In a world filled with media hype, big wig PR types and one week no.1s it’s not often that you come across a pure musical gem, a diamond in the ruff that makes you believe in the power of Musicbut Irelands newest musical gem, Wallis Bird, is about to do just that.
Not only does this girl have one of the best names I’ve heard in a long time but she also has a pure passion for Music and a drive to overcome life’s obstacles in order to succeed where others have failed.
Wallis Bird is a girl who, despite having all the fingers from her left hand severed when she was a baby went on to embrace her passion, teaching herself to play the guitar – the hard way -upside down and back to front.
Born in County Meath Ireland after attending Music College Wallis upped sticks and moved to Germany where she already has a dedicated fan-base and has been know to pull crowds in the hundreds for her live shows.
Now settled back in the UK Wallis ‘fairytale’ story continues. She recently signed a deal with Island Records and is set to release her first EP entitled ‘Moodsets’ this July followed closely by her debut album ‘Spoons’ in August.
Recently Newzline had a chat with the wonderful Wallis about Music, Robocop, her spoon collection and just how great it is to be Wallis Bird……
Interviews the wonderful Wallis Bird
Newzline: Hey Wallis I absolutely love your name….. Please tell me it’s not a stage name!
Wallis:God no! My parents blessed me with it. I don’t actually know where the surname comes from but my first name is a bit of a strange coincidence…
Newzline: Where does it come from?
Wallis: When my parents were pregnant, my mam and dad passed by this coal distributor called ‘Wallis’ coal. My mam liked the name and when she gave birth to me there was a piece in the newspaper about Wallis Simpson (the woman for whom King Edward VIII turned down the throne for) and so she decided to keep the name. I’d rather I was named after Wallis Simpson than the coal mine though….
Newzline: We’ll I think it is very unique! In addition to your name you have a very interesting back story – aged 18 months you had the fingers on your left hand severed by a lawnmower. Has this incident ever hindered you or has it made you more determined to succeed?
Wallis: Yeah, definitely the latter. The good thing about it was I was too young to really realise what had happened. But as I got older I started to realise what it might have been like if it had happened when I was fifteen or something. So that makes me really appreciate what I have and I makes me look at situations differently. I think it made me a lot more positive as a person. I was really lucky that was only my fingers. It definitely made me go further on. If people were cribbing on about a sore finger, I’d be like eh, it could have been worse. So in a round about way getting my fingers cut off was a good thing that happened to me.
Newzline: You are also a self-taught musician. Did you find that a difficult process?
Wallis: No I took to it like a duck to water. I really liked learning how to play cords and getting different sounds from my guitar. It’s such a versatile instrument. Even now I’m still learning different sounds from my guitar. I’m 24, I’ve been playing guitar my whole life and I still never cease to get enjoyment out of learning new things, new sounds. It’s so cool, nobody taught me how to play, I just taught myself. Then as I got older I learned different techniques from older musicians.
Newzline: At what point in your life did you decide that being a ‘full-time’ musician was something you wanted to do?
Wallis: After I left school. I thought do I go to college to study something that I’m really not interested in, or do I go and see what I can do with the Music. I really had no direction and I think when I was about 18, I started thinking, ‘what am I doing?’ I didn’t want to give up Music to work a nine to five, so I went to Music College and met loads of really cool musicians which kind of got me to where I am now. I never wanted to do anything else.
Newzline: I also read on your blog that the first song you ever wrote was about ‘Butchers, Robocop, The Commitments and hangovers’ when you were six….so would it be far to say you were a bit of an odd child then?
Wallis: Haha, probably, I think so. My mam and dad never said I was different, they just said I was awful quiet and just spent a lot of time in my room. But when they did hear those songs they were like ‘Wallis, what is wrong with you?’ Yeah so I suppose I was a bit of an odd child, haha.
Newzline: You spent a lot of time and your Music has been really well received in Germany what is it you love about the country?
Wallis: I think the whole feeling I got from there. When I moved over that was where everything really took off and I met all the musicians and it started to get serious. I could do whatever I wanted, just play Music all day and engross myself in songs and Music. It was just pure freedom. I had this tiny little flat and all I did was sit in it and just write Music. It was such an experience and people encouraging me. I love the way of life as well, I like Germany a lot.
