"I feel like my time is running out..." - hmv.com talks to Wallis Bird about her new album Woman
Irish singer-songwriter Wallis Bird has an awful lot to say on her new album Woman.
The LP, which is the singer's sixth of her career, is her most overtly political yet with tracks inspired by the migrant crisis, Donald Trump and the historic repeal decision in Ireland’s 2018 abortion referendum.
We spoke to the singer about making the record, getting political and why she tried desperately to fight the album's title...
When did you start working on the songs for Woman?
"I started about three years ago now, in the autumn of 2016. I remember that nice feeling of summer winding down and my mind beginning to wander in song."
How did you want this album to move on from what you did on Home?
"I called 'Home' my swan song. I felt I needed a break from my career, but I now realise that it was the end of a style of writing for me. Old Wallis was completed; I had found my big love, I no longer had to normalise my love story, I had the life I always sang for. Woman has moved me forward from writing about my personal emotions into pinpointing my social environment and writing change into the life around me in a more obvious and politically active way."
"I feel like my time is running out, so this is a zeitgeist album that people will look back on in three years and say "wow, even in this short time, look how we have moved forward". That is what I want from this album, progression."
You did the album with Marcus Wüst once again, what does he give you as a producer?
"He gave me everything I know as an adult about recording. I've been recording on my own since I was 11 on four tracks and in studios and courses but into my 20's, all six albums that we've worked on, he's personally developed so seismically, that it's been a geniuses internship I've gotten because he's always been generous with his knowledge. He set my studio up based on what he thought would be good for me - which has revolutionised my creativity."
"He showed me how to listen, to engineer, to listen again, to spend time on the emotionality of the frequency of sound, to go the extra length and let sound rule. As a producer, he works on the ethics of the sound and I work on the instrumentation, and we volley and switch each other's styles off each other making us a well-oiled version of our former selves."
What kind of album is this lyrically? Is there a theme to it? You’ve spoken about the political inspiration for some of the songs...
"I'm asking for change. I'm pointing out where it can be made, where it can be found, I'm calling out racism and sexism and narcissism and lazy judgement and a foul stench in the air of politics, so I don't really leave much open to discussion. But I wish to grow old gracefully, learn from my mistakes express myself in a gentle, but firm manner."
Which song on the album took the longest to get right?
"'Repeal'. It took roughly two years to write. It began an as instrumental song when the national discussions to finally abolish church and state relations and repeal the abortion ban in Ireland. It began as a mantra, a woman's story to the listener, a melody of kindness, as was how the referendum began. Women were coming forward with their personal and almost criminalising stories of their hardships and shame of their abortions."
"After months of these moving confessions, Ireland began to open up the movement, to separate church and it's disgusting current Irish history, to shut it down and move forth into the new generation of Irish women's power. Then the men got on board, then the heft of politicians had to get on board and finally set a day for the referendum, then the country got on its feet and went door to door to ask people to vote and talk about their choice."
"By the time the vote came, the country was in near silence, it had spent all it's energy and simply waited for the result. That's when I erupt, the vote returned with a resounding YES, Ireland was never going to be the same again, we all had our right to choose what's right for us. It was a sea-change for compassion in the country, and I wrote that story exactly into the song. It's all there."
And which came together most quickly?
"This was 'I Know What I'm Offering'. Subconsciously I knew that song like the back of my hand. The moment I started recording it recorded itself. I went into hypnotism and lost myself in what I can only describe as the sex of the song. I came out the other end with it recorded in two days."
When did you decide on Woman for the album title? Were any other titles in contention?
"I gave into the title. It came to me in a dream, as many things do when I'm creative. But I kept pushing it aside because it felt too simplistic, too loaded for me. I had 'love respect peace sex death healing', I had 'Corpus' but 'Woman' was consistent. I finally listened to what the title was trying to tell me and I bowed down to its honourable title."
What are your plans to take the album out live?
"Play the living shit out of the songs! I'm developing a live show with lighting designers and sound designers so we're pushing my performance to a new level. it will be theatrical as well and spontaneous. It won't be too polished, I'm not into being a slave to a click track or backing tracks, but there is a lot of thought gone into this live show."
You’ve got six records now, how will you decide what goes in your live set?
"Well, every show so far has staple songs, 'To My Bones' for example makes 99% of the shows because that is the song most dear to me in terms of what it has given me in life experience and opportunity, so I take that everywhere. But the setlist is almost different every night."
"It's mostly dependent on my mood and how I wish to begin the show, but is careful to make sure that the audience is entertained. I also play knowing there will be new people in the audience, so I try to cover as much emotional and stylistic ground as possible to get everyone to loosen up and enjoy themselves."
Wallis Bird's new album Woman is out now.