“I like broad­en­ing the con­ver­sa­tions of nar­row-minded peo­ple. But I also like to be taken down a peg or two – it’s only good for you, isn’t it?

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Music -

As time came to leave sec­ondary school, she re­calls, she couldn’t think of any­thing else she wanted to do other than play mu­sic. “I didn’t think about money or where I was go­ing to live, or any­thing like that. I just fig­ured I’d get by, and I did.”

She un­der­took a course in mu­sic tech­nol­ogy in En­nis­cor­thy, and from there went to the mu­sic col­lege in Bal­lyfer­mot. “I was bid­ing my time un­til I knew I could travel. Once I knew that I could live and sup­port my­self, get my­self through col­lege by gigs and busk­ing, I moved to Europe.”

There then fol­lowed much trav­el­ling, in­clud­ing Mannheim, Ger­many, for two years, where, in­flu­enced by the likes of Ani Difranco and Nina Si­mone (to name but two sin­gu­lar, bar­rier-break­ing fe­male per­form­ers), she de­vel­oped and honed a con­fronta­tional, con­fes­sional style of song­writ­ing and per­for­mance.

From Mannheim to – ex­cuse me? – Mal­ibu, where, through a mu­sic in­dus­try con­nec­tion, she stayed for sev­eral weeks at the house of Lou Adler, much-noted US pro­ducer (his cred­its in­clude Ca­role King’s multi-mil­lion sell­ing Ta­pes­try). “That was sur­real,” un­der­states Wal­lis, “hang­ing out with the likes of Dandy Warhols, Jack Ni­chol­son . . . play­ing on Ca­role King’s pi­ano . . . a very strange time.”

Mov­ing swiftly on from this odd ex­cerpt in Bird’s life (there’s a feel­ing hov­er­ing about that she’d rather not go into it in too much de­tail) brings us to her solo ca­reer proper, which was kick-started in 2007 by the re­lease of her de­but al­bum, Spoons. From then to now (via 2009’s sec­ond al­bum, New Boots, and what ap­pears to be a vig­or­ous pur­suit of the Guin­ness World Record for Tour­ing the Arse Out of Europe), she has been, she ex­plains, as­sid­u­ously feed­ing her­self morsels of “weird sit­u­a­tions” (hello, Mal­ibu?) and en­joy­ing life’s many con­tra­dic­tions.

“I try and put my­self in sit­u­a­tions where life gets in­ter­est­ing,” she says, look­ing at this par­tic­u­lar point equal parts an­gelic and ever-so-slightly naughty. “Some of those choices are prob­a­bly a bit stupid, naive, but it’s liv­ing my life by the prin­ci­ple of say­ing, ‘Why not?’ That’s re­ally in­flu­enced my style, I’ve found that way works for me, and so I just let it hap­pen. It’s of­ten in­spi­ra­tional for me, too, as ran­dom as my life is. I can’t stand rou­tine, to be hon­est, and habit gets me down.”

We’re guess­ing there’s some­thing of the an­ar­chis­tic in her? “I’d have to be told that as I don’t go around say­ing I’m one. I’m a bit re­bel­lious, I sup­pose. I like broad­en­ing the con­ver­sa­tions of nar­row-minded peo­ple. But I also like to be taken down a peg or two – it’s only good for you, isn’t it? It’s only fair to get as good as you give.”

Bird ad­mits that she is now far more com­fort­able in her own skin than she has ever been. Her forth­com­ing self-ti­tled record still shakes things up, but is, she claims, her least “me-me-me al­bum” to date. “It’s just as chaotic as the other records, but I can feel a red line go­ing through it that is tak­ing it in a more re­laxed di­rec­tion. It’s def­i­nitely more clear-headed and sober, with some very straight, sim­plis­tic choices of lyrics and chord pro­gres­sions. It’s got a mod­ern so­cial out­look, open-minded, fresh-eyed . . .”

Be­fore the al­bum is re­leased and her own head­line Ir­ish dates (kick­ing off on Fri­day, March 9th), how­ever, there is the not-so-small mat­ter of this Bird fly­ing into the Woman’s Heart 20th An­niver­sary shows at Dublin’s Olympia next week. Beg par­don? Wal­lis the an­ar­chist and A Woman’s Heart? On the face of it, it doesn’t seem the most ideal fit.

“It seemed to go down a harm­less route,” she ac­cepts, “but there was a point when it was quite bad ass – Ir­ish women singing about proper emo­tions, proper heartache in a very po­etic way. I re­mem­ber think­ing later on – not at the time, be­cause I was about nine – that it put Ir­ish women on the map. Bring­ing women to the fore­front was im­por­tant, be­cause even at the young age I was, it was fairly ob­vi­ous that the in­dus­try was very much male dom­i­nated. It was, I reckon, quite rev­o­lu­tion­ary, but as I say, maybe it went down a dif­fer­ent route for a while.

“Why did I join for the gigs? I reckon it’s a good place for me to be, for starters, but I also want to go in there and tear the fuck­ing house down. I’m not plan­ning to be the nice lit­tle girl, you know? I want it to be any­thing but harm­less.”

And with that, Wal­lis Bird is off to the air­port. Car­ry­ing a big gui­tar case with­out any prob­lem what­so­ever. We feel sorry for air­port se­cu­rity al­ready.

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