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Jade Bird

Like falling in love, break-ups start slowly and then happen all at once. For Jade Bird, the end of her relationship gathered pace and crashed into reality in 2022, resulting in the beautifully temperate EP EP Title. It is a short collection of songs that paint the various stages of grief that come with the end of a relationship in devastatingly astute but carefully optimistic strokes.

Bird has always railed against being pigeonholed and wary of collaboration. Having grown up in the UK, she was influenced heavily by Americana and hailed as a powerhouse performer. Even as she was compared to country-folk titans, in those early days she was determined to be fully Jade Bird without any shades of anyone else. Every note had to come from her. But for EP Title, she worked with Alex Crossan, known better as Mura Masa, finding freedom and joy in writing and experimenting with ideas in his modest home studio. Gradually, the songs found form and her emotions tumbled out into notes and melodies, shepherded by Crossan’s unique and encouraging ear.

She had met her ex-fiance when she was just 18. He was a musician and she was newly signed. “It was an unsaid thing that it wouldn’t have worked unless he kind of joined my band and we toured together, so things evolved very quickly,” she says. So for the next few years as Bird’s career took off, they did everything together: recording, touring, writing, everything. “Every cool memory I’ve got musically, he’s in that. The second record is about him.” He was enmeshed in her life in a way that few of us experience. “When you’re in a relationship like that, when it’s good it’s so good. You’ve got support at work, you’re on the road together: it’s this romantic ideal. And when it’s not good, it becomes a bit of a living hell.”

Even as they got engaged and moved together to Austin, Texas, things began to break down. “There’s been so many times I’ve been on stage and I’ve just sort of had a bit of a breakdown, crying or whatever, because the songs are so interwoven into my experience.” Bird began writing the songs that make up the EP just after the hardcore lockdowns of the Covid-19 pandemic ended. “I think we were all going through something,” she says of those early writing sessions with Cossen. During one of the last writing sessions before the break-up, she wrote the song Burn The Hard Drive, a sultry, sorrowful song. “There’s no good goodbye, no right way to die,” she sings on the chorus before offering a digital Eternal Sunshine solution of destroying all evidence of a relationship. “I listened back to it with Alex and was like, ‘Oh my god this is a premonition of ending my relationship’.”

Writing has always been a way to talk things through with herself. “I think that was me getting it out on paper, getting it out through music and telling myself the things I couldn’t do in a more matter of fact way.” With Cossen’s help, she interrogated the emotions the song had thrown up, feeling her way through the memories of times when she didn’t have a voice or a safe space to express what she’d been feeling during the dying days of an intense relationship. “Before I knew it, that was the exact concept for the EP, which was honing in on every little piece of the break up.”

Though a sad, reflective kind of EP, it begins on a hopeful note with Breaking The Grey, the final stage of grief when you realise you’re going to be okay. “It’s about getting out of a bad spot,” Bird explains. “I often find in a room, there is a level of empathy, where I find myself worrying what the room is going through and I think with Breaking The Grey we were all feeling the murkiness of the pandemic, the clouds of that – so the chorus was about finding our way out of that while the verses are more personal.” Over a jaunty piano line, she sketches out tiny scenes of a different kind of grey – “The look on your face as you hold me close, your feelings have changed”. “There was a purity to the process,” she recalls. “I could get super in my head as a writer, zigzagging past my feelings. But with Alex, he was just like ‘It doesn’t matter what this is for, we’re just creating’. So it allowed me to tell stories that are different to my usual kind of ‘rage’ narrative – it’s a lot more vulnerable.”

It’s quite a departure for Bird, much gentler than her previous two albums and with more twisting, mesmerising riffs than the hard strums that have become a kind of trademark. “Rage became a huge point of contention for me – I grew up in a high conflict household so I think my albums have been about getting that out – but with Alex, for some reason, that wasn’t what was coming out. It’s a little different. I think it’s exploring the emotions before the rage,” she says, before adding with a grin: “I’m saving the rage for the album.”

You can still hear the fire of classic Jade Bird though – C’est La Vie has a huge stadium-worthy chorus that is solely Bird and her guitar. But there is no song more markedly unusual for her than You’ve Fallen In Love Again, twinkling gently across a winding bass line with otherworldly synths popping in and out of focus. “I think we tapped into the dissociative mood I was in – I felt like I was hovering above myself,” she says. The song suggests a fear of finding herself back in an unhealthy relationship, the trap of falling in love. “I think that is probably the most relatable feeling, as opposed to the heartbreak. I needed to be free.”

It’s a short, reflective record, one that seems to send Jade Bird off on a new trajectory. Life has taken a turn too. She relocated to LA, started seeing someone new and has been embracing more pastimes outside of her career – at just 26 she’s already been a working musician for almost a decade. Even as her most collaborative work yet, EP Title sees her finally feeling like herself. It’s been a transformative time: and from the darkness, light has come.