Birdy on Finding Internet Fame and Staying Grounded
At just 14, Jasmine Lucilla Elizabeth Jennifer van den Bogaerde—you can call her Birdy for short—lit up the internet with a stunning take on "Skinny Love" by Bon Iver, a track that's frequently covered but infrequently as memorable as the original. But not Birdy's. Her earnest falsetto version got the cosign from Justin Vernon himself and propelled her into the spotlight. But unlike other YouTube-famous teens (Justin Bieber, we're looking at you), the self-decribed homebody has stayed out of the tabloids—and in our headphones.
After taking a few years to tour the world, write songs, and record music for two of the most important YA soundtracks of our time—both The Hunger Games and The Fault In Our Stars—she's getting ready to drop her third album. She called in from London to talk about making Beautiful Lies, going viral, and taming her famous waist-length waves. (Her secret? Never, ever brush it.)
You’ve been internet famous for most of your life. Are you constantly getting stopped on the street—especially with your unmistakable hair?
People recognize me more when I'm away. In London and at home, I can just be myself and be with my family.
You must be fairly used to it now, but what was it like when your video for “Skinny Love” first went viral?
At first, it was really weird. I was constantly googling [myself] even though I know I’m not supposed to do that. It was just so alien. At the time, I didn't really take in what was happening. It was surreal.
How did the other kids at school react? It must have been kind of surreal for them, too.
My classmates and I were almost in it together. I would travel and come back to school, and they’d ask about where I’d been and what I’d seen.
How have you managed to stay so humble and normal and wonderful?
I haven't drowned in it at all. A lot of it comes from just doing your work and the people who surround you. My parents traveled with me everywhere, so I didn't have an excuse to let anything go to my head.
Do you find it unnerving to write and sing about such personal things? “Beautiful Lies” is about the end of a relationship—that can’t be an easy thing to put out there.
It's weird, because ever since I've been really young—as young as eight—I’ve written about love and heartbreak. It's quite natural to me. Writing about love and personal things is natural, too. But it's scary. Now everybody's wondering what I’ve written about them. [laughs] My songwriting comes from people around me and taking in what I’m reading and doing, even what’s on TV. I love reading and I'm inspired by a really good story. The Hunger Games, for instance, I read all those books so quickly. My head was still in the book when I was writing the song.
Have any other books shaped your music?
I’ve written songs inspired by The Faraway Tree, which is quite magical. I guess it kind of reminds me of where I grew up, in the country. I love being in the country. That's where I feel the most at home and inspired. I read this book called Memoirs of a Geisha that really inspired me. I've never been to Japan but I'm hoping this album will take me there.
This is your third album, and your first big release in three years. How is it different from everything you’ve done in the past?
This album, to me, is the most special, because I know what I want now. I got to the point where I know exactly what I want to do and what I want the music to sound like. With the past albums, I wasn't completely sure where I was going. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t do anything that doesn't feel right to you. Listen to your heart.
And listen to Birdy's third studio album, Beautiful Lies, out March 25.