Wallis Bird set to play Cork this weekend

Ronan Leonard catches up with Wallis Bird, who talks about her style of songwriting and why she loves coming to perform in Cork
Wallis Bird set to play Cork this weekend
Wallis Bird. Picture: Jens Oellermann Fotografie. 

“I would wake up early in the morning, open the window and listen to the sounds of the street, make a tea, kiss my girlfriend, turn on my studio gear, press record, pick up an instrument and play absolutely anything. The songs developed over time like a patchwork. It was a very spiritual, quiet and hypnotic time. I might play a chord for a whole day, or sit and think and do nothing more.”

Wallis Bird is describing how her new album Woman was developed. While the album has very clear themes, the album was suprisingly not lyric led.

“The subject matters are love, respect, peace, sex, death, and healing over the last three years of #metoo, Brexit, America, Black Lives Matter, right wing politics, refugees rights, populism, capitalism, female and trans rights and hoping that 2020 will already see an enormous progression in human rights and that we heal Mother Nature in a huge way… but I barely spoke in the studio, the lyrics came at the end when I realised what my mind was saying.”

Wallis senses a new direction in her songwriting style with this new album; “Usually 80% of my lyrics have been based on my life experiences and emotions, but this record has moved on from that and is a social commentary on 2019, coming at it from a positive and hopeful angle.

“It’s a new phase in my songwriting style which is unbelievably exciting for me! Geography, social environment, politics, food and communal spaces has always been a major factor in my work because I love being with singular people as much as large groups, I soak up my surroundings.”

Despite the album’s collaborative sound she prepared it mostly in isolation. “When I was 70% finished with the record I began to show it to the team. We developed ideas, talked about their strengths and weaknesses, then devised next steps. After that myself and my co-producer, Marcus Wüst, decided we would like to work with a young and very talented guy called Lucas, who brought in a whole new freshness, that was the last step before we mixed, mastered and printed!”

Wallis as an artist and performer likes to develop work and share it with people as she decides how to develop it, it is one of the many reasons her live shows are such a personal experience. “A load of my schtick progresses over time, I play brand new ideas, I try out tough new material, I jam, I joke, the music is as much as the connection I have with everyone in the room as me as a person, that’s very important to me.”

Wallis Bird. Picture: Jens Oellermann Fotografie.
Wallis Bird. Picture: Jens Oellermann Fotografie.

As well as maintaining long-standing friendships in the cities she tours to, Wallis also recognises some audience members who come to see her regularly. “I would say that’s a very lucky part of the touring lifestyle. I love seeing how we grow old together. Meeting people on the street, calling into old friends, it’s beautiful.”

This connection to her audience means not only do they like to return to see her, they bring new friends to see her too, which means her concert in The Everyman will be her biggest show to date in Cork.

“I’ve been building nice and slowly for years, so it’s a real pleasure to play somewhere I know is extremely important to the city. I never take that stuff for granted, all I’m really hoping for is a usual great Cork atmospheric crowd, that’s really all I’m praying for, I’m pretty certain Cork is — of all the cities I’ve ever played in — my favourite. It’s like a big embrace of craic.”

That most Irish of concepts ‘craic’ is something Wallis is very conscious of — as both a person in her own right but also when it comes to performing to audiences — especially since she moved from Ireland. There is a difference with Irish and European audiences for sure, the chat is different, the whole day begins differently, the night ends differently, there’s always a pride and a nostalgia wrapped around me in Ireland, like a blanket so I’m in a kind of happy haze, and I look forward to being ‘bold’, not everywhere gets that!

“However, last night I said that I’m a European child. That’s for sure. I moved away first back in 2006. There is and will always be a deeply ingrained ‘Irishness’ in me that defines my roots, but I move so often that yes, I’m a migrational bird.”

One thing many people notice when they’ve moved from Ireland to the more cosmopolitan of cities — Wallis currently resides in Berlin — is how less pub-centric the lifestyle is. “Living in cities has normalised pretty much everything-goes for me. It suits me well as I love and feed off open mindedness, and what I love about being a country girl is the respect and necessity that comes with local community. The less pub based thing is not really lessened as we can drink on the streets at any hours in Germany and no one bothers you as long as you’re not being a gobshite, so there’s loads of gathering in parks with your kids of a Saturday morning, a few relaxed beers and catching up, it’s highly civilised!”

  • Wallis Bird plays The Everyman with support from Floating Bones on Sunday, November 24. Tickets available at www.everymancork.com.

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