Newzline: It also seems from seeing you perform that your band mates complete Wallis Bird – how long have you been playing together?
Wallis: We’ve been playing together just over two years now. Christian (drums) was the first guy I met because we went to Music College together. He introduced me to his brother Michael (bass) and after that I was like ‘oh my god, there going to Germany, I have to follow them because they make me so happy when I play.’ So Aofie O’Sullivan (Viola / additional vocals) came over too.
Newzline: You recently played a gig at the Trobadour in London – how did the British crowds compare?
Wallis: Yeah, with the London gigs I was much more nervous. There are so many musicians here. I find it really intimidating sometimes but I’m getting used to it now. It’s getting better but I was so nervous, when you hear about musicians in London your like Ooooo, you know, so I was thrown right into the middle of it, but I’m used to it now. Now it’s grand.
Newzline: On the live version of ‘All For You’ you seem so at home on the stage….do you enjoy playing live?
Wallis: Absolutely. It’s all I look forward too. I love writing Music because that’s my way of speaking. But being on stage is the best feeling in the world. Talking to people after gigs and standing up there. If there are people smiling and singing along with you, you can’t imagine what the feeling is like having people liking what you do. Or liking your art, or appreciating it and enjoying it. It’s the best feeling in the world.
Newzline: On listening to your new EP Moodsets, your Music style seems to sway from acoustic lead melodies to songs with more jazzy undertones, what have been your main musical influences?
Wallis: I listened to any type of Music. It’s from my dad; he was a DJ so I think that rubbed off on me. But really I would prefer to sit down and go to a jazz bar. Its just good heart-felt Music and the jazz singers, especially the females are usually very strong and self-assured and that really appeals to me with jazz Music.
Newzline: Tell us a little bit about the songs on the EP.
Wallis: Ah, well there is, ‘Counting to Sleep,’ ‘All For You,’ Moodsets…..
Newzline: What about the song ‘The Circle’ I hear that’s got a little story behind it too.
Wallis: Yeah, it was when I was living in Dublin for two years and going to MusicCollege. Me and Aofie used to go to this bar every Monday for two years religiously. It was a singer/songwriter club. There was about 50 or 60 people who used to come to the club every Monday and we just drank and danced, laughed and played Music. Nobody cared what anybody played. It was just a really good atmosphere. I also met so of my very best friends at that place so from that atmosphere I wanted to write the song ‘Circle’ as a thank you for helping me to have some of the most wonderful times in my life.
Newzline: You are also working on your debut album at the moment, how is that coming along?
Wallis: No, I have finished the album now. It’s called Spoons and is due for release on the 25th of August.
Newzline: Spoons? That’s an interesting title….
Wallis: Yeah I named it Spoons because I have been collecting Spoons my whole life.
Newzline: Collecting Spoons? How many Spoons have you got?
Wallis: Oh, Jesus, about 100! I know it’s a bit random really. I just like spoons, you know when you get a coffee or something and you see a really nice spoon, like those Latte spoons are really nice. I just like them and think there is something comforting about them. Isn’t that really random? I think I must have been an odd child, haha!
Newzline: Listening to your Music and seeing you perform you really seem to be one of the few artists these days who genuinely loves what she is doing…….
Wallis: Yeah, there are a lot of people out there who moderately like it or get a break, whatever. That really cracks me because the real musicians get a little bit over shadowed. But definitely, I live and breathe this. I can’t do anything else so it’s all I’m going to do for the rest of my life. Whether I make money or am poor, which I have been for most of my life. I’ll never give it up; I’ll never do anything else.
Newzline: So just how great is it to be Wallis Bird right now????
Wallis: Ah, it’s alright actually! I think I’m having loads of fun and especially in the last month I have just had the greatest laugh. I’ve done a really cool tour. I’ve eaten like a pig so I’m really full all the time. I’m getting along with everybody in the team. It’s so good. You know how people say I’m waiting for the bubble to burst. I don’t think it ever will. I’m a really lucky person right.
Wallis’ Moodsets EP is released 31st of July