LO-FI: Wallis Bird
It may sound like something out of Spinal Tap that Irish artist Wallis Bird lost all the fingers on one hand in a bizarre lawnmower accident as a baby, but it’s no exaggeration. Though most of her fingers were saved through surgery, one was lost for good. Happily it didn’t stop her picking up a guitar as a child, flipping it upside down to strum with her damaged hand, and carrying on as if nothing had ever happened. Today she’s a veritable virtuoso on the instrument, and with a chuckle she describes that fateful ‘Lawnmower Incident’ as having given her “her mojo”. That mojo carried her to record deals with Island Records and Columbia Records, several high profile awards and nominations, tours across the world with the likes of Rodrigo y Gabriela, Billy Bragg and Emiliana Torrini, and invitations to open shows for Gossip, Frightened Rabbit, and many others. The two-time Meteor award winner (Ireland’s national music prize) and two-time Irish Choice Prize nominee (equivalent of UK’s Mercury Awards) was born into a large family in Wexford, Ireland. She cut her teeth as a teenager playing cover gigs in pubs and learning to deal with drunken hecklers by way of cheeky comebacks and good-natured ripostes. Moving to Germany in 2005, she self-released the single Blossoms in the Street which spent twenty weeks in the airplay charts. It grabbed the attention of Island Records who signed her almost on the spot. Her debut album hit the Top 5 UK digital album charts and she continued to chart in various European countries with her subsequent albums.
Bird is currently focused on making her next record, which will be heavily soul-influenced, and is to be released in 2019. Always eager for a challenge to keep her on her toes during the creative process, instead of a 12-hour gig, this time Wallis is bringing the fans into the mix in a different way. She’s recording a series of covers, allowing fans to choose a song for each decade, which she then records within a few days. As she explains: “when I’m writing my own music, I give myself homework that keeps the engines oiled. Playing 12 hour free gigs to complete strangers is a great way, and another is dissecting a well known song, finding what it is that makes the song so special to the world and to me personally, and putting my own spin on it”.
Once the album is done, Wallis will be eager to get out on the road again. It’s unlikely that her shows will last 12 hours again, but of one thing you can be sure: few can enrapture an audience the way Wallis Bird can.