Her first visit to Australia was December for Woodford Folk Festival and already Irish musician Wallis Bird has endeared herself to a bunch of forward-thinking fans, including Amanda fucking Palmer. Wallis lost most of her fingers as a baby and self-released her first album, instantly being signed by Island Records. She’s been compared to artists such as Ani DiFranco, Fiona Apple and a young Janis Joplin and people are absolutely raving about the energy she generates on stage. She’s embarking on a new tour of Australia – this time stopping in at Mullum Music Festival. We fired off a few question ahead of her visit.
You’ve won the Irish Music Prize twice. What kind of impact does that have an impact on your work?
It has an impact in that more musicians or projects are interested in working with me, or people that hadn’t heard of me previously now know my work. It’s wonderful to achieve something for the team and all the hard work they do for myself and their other artists, but I keep my feet on the ground about it all and see it as another step to go further with my writing.
You’ve got this unique combination of genres going on in your music, fusing elements of traditional folk, blues, funk and rock. What music was being played in the house when you were growing up? What was the soundtrack to your childhood?
There were seven kids growing up in my house and parents that loved music so every crossover was there, blaring from each room. We also listened to comedy LPs, story book LPs, lots of metal and grunge from my siblings, then folk and rock from my dad, my mam always had the culture station on the radio which would give you insights into how a song was written or a reportage of a certain artist, I loved that! I later got into dance music myself and most of what I’ve listened to since is pop and alternative music, mostly modern stuff.
You seem to have made quite an impression with Amanda Palmer at Woodford Folk Festival. Why is that, do you think?
Serendipity. The stars were aligned.
You’re following up last year’s visit, returning to Australia. What kind of connection did you make with Australian audiences?
I couldn’t get over the reception I had in Australia. It was arms wide open. The listenership is unreal. Everybody is hanging on the lyric. What an audience, hugely welcoming, kind, boisterous, fun, exactly what I needed! After my first tour last December, I straight away booked new flights back. As far as I can see, Australia has just been waiting for the right time in my life to see it with fresh old eyes. I’ve been touring my whole adult life, so this refreshed me anew.
You’re certainly not a stranger to the festival circuit. People are understandably pretty excited about your set at Mullum Music Festival. Do you know much about the event?
I know that it’s going to be very special! When I was In Australia everyone was like “are you playing Mullum” so by my 20th gig all down the east coast, I had heard so many stories. I’m excited!
How do you prepare for a festival set as opposed to a smaller, more intimate venue? Do you have a preference?
I land straight into the festival- walk around the campus, get into the vibe, get a feel for the kind of sets people are doing, eat from a nice stall and then warm up for 20 and burst onto stage.
You have five studio albums under your belt, when can we expect the next album and how will it be different to previous releases?
I’m currently writing two albums side by side. One is an almost country music style album of ‘songs’; simple stories told with clear chords, and the second that I’m writing is an epic instrumental album called ‘love and fear’ so whether they stay separate or meld together is yet to be seen. I hope to have it finished by the end of next year and released either spring or autumn.
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Wallis Bird is playing every day of Mullum Music Festival’s tenth anniversary event. More at mullummusicfestival.com.
IMAGE (c) Jens Oellermann