Already a rising star in her native Britain, thanks to her richly compelling voice and a captivating rendition of Bon Iver's "Skinny Love" that broke into the Top 20 on the U.K. Singles chart, 15-year-old singer and songwriter Jasmine van den Bogaerde (known by her childhood nickname Birdy) arrives Stateside with her self-titled debut album to be released by Warner Bros. Records March 20, 2012. A carefully curated collection that Birdy recorded in London and Los Angeles with producers Rich Costey (Muse, TV On The Radio), James Ford (Arctic Monkeys, The Klaxons), and Jim Abbiss (Adele, Arctic Monkeys), the album features Birdy's soulful and sophisticated take on songs by The xx (second U.K. single "Shelter"), Fleet Foxes, The National, Phoenix, The Postal Service, and James Taylor. "It's mainly an introduction to my style," she says, adding that concentrating on covers enabled to finish her exams last year. "Although it's nice to have one of my own songs, 'Without A Word,' on there too."
Choosing songs for the album was fun, but also hard work, Birdy says. "I'd listen to various songs, then decide which ones to try out. Usually I just sat at the piano and come up with an arrangement that felt like it was my style, then I'd work with the voice. And from there, I chose the songs I thought would be good for the album. Everyone I recorded with was so supportive, giving me ideas and telling me what sounded best."
Propelled by "Skinny Love" (and its haunting video directed by Sophie Mueller, which has racked up more than 12 million views on YouTube), Birdy shot to No. 13 in the U.K. upon its release in November 2011, achieved Silver certification, and earned raves from critics. The singer's "heart-stopping renditions of emotionally hefty songs" and "her own impressively mature compositions" are both "characterized by a grace, beauty, and poise it's hard to believe could come from a slight shy teen," noted The Sun. "With a voice that manages to sound both extraordinarily pure and world-wearily reigned, Birdy has the potential to be that surprisingly rare thing, a singer who does so much more than merely sing. Watch this one," advised The Sunday Times. "Birdy is a prodigy who makes Joss Stone look like a late-starter. At 15, she has a voice of astonishing richness and plays piano with the aplomb of a concert hall crowd pleaser," declared The Evening Standard. Here in the U.S. Vogue has offered early praise for her debut, writing that it "marries the kind of bare-bones honesty of Adele with a surprisingly knowing voice."
Birdy's popularity with critics and the public alike is undoubtedly due to her prodigious talent and ability to take a familiar song and make it her own, as well as from people's surprise that such raw emotion can be expressed by someone so young. But Birdy got an early start. Jasmine van den Bogaerde, who acquired her nickname from her habit of opening her mouth as wide as a baby bird's, began singing as a child. She hails from a talented, creative family. Her great-uncle was the actor and writer Sir Dirk Bogarde and her mother is a concert pianist whom the teen cites as her biggest inspiration. "I've listened to her playing the piano all my life, and I love that," she says. Birdy learned piano when she was seven, and within a year, was sitting at the keyboard writing songs. Her first audience was her extended family: "My mum has ten brothers and sisters, so I have loads of cousins," she says.
At the age of 12 Birdy won a UK song-writing talent competition which led to her publishing deal with WMUK Chairman Christian Tattersfield and she subsequently obtained a recording deal with Atlantic UK on the back of her independent release of her version of the track "Skinny Love" on i-tunes. Since then, life has been a bit of a blur. "Skinny Love" was subsequently added to the BBC's Radio 1 playlist, climbed to No. 17 on the British singles chart, and was heard on TV's The Vampire Diaries (as was "Shelter").
Birdy doesn't turn 16 until May, but she is already talking about her second album, and looking forward to recording more of her own material. "I've got loads of songs, but they're not finished," she says. "They're just sketches of songs that I have in my head. I can't wait to start putting them together, and to see what people think of them."
This is her dream, she says, the thing she feels she was always meant to do. Although the reality doesn't quite match up to her fantasies. "You have to work. It doesn't all just come to you," she says. "I don't think I ever thought about that bit. I just imagined going to glamorous parties, and having a limo to take you everywhere. So far, I haven't had one!"