ANCHOR - Reeperbahn Festival International Music Award
Beating off a host of critically-acclaimed rising artists including South London crooner Matt Maltese and Danish electro-poppers First Hate, 20-year-old Northampton country singer Jade Bird scooped the ANCHOR 2017 at Reeperbahn Festival last September: a highly-respected title aimed at promoting the most promising new live talent on the block.
Now, six months down the line, we caught up with Jade midway through a hugely anticipated run of SXSW shows and with a debut album in the pipeline.
“The gig I did for ANCHOR was in this beautiful theatre. I was cracking my little jokes that night and the judges were laughing so it was just a really special evening to be honest,” recalls Jade of the show that bagged her the top prize. “I think any opportunity is a chance to introduce yourself to a new audience and, for me, that's why I do it. The main goal is to go out every night and bring new people and new fans in, so the fact that that audience and those judges with their amazing credentials really liked my music [was amazing].”
Having originally got into country as a kind of reverse teenage rebellion (“I think I always wanted to like something that other people didn't like. It's like a hipster thing but with stuff that's not cool,” she jokes), Jade has recently been digging both deeper and broader in her influences. Citing Patti Smith, Debbie Harry and ANCHOR's own judge Shirley Manson of Garbage as the kind of “alternative women with a bit of balls and great songwriting” that she wishes to join the ranks of, recent January single 'Lottery' marked the next step for the singer, earning her support from BBC Radio 1, Radio X, Beats One and Spotify as well as being named Apple Music's New Artist of the Week around the track. “'Lottery' is so all-encompassing of where I am right now,” she explains. “It's bright and optimistic which is how I feel; I'm young and ready to get out there, and I think that song really does that.”
They're not the only plaudits that have been winging in since September, either. Longlisted for the prestigious BBC Sound of 2018 award at the start of the year and with a sold out show at London's 750-capacity Village Underground in March marking her biggest headline show to date, the momentum around the singer is increasing by the day. “I've grown a lot since I won the award in all aspects,” says Jade. “I've got a lot more admiration for the visual aspect and how it's gonna look as well as sound and I've been testing all my songs out on live audiences before deciding if they make the cut [for the record]. Straight away after this I'm going to finish the album. I've got an awful lot of material and I write all the time so I'm feeling confident.”
Now with half of indie faves Mystery Jets playing as her live band and acclaimed visual artist Kate Moross working on her videos, Jade is building a formidable team around her. She also stayed in touch with Shirley after the event, who she describes as “stunning”. “She came up and said, if you ever need anything then I fully believe in you,” remembers Jade. “Garbage were iconic so that meant a lot; it's really sweet being in touch with someone like her.” Heading towards her debut album, it leaves Jade in the perfect position to stride through 2018 with ease. “It's just validating and I think all artists, no matter where you are and how big you are, need validation sometimes,” she concludes. “Validation comes from the audience and the people you choose to surround yourself with. You've always got to be pushing yourself to get better.”
Photo: Emma Swann
Text: Lisa Wright