Jade Bird: Virtual Session

Jade Bird plays a few songs and catches up with Jill Riley in this virtual session. (MPR)
Jill Riley interviews Jade Bird (radio edit)
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Jade Bird joins Jill Riley of The Current's Morning Show to talk about finding a place to fly her freak flag (Austin), working with legendary Nashville producer Dave Cobb on her upcoming release, and what she's been up to this year.

Interview Transcript

[JILL RILEY] Hi there. I'm Jill Riley from The Current's Morning Show. I keep you company your weekday mornings from five to ten and when I'm not keeping you company in the morning, I'm really really honored to be part of The Current's virtual sessions and so I just want to start by saying welcome to you, and a huge thank you for being a member and for supporting Minnesota Public Radio and supporting The Current, because really, you make these virtual sessions happen. You make it all happen here at The Current. I am very excited for this one, just love playing her music. Songs like "Lottery", "Uh Huh", "I Get No Joy", Jade Bird put out an EP in 2017 called Something American and that was followed by her self-titled debut full length in spring of 2019 and she's got a couple new songs and she's gonna share 'em today during this virtual session. Like I said, so much great music is gonna be coming in the year 2021 and Jade Bird is no exception to that. I know that I can't hear the applause in this studio room right now but I know you're feeling it behind your computer right now or your tablet or however you're joining us today. But wherever you are, even if people are watching you - let's just give a huge round of applause for Jade Bird. Hi!

[Jade Bird] Hello! How are you?

Not bad! Thank you so much for joining us. You know I was kind of reviewing so many of the events that you've done with The Current - you joined us at SXSW, the James J. Hill House here in St. Paul for a micro-show. We've just had this great opportunity to do so many shows with you and to have an opportunity to connect you to your fans here in the Twin Cities - which you have a lot of them. Thank you so much for joining me. Jade Bird, who is with you right now? Can you introduce?

[LUKE PROSSER] I'm Luke, I'm the guitarist on this project, hi!

Excellent nice to meet you Luke. Again thanks for doing this today. It's gonna be great to hear some of these new songs, just so excited for you. You've been able to continue to be creative during this time, there are the disappointments where you can't tour but also, so glad that new music is coming out of this time. So Jade, where are you right now?

We're in Austin, Texas. We moved like three weeks ago, we were actually in Nashville - we flew straight into Nashville before that to kind of - oh yeah, well, we were trying to do a live session where we recorded the record in RCA, but you know for various reasons that had to be rescheduled which is just like a product of everything right now. The way it is, you know? But we're settled. We told you we're doing some furniture building, living the dream. The new dream.

Why did you land on Austin, Texas?

I think I personally really wanted somewhere quite grounded. We were looking at Oregon area and then our friends actually who lived in Austin were renewing their lease. One of my best friends Austin Roa, he shoots like all of the video or photos, any that you associate to me, he shoots them all. Yeah so he was renewing his lease with his girlfriend and we were just like - it was the only way we could've really done it in hindsight because we couldn't-- they wouldn't have accepted someone coming from the U.K. at that time. Barely knew if we were gonna get visas. It's lucky we did, but I'm just so glad we- we kind of dreamt of doing that on tour. You know we wanted a little creative hub so it's mad it's happening now.

Well here you are and by the power of technology thankfully we're still able to connect with the artists that we play on The Current. Jade, I thought we could get into the first song that you're gonna play and then we'll spend some more time talking, but you talked about, you kinda mentioned being in Nashville and wanting to track the album - well I do know that you were able to record some music and that you were able to work with Dave Cobb?

Yeah we finished the whole album, it's just a case of, I don't really - I don't know if I want to put out the full length until there's some prospect of playing live. Just because I've always felt, you know, like at that Current session, people - there's such a connection when I play it live and I can really make friends and fans for life doing it that way. It makes sense to sort of put some pieces out before the whole record. The next year will be a few pieces and then hopefully in the autumn the full thing. But it's all done.

We'll talk more about your time in Nashville and working with really like Nashville super-producer Dave Cobb, let's talk a little more on the other side of this song. This is a new one and it's called Headstart.

[music: "Headstart" by Jade Bird]

Excellent, sounds great. It's a new song called "Headstart". It's a virtual session from The Current with Jade Bird again welcome to all the members of Minnesota Public Radio who are joining us today for the session, thank you so much for your support. So Jade, new song called "Headstart," you wanna talk about making that song? You were in Nashville, can you just kinda talk about the process?

