END IT WAS A LITTLE BIT LIKE A DIARY”
“In the end it was a little bit like a diary”
"A change of scene always helps me feel more creative or inspired."
“A change of scene always helps me feel more creative or inspired. On this record it was hard because sometimes I really didn’t want to be writing and there was nothing I could do about that. But I think just observing things really helps. I loved being in LA, inspired by Joni Mitchell. And Nashville - it never feels like anyone has any ulterior motives out there. People are just writing because they’re enjoying it, they’re never like ‘oh I really need to get a hit today!’ So I think that worked for me. In the end it was a little bit like a diary, it was cathartic, like writing letters. I feel at peace with it all. It’s a really nice feeling.”