Irish singer-songwriter Wallis Bird has made a name for herself, thanks to her ferocious live performances and remarkable backstory. Originally born left-handed, a freak lawnmower accident as a baby meant that she lost a finger. This didn’t stop her from picking up a guitar though and her baptism into the music scene playing covers in pubs as a teenager quickly taught her the importance of humour and sassy clapbacks.
Bird's debut album Spoons released in 2007 hit the Top Five digital releases in the UK. Since then, her rise has been steady; she has headlined 700 concerts across the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan and Europe with Amanda Palmer heralding Bird’s performance at Australia’s Woodford Folk Festival as her “discovery of the year [Bird] f***king destroyed it.”
With so much hype behind her, it’s exciting that Wallis Bird is finally winging her way to New Zealand for the very first time to play three shows in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Ahead of her touching down, Radio 13 managed to grab a moment with Wallis to chat about her inspirations, her new record and what audiences can expect.
How would you describe your sound?
I would say it sounds like one of those long lovely dinner parties you have with close friends where the conversation is deep yet hilarious and you have a drunken kitchen boogie afterwards. It’s an imaginative, soul and folk-rooted, well-recorded chapter of my life about love, respect, peace, sex, death and healing.
What is your earliest musical memory? How, if at all has it impacted you?
This memory has impacted me for the rest of my beginnings and endings; My Grandfather handing me down an ornate pearlescent blue accordion from the top of the closet. I was only about 3. He handed it to me in an almost secretive, reverend way. He showed me how to open out the lungs - and it breathed, then he squeezed it together and the most interesting textured drone blew out from between his hands. I was mesmerised and changed forever more.
What inspires you musically and lyrically?
People with comedy and tragedy in equal parts. Seemingly normal people who talk poetically about even the most remedial things, seeing a romance in daily life. Generally, I tend to live in parts of town that have a community feel, where many cultures and stories meet.
What has been your proudest achievement to date in your career?
I would say that it’s being with the same team for well over a decade, still really enjoying my life. Being in control of my artistic output. Owning all my music, being independent and self-producing. It’s a load of things amounting to the whole that I’m most proud of.
You’ve got a new album coming out. Have there been any creative or personal changes that have impacted the sound or feel of it?
Many, every day’s a school day! I’ve been influenced by folk heavily for the last 2 years doing many new folk festivals in countries I hadn’t been before. I’ve seen about a hundred new bands and new styles which has just expanded my whole mind. I picked up a ton of new methods of chord structures and lyrical styles, which is all over my new writings. I’m always moving forward with what I’ve learned.
What can people expect from your live performances?
A pressurised love-in! I hope that comes across right! I’m going to push myself harder this time around and try to go where I haven’t gone before, I’ll fly into some new music for the audience so they can be revealed to them first hand before they are released. I’m planning on giving more than usual on this trip. I need to go further.
Catch Wallis Bird in New Zealand at:
Fri March 22nd - Tuning Fork – Auckland. Tickets via Ticketmaster.
Sat March 23rd – San Fran – Wellington – In conjunction with The Wellington Fringe Festival
Sun March 24th – Blue Smoke – Christchurch
Tickets for Wellington and Christchurch shows available from Eventfinda.