Wallis Bird has a happy new album and is in the midst of an Irish tour. After that, she really isn’t sure what comes next, writes Ed Power
WALLIS Bird’s voice cracks with emotion. “I have no plans after touring this album,” she says.
“I might just take a very long break. Music has never defined who I am.”
If this truly is the beginning of the end for the Berlin-based, Co Wexford songwriter, she at least exits on a high.
Home, her fifth LP, is a rapturous homage to domestic bliss — a rare example of a record about happiness that succeeds artistically (typically it is misery that brings out the best in musicians).
“All I wanted was to have fun,” says Bird, 32, who shares an apartment with her girlfriend in the German capital’s Neukolln district.
“I would sit for hours at the piano. It was pure enjoyment. Other albums have been a blast to make. This one was a real pleasure. It was about looking inside to find calm. I was for the first time okay with being happy,” she says.
Home represents the calm after a storm that raged for much of her adult life. After being signed, and dropped, by Island Records, 10 years ago, Bird went to Berlin seeking a new direction.
“When I signed my first record deal at age 21 I got this massive head on me,” she says.
“I thought I was going to become majorly famous. It became this arduous challenge and then I became ragingly angry about everything. I was having to deal with too many people. Everyone was trying to change me. I wondered, ‘is it that I am not good enough. Should I try to change?’”
In Germany, she fell torridly in love — an experience chronicled on 2014’s Architect. The album Home is about what happened next.
“Architect was well received and sold well but people have been very sweet telling me straight up that they didn’t always like it. It was polarising. There was a lot of distraction going on as I was recording it. This one was just me sitting at home.
“I would say 70% of it was done with me chilling out. I did only five gigs in 20 months, which was extremely weird,” she says.
Home would make for a perfect goodbye to fans, she says. She is looking forward to upcoming dates in Cork and Dublin. However, after her latest stint on the road is at an end, Bird wonders if she wants to start all over again. Life has so much to offer. Why should music define the limits of who she is?
“The intention is to see this one out,” she says. “After that, let’s see. I’ll tour like billy-o. Make sure it is meaningful as it it. Usually, I don’t think more than a year and a half ahead in advance. I don’t know what I will do after this.”
She adores Berlin, a city where outsiders are encouraged to feel at home. “It’s such a free place. There’s nowhere else like it. The rules are made by the people and it doesn’t ever go to sleep. You can do anything you want, no matter how wild or timid.
A lot of people find it really grey and, yes, it can have its ugly parts. Once you break down that barrier they are incredibly sweet and interesting. Berliners take everything seriously, even their fun.”
Germany’s response to the refugee crisis speaks to its open-mindedness she says. “The whole refugee thing shows how aware they are of their history and how much they want to ensure it never happens again.
Also, they have a very romantic idea of Irish people. I’ve felt really welcomed there.”
Home is released September 30. Upcoming live dates include Coughlans Live, Cork, September 9; Grand Social Dublin, September 10
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