Yeah so I ended up writing it in sort of upstate New York area. I kind of returned there to get some inspiration back after touring flat out for kinda, two years, the long road is four years. Yeah I kinda returned there and I remember in my notebook I looked the other day and there was just this like, the word "Headstart," it was the first thing I wrote in my notebook so I was like, I felt like it was a bit of a mantra or thing into the new music so that's why I think I put it out first because I was like, it makes a lot of sense when you know my catalog. Whereas a lot of the new stuff is a bit more experimental, but as far as the recording process goes Dave gets you all and RCA in a room and you play the song once or twice. The musicians just pick it up like that, as you do. They literally just-- in straight away. And we do it no more than two or three times and then we kinda have the record. This particular one was done in the sort of tester basement session. We did like three songs in the basement and at Dave's house which isn't like, probably, my basement or anyone else's.

Right. (laughs)

You know what I mean? Pretty baller basement. And then the rest of the record we did obviously in the studio.

For anyone joining us today, just for the sake of, for members and for people watching this video - Dave Cobb is just an incredible incredible producer in Nashville and he's worked with Sturgill Simpson, and Jason Isbell, Brandi Carlile. He seems to be that kind of go-to guy for a lot of singer-songwriters and those in sort of that Americana genre. How did you get connected to Dave Cobb?

I think - oh! His cousin Brent called, I had done a lot, like a lot of work with in the U.K. specifically - I met Brent in the U.K. and we were writing for that movie A Star Is Born which Dave was doing the soundtrack of. And then we finished "Feet Off The Ground" which was the song that came out of it, it didn't make the cut of the film but we just kind of loved it anyway so we went into RCA for the first time, I was a lot younger so I was a bit like, "Oh. My. God." And yeah we recorded it together and I think then I was on Dave's radar and I his, you know what I mean? But a couple of years later we were just wandering and shopping around who would be good for this record. I mean, I had sort of given up on the dream of doing a live record if that makes sense, making it sound live, a whole band in the room. A lot of people can't pull that off and just as I was giving up on that Dave kind of just does it without me even asking or knowing. He just put us all there and recorded it. He's definitely a one-of-a-kind, I'd say that.

Did he bring in the players? Did he bring in the session players? Or did you bring in some of your-- some of your own people?

Well I brought Luke.

[LUKE] It was just us two. It was just us and three or four other musicians which were all - I mean, they blew our minds. Those guys work so quickly and so efficiently. It was amazing.

It was I think, Brandi Carlile's drummer who I absolutely adore, Chris. He's just the funniest.

Does he ever wear sleeves?

[laughs] I thought he was gonna be so Texas but he's actually grew up in LA and he told us this story about playing, his brother and him used to take a few psychedelics if you know what I mean. When they were very very young and his brother used to set him up a candle and he'd play to the flame. Just kinda off his head and I just thought, just summed up what kinda drummer Chris was, just incredible.

[LUKE] We got what we needed as well.

For anyone who's ever done a psychedelic, they know exactly what you're talking about. I personally wouldn't know, right? Well that's incredible, and getting into the Nashville studio with some of those session players, it's such an old school way of doing things and I just wonder, when you were at RCA studios - and I know you were in Studio A which is right next door to Studio B, which, that place is really kind of become a museum. But what did it feel like to just be in that studio and that space - does it feel like it's kind of, I don't know how to put it, but maybe in a good way - like, haunted? By its past? Could you kind of feel the energy?

Yeah playing with the ghosts of legends you know, you're sort of in there and you feel why people love that studio but also it's like great people - it doesn't make you feel intimidated. When you meet iconic people the best ones I find, don't make you feel uncomfortable. I think that studio really speaks like that. You feel at home and it's a really big space and warm lighting - Dave puts a couch in the middle. Right dead in the middle by the control bit. So at the time time it's feeling daunting and you know, we're quite young to be in the place like that, I think at the same time I was just like, it just felt nice. Yeah, we loved it.

What was your impression of Nashville when you went there for the first time?

Nashville is interesting, I think especially coming, well the first time I kinda loved it. You know, it's quite spread out so you have to drive everywhere, that was my only, that was a bit of a shock to us UK lot. Whose, y'know, if you go to Manchester everything kinda there. I kinda love the culture there. I love like the music culture and I think sort of more liberal kind of thing is coming into Nashville. I mean it's not quite as conservative as it was, which appeals to me. I just kind of like Austin because it feels like the ultra liberal Nashville, you know what I mean? It feels like Nashville gone crazy which I really personally, is for me. I feel like that's me.

