Seventeen-year-old British singer-songwriter Birdy’s voice is soft and serene, yet it’s being heard loud and clear among the chorus of boy bands, girl bands and pop stars clogging the charts.
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She’s an unlikely celebrity. Birdy, whose real name is Jasmine van den Bogaerde, has to be prodded a bit to perform and is too shy to make small talk with the crowd. But when she sings, people listen. Like Lorde, she represents a new type of pop star, one that’s less shiny yet captures your attention.
“I love that there’s such a range of pop and alternative music on the charts,” Birdy tells us over the phone from Berlin, where she’s performing at the Echo Awards. (She won Best International Rock/Pop Artist later that night.) She admits to listening to Taylor Swift just as much as Bon Iver — her cover of their song “Skinny Love” catapulted her to fame.
“That song is so fragile and it reminded me of songs that I write. I really connected to it,” she says. Birdy released an album of cover songs in 2011 with her take on artists like Phoenix and Death Cab for Cutie. Now, she’s on tour promoting "Fire Within," a new album of her own original music available in the U.S. on June 3.
“Releasing my own original music is both exciting and scary,” she says. “The past few years have been full of new experiences and challenges, which I wrote about. [At first], I didn’t want to write about anything really personal, but I ended up doing it because it’s hard to get around it.” Birdy says that when she writes songs, the music often comes to her before the words do, and that her lyrics are more about a feeling than a story.
Though her songs are more ethereal and less bubblegum pop, Birdy insists she’s a typical One Direction-loving teen. Still, most high schoolers can’t brag about having a song on “The Hunger Games” soundtrack or collaborating with Mumford & Sons. Despite her accolades — and perhaps in spite of her shyness — Birdy says the biggest highlight of her rising fame has been traveling to Australia and playing to sold-out crowds.
Now, she’s getting ready to perform at Irving Plaza, opening for Christina Perri. But besides the stage, you can also see her around the city on billboards: She’s the face of Gap’s new campaign. It looks like this songbird is beginning to spread her wings.
Birdy and Christina Perri
April 16 and 17, 7 p.m.
17 Irving Place, 212-777-6800
Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmLaurence