“I’m going through my riot grrrl phase”: Jade Bird on cowboys, cancel culture and playing All Points East festival

"I'm deleting Ryan Adams from my music library"

We’re massive Jade Bird fans at NME, so we’re excited that she’s playing All Points East festival in London next week, and that she played an intimate five-song acoustic set at the site’s JägerHaus stage last night. Even better, the Americana-influenced musician is working on an EP inspired by her love of riot grrrl. So we grilled her on her new music, festival season, the cowboy renaissance and her thoughts on Ryan Adams, who co-signed her absolute belter ‘Lottery’.

You’re playing All Points East the same day as Mumford & Sons on June 1. They’re one of the biggest bands in the world with a massive live show – do you share their all-consuming ambition?

“The band and I right now are really experimenting. We’re all very young; music is everything. You listen to bands like the B-52s and you think: ‘That’s where I wanna go with my ambition.’ It’s not necessarily how many members of the audience I can get – it’s how experimental we can be. I love performing, and I love performing my songs, and we’re certainly getting some little moves, you know? A little flourish here and there – we’re getting there!”

You toured America next year and are going back last year. Is there a discernible difference between UK and US festival audiences?

“It depends how many drinks the UK audiences have had. When they’ve had a drink, they loosen up and then they’re really free. As an audience, we’re a bit more restrained, but the Americans are looser. The UK crowd are very grounding – you’ve really gotta put your all into it.”

You’re a big Bruce Springsteen fan. He has a new album coming out next month…

“Yeah, I heard the singles. They’re… pretty good [makes a face]. No, Bruce Springsteen’s a legend – he can do what he wants. He’s a big part of my life. A big part of the reason that I make music is that I want to be a part of people’s memories – you’re there; you’re present in someone’s life. I was touring in America and as we were going through Nebraska my manager said, ‘We need to listen to [the Springsteen album] ‘Nebraska’. So we listened to the whole thing. I remember being in this dingy hotel room, and that album very much moved me.”

Bruce hasn’t changed over the years – he’s retained the values he had at the start of his career. Is that something you’d like to emulate? 

“Absolutely. I think you can always tell with an artist when they’ve done something for more success. You always hear that album and think… [pulls a face]. I’m really inspired by artists who don’t do that, and I hope that in my career I can follow that path.”

READ MORE: American Dreams: Jade Bird could be Britain’s next Stateside takeover

You played a new song, ‘Honeymoon’, in your JägerHaus set…

“Yeah, I’m working on new stuff. I think I’m gonna do a short project. I don’t want to rush the second album, but I’ve got this song and some others, which could become an EP. It should be out some time this year. I really like guitars at the moment; I’m going through my riot grrrl phase. My manager made me a playlist of grunge and The B-52s. There’ll be a little bit of that, a little bit of what I’ve done before.”

You seem to have embraced social media recently. Is that still important for an artist in 2019?

“I like to respond to everybody [on Twitter]. I think it’s a bit arrogant to ignore people who are giving you genuine comments about the music. I don’t want [my social media] to become this mechanical thing. Connecting with fans online can be the make or break or some artists, and I think that’s a bit dangerous. I wonder how many careers would be over if Instagram closed tomorrow…”

You’re big into Americana. Have you been enjoying the renaissance of cowboy culture?

“It’s all about space cowboys now, I’ve heard. I read this interview the other day with Kacey Musgraves, who said she dropped some acid saw some aliens, which inspired her new album…”

That was the NME Big Read last week!

 “Oh yeah! [Dusts off shoulders] People who are doing the cowboy thing are giving it a bit of psychedelia, which is really cool.”

READ MORE: Jade Bird – ‘Jade Bird’ review

It all started with ‘Old Town Road’, which nobody could decide whether to call a country song or not…

“Oh, God, that’s the story of my life. Everyone’s a bit like, ‘What are you!?’ I really like a lot of American country stuff, so my music has that influence, but I don’t like to be set within a genre. It feels very limiting. We rock live – there’s loads of guitar – so we’re not just Americana.”

Ryan Adams reached out on Twitter and said he liked your song ‘Lottery’. That was a long time ago, and a lot’s happened since then. What’s your opinion of him and his fall from grace?

The only thing I’ll say is that I delete that [music] from my library. Anyone who’s disrespecting women has to go – so many ladies came out and said the same thing. I don’t think history treats those people kindly. There’s no excuse. I’ll continue to listen to the Phoebe Bridgers album and watch the films of his ex-wife [Mandy Moore]. But it doesn’t matter how good the music is, because after that it’s bitter. As you’re listening, you’ll remember the story.”

– Jade Bird plays All Points East on 1st June