[LUKE] Nashville gone crazy.

Well it kind of has, it kind of has in the past couple of years - yeah, because the first time I went to Nashville was over a decade ago and that city has changed so much, I mean, the growth and the population and kind of some of the more maybe Austin, TX vibes kind of entering Nashville which has been nice to see that kind of change. But you know, in Austin definitely if you're going to be, kind of like, "fly your freak flag," it's a great place to be.

I kind of love that though, you know? I feel like really, the true art or true artist it, that is the kind of thing I think you need to be, and especially when you're like 23 as I am, that's where we were looking at Portland, OR initially because that city to me is so, everyone is so unique in that way. And can just be themselves and I just really enjoy a place that is open like that. Yeah that's definitely what we were looking for when we came out, because that's what I love about America. You sort of have this mentality that you can be yourself all the time in certain places. That's probably why I moved, I think.

Yeah and so many different cities have so many great identities, don't forget to put Minneapolis on your list someday if you ever feel like moving to where it's freezing cold a few months of the year but you've been here, you know--

The Current by the way, is like one of my favorite radios ever. I don't say that lightly as well. We adore it.

[LUKE] But also just Minneapolis as a whole, when we played there last that was one of the most electric shows.

Because we were leaving each other for a while when we left, you remember? We were leaving -

[LUKE] Oh that was a long time ago, that was when I left the tour for a minute to go back home.

And we were really sad.

[LUKE] I was talking about the last venue where our drummer is this fifty year old kinda slightly crazy guy who used to play with Jeff Buckley. And the venue that we played at, First Avenue, he was saying, "Oh yeah the last time I was here I was with Jeff." It was just a magical evening, yeah the crowd, that was one of the highlights of that last tour for me for sure.

I forgot about that show, I remember sitting when the crowd left. I just sat on the stage and I was just like, the energy in that room, I just - I've never done that before and just sort of sat there and just sat in the empty room and was just like, wow that was really something. Just a beautiful beautiful moment that night.

Yeah it's, First Avenue is really, it's just such an incredible place and really the community of music fans in this town in the Twin Cities and in Minnesota - I think there's something really special about that where people are so hungry for the live music experience. And we'll get back there. We'll get back there some day.

I agree. I think it's unrivaled.

Yeah. There's something about the fan scene around here that I think is again, really special and I'm - as long as I've lived here, you know, First Avenue has been one of those places that I just love going. Well Jade I think we should get another song. Jade Bird joining us for a Current virtual session. I know you're going to play a couple songs in a row here, one of them being new and then one of them maybe is a cover?

Yeah. Do you want me to announce it now or should we surprise you?

I think we should surprise, let's surprise.

Alright, well this first one is called "Houdini".

[music: "Houdini" by Jade Bird]

That's Houdini. This next one is one we actually used to play on tour a whole bunch. It was a sort of, I don't know it's become like a bit of a fond memory but it's a cover of a cover. It was a cover of Radiohead initially, it's called "Black Star" and Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings did it and I was obsessed so.

[music: "Black Star" by Radiohead, covered by Jade Bird]

Excellent. Excellent. Radiohead cover right there, Black Star. Is that from the record The Bends?

[LUKE] Yeah.

(Jade sings) My baby's got the bends

And you mentioned that in between songs there, when you were setting that up, that you had heard the Gillian Welch Dave Rawlings version of it rather, was that your introduction to that song or had you heard the Radiohead version first?

So the weird thing is I've heard the Radiohead version first but like, I hadn't heard the words. I think it's something to do with Thom Yorke when he was younger I think he, I think I heard him say in an interview he was a bit embarrassed about y'know, being so revealing in the lyrics and then when I listened to the Gillian Welch version I was like, these lyrics are incredible. You know they're so moving and I could really just hear all of them. So I think that's what really attached my heart to that song but I had probably heard the original of The Bends because I've listened to that record. It was a weird discovery I think.

Well I'm so glad you did it and-

[LUKE] They played First Avenue on that tour.

Oh yeah! They played First Avenue on that tour. Luke's a big Radiohead fan.

Yeah and I have some friends in town that were at that show and it was like, you wouldn't believe how different they looked at the time. They looked like four guys just walked in off the street and went up on the stage. They didn't quite have their Radiohead look to them yet at that time. Anyway I just want to say again welcome to the members of Minnesota Public Radio who have joined us today for this Current virtual session with Jade Bird. There's a Q&A function at the bottom of your screen and so if you have any questions that you want to contribute to anything that you're curious to know, we'd love to have you ask some questions. In fact I have a couple that have come in already. Feel free to submit something and I'll do my best to relay your question. So Jade, "Black Star" Radiohead, and then you played another new song called "Houdini". As I was listening to you perform, as I've listened and played your music on The Current, "Lottery", "Uh Huh" and "I Get No Joy" and we're playing the new song "Headstart". Not that I'm interested sort of neatly putting you into some kind of genre box but it's not easy to really define your style and it's likely because there are a lot of different things. A lot of elements that you're bringing in because you know, I just heard you play a Radiohead song and you're wearing a Sonic Youth t-shirt if I can see it behind your guitar there. I suppose the label again of Americana, I guess it can be a fair one because it does cover a lot of different kinds of music and I guess, how do you sort of define what you do? What are your inspirational - what genres do you love? What do you pull from?

I pull from such like, a rich background of music. I think the common thread is songwriting. I think songwriting is the most important thing for me to get across. I think sometimes I almost think of Americana nowadays is a bit of a way to say, it's an album with songwriting, you know what I mean? Sometimes we put electric guitar and stuff, sometimes I just play just me, but like the common thread is just kind of my story via what I've written, and me writing that. That's the most important thing. You are right, I think a lot of people do want to be like, "So are you indie? You pop? You this?" And I just, I feel like I can relate to probably like, a bit of a Tori Amos, a bit of Alanis Morissette because they weren't really boxed in it either, does that make sense? I think a lot of women, even Sheryl Crow, I think a lot of them albums didn't have a sort of genre either so I definitely relate to 90s women a lot a lot, probably, it's what I listen to as well.

Yeah well, and naming artists like Alanis Morissette and Sheryl Crow - this actually is kind of a perfect segway into a member question here. (clears through) Excuse me. From Sarah who asks, who would you consider your biggest musical influence? And Sarah also commenting on the fact that your music pulls in from so many different sounds.

Yeah, I mean like I said to you, probably that, I mean, other places that have really probably had an influence on me - like I said, Tori Amos sort of changed the game a lot for the piano because I learned classical piano and always felt quite boxed in. Am I missing anything? You've heard me.

[LUKE] I've heard you.

I feel like there's just people staring me in the face that now I've just forgotten.

[LUKE] There's been a few big moments, the Elliott Smith moment was really good one. That one threw you a different way. You know? Sonic Youth again, another big pearl.

I'm probably getting more into alternative as I get a bit older. I think when I was younger I was really into country, blues, Americana - you know, that was my like, thing. Now I'm getting a bit older, probably more of the alternative indie stuff is coming in. So that's probably the meeting of sounds that people are hearing, you know? The Elliott Smith yeah, was huge for me. That changed the game.

Jade I'm curious, not so much of the artists that influenced you, but who in your life was like your music guru? Who was listening to the music that you would kind of pick up on or was like hey, you have to hear this - you've gotta hear this - because I think for myself, I think well I listened to a lot of the music my parents were listening to. My parents were teenagers in the mid to late sixties and then my friends in school, we kind of listened to the same era of music but then as I got a little older and then I would hang out with older friends or people that were from out of town and then -- the people that really started saying, "Hey, you should listen to this." Or, "Check this out. If you like this, you should listen to this."

Well when I was like -- so my parents were into like, they were 90s because my mom had me at twenty years old so she was always into, probably the women that I just referenced. She's always like, "I played you Tori Amos before you found her." Yeah ok Mom. I think when I was like thirteen my mom had a relationship, quite a toxic guy but you know, he actually influenced me in a big way with a lot of the music he introduced to me. And he played the guitar and I think as a young mind in that situation I found it very magical. And I think that's just probably the environment you're in when something is a bit toxic. You probably kind of wandering around going, "What's this?" But he introduced me to Johnny Cash, he introduced me to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Son House. That was the first person, and then probably I hit sixteen - I hit about seventeen, eighteen and my manager became a huge huge influence into what I was listening to, like I've got so many, I've got so much to credit him for of things he's shown me like be it Chris Isaak. Be it Sonic Youth. Be it the Riot Grrrl phase, be it Kleenex, you know he is just this library of music. We used to go on these big car trips around the U.S. doing every little like city or state and he'd just play new music the whole way and I'd just absorb it. My manager I think I've got a lot to thank for that. Definitely. Which is kind of unusual I think.

Yeah it's incredible how we think that we grow up with the music we like and then suddenly you meet someone new or you're able to spend time with someone like your manager and all of a sudden the door opens. And for me, when I was in college I was doing college radio and that was really the first time that like a lot of indie music was introduced to me and in fact, I was on the air on college radio when we got the news that Elliott Smith passed away. A moment like that will always be stuck in my mind and the people that I went to school with that were like in broadcasting and remembering the person who told me that Elliott Smith had died. Or like, the old school guy who had been doing the classic rock show for twenty five years at the station. I like to hear where people - I like to hear about the artists that influence you but also just the people that introduce us to our favorite music.

That's such an interesting question because I've never been asked that before. I feel like people who live and breathe music, as I really really do, I think you have that because you live your life and the soundtrack of your life is as important as your life. It's the strangest thing. And so I think you're so right there, what you're saying about the people because I mean, it takes you right back. Right back to how you influenced, right back to the impression these people and this music had on you and it's, I mean, it's my favorite thing. It's my favorite thing probably about life it's having that and that's probably why I do what I do. But you know what I mean? I think that's such an interesting question and conversation that you actually rarely have, considering its impact. I like that question.

I can thank my older sister for my 80s metal exposure. She had epic hair in the 80s let me tell you, it was pretty sweet. But then again I'll hear a certain song and it makes me think of my sister and the fact that we shared a bedroom and just hearing it at volume 11. I'm glad that I felt like I had a cool older sister you know what I mean? Like a tough older sister. Well you know what Jade - you know what, actually I do have another question from a member that I want to pass on, because this is great, because I was just watching this video the other night. The video for "I Get No Joy" - how fun was it to film that video? Because it looked interesting. Now is that the one, in the Firebird, I think it's a Firebird. What was it like doing that video?

Chaos. So we went into LA and we got the first hailstorms in LA since I don't know, five years? It was just hammering it down. It was wet, it was murky. Honestly the director just couldn't believe it, he just had head in hands like the whole time. I mean, I was having the best time of my life because I was just sort of getting to drive at a five - I can't actually drive. So I had people in the car with me filming my face and I was singing and driving just really feeling myself but I couldn't drive in a normal scenario. But yeah, it was fun. The thing is, when you don't have like that much budget pumped into a video it's pretty like, it's pretty - not DIY is the wrong word for it, but kind of chaotic. Like we did the "My Motto" video the day before I think it was, we did it like two days on the bounce so, yeah. It was a lot of fun though, and you can kind of feel that in the video, so yeah it was good.

So were you doing your own stunt driving? Or did somebody like, was somebody doing those burnouts in the-

I didn't do the donuts, no. I wish I did the donuts. But they wouldn't let me.

Oh that is funny. Well Jade I think we're gonna get another song from you. Before we do, I just wanna say that I really appreciate you doing this session and especially for all the members that are tuned in right now, The Current is public radio and so, we talk about that Minneapolis/St. Paul audience - people are really supportive of this station and really supportive of the artists. I think the cool thing about this station, and I've been here a long time and I'm always blown away by the support. But I'm always blown away by how many people show up to the concerts of the people they hear on The Current. And that's kind of the cool circle that's going on with a station like this.

I completely agree with you. I mean First Avenue is primarily from The Current audience. There's no doubt about that, so I literally couldn't agree with you more. But yeah, not to get too mushy but I'm so thankful for you guys' support and having me on. It's always our favorite place to pass through, so yeah thank you so much for having us.

Excellent. Well we look forward to the new year, are you kind of like, sometime in 2021 for the record or -


You're still kind of figuring that part out?

Yeah no, definitely release the record next year. I mean it's finished so if I didn't release it next year I think I'd be bored of it by the next. But yeah more probably singles but I feel like the singles are really encapsulating the whole different vibe, whole different thing. It'll be a few singles and then the record next year.


Jill Riley - Host
Peter Ecklund - Technical Director
Jesse Wiza - Digital Producer
Anna Weggel - Associate Producer

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