Introducing Interview: Wallis Bird

Following the acclaim of 2019’s poignant Woman, Irish born/Berlin based artist Wallis Bird has now released her seventh studio album, Hands. Showcasing Bird’s unique, vibrant brand of alt-pop – combining fizzing ’80s-inspired blissful soundscapes with an empowering energy and stirring sentiment -, it reflects heartfelt and resonant themes with a raw emotion, delivered through an uplifting, cinematic musicality.

We caught up with Bird to find out more about the album; her live shows; her thoughts on the music industry today, and more. Have a read, and make sure you take a listen to the stirring sounds of Hands at the earliest opportunity!

Hi Wallis Bird! Welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hiya, I’m Wallis. I’m intelligent, funny, very handsome and talented. Most of all I’m humble. Everything else is wiki.

Are you able to tell us a bit about how and why you initially started creating music?
Before I could talk I was whistling, before I could stand I got my first guitar. I’ve been writing songs since before I knew what songs were, so it’s actually been something I’ve followed my whole life without question. I wrote my first song as a toddler and I distinctly remember the feeling of comfort and excitement it gave me to sing a lullaby or poem. At around eleven I realised that my friends were singing my songs and since then I suppose I’ve been writing with others in mind, to gather people socially or for posterity. I’ve realised in the last decade that my music is there to inspire, and encourage solutions and conversation through respect and patience and positivity.

We love your vibrant yet gritty pop-infused sounds, but who would you say are your main musical influences?
As a baby it was Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Sharon Shannon, Rory Gallagher, as a teen it was Tori Amos, Ani DiFranco, Fiona Apple. As an adult it was Björk, Radiohead, Villagers, classical. Nowadays I’m leaning towards jamming again and writing for comfort and collaboration.

You released your seventh album Hands earlier this year… Are you able to tell us a bit about it? Are there any particular themes that run throughout it?
Spiritual connection, asking for and offering help, the unknown future, exciting and terrifying new beginnings, giving up alcohol and going to therapy, adulting. Obsession and control, and taking care that it doesn’t own me. It’s in support of migrants and defiance of racism. Positivity and powerful vulnerability, and wanting to fucking sweat dance.


Being based in Berlin, do you get to see lots of live music? Would you say it’s recovered since the pandemic?
It finally has, but only in the last two months. Usually Berlin crowds are either tough as fuck, or wild and welcoming, but they seem to have lost their critical edge and are just extremely happy to see their favourite artist on stage again. It’s a golden age at the moment!

And what can fans expect from your live shows?
Tonnes of power. Power power power. I can’t ever tame it or hide it, it always comes out. Ugh!

How do you feel the industry is for new artists at the moment? And do you feel much has changed over the last few years in its treatment of female and queer/LGBTQ+  artists? 
I feel that new artists are defining the industry because there seemed to be no love for them, so they did it their way and are now defining the industry under their terms – it is revolutionary, and the labels are having to catch up. I love it. It has bred new and exciting artists who are fully aware of and in control of their worth and not taking any less than that – which hasn’t happened in my time on this earth. I’m all for it! In terms of queer artists, man I’m so excited at the normalised lyrics of same sex relationships in stories, something previously disguised and dangerous in my short lifetime. Across all genres, even the known homophobic genres like modern hip-hop or trap specifically, it’s just so powerful to see people laying their heart out in this vulnerable way. To be vulnerable takes the most strength, I love where the youth is going. Healing with abandon.

As we’re a new music focused site, are there any other upcoming artists you’re loving right now that you’d recommend, we check out?
Síomha just released her debut album, Infinite Space, made over two years with the people from Vulfpeck. Irish traditional mixed with NY ’80s pop jazz cats – it’s deep and relentless in its adventures. Caoi De Barra is my bandmate and she’s just released a beautiful EP called Thicket – think private R&B Jeff Buckley Sin-è sessions. And I can highly recommend Landers – hi-fi lo-tunes from atmospheric jazz nerds.

What does the rest of the year have in store for you?
A ton! I don’t know about you, but it’s as if life happened all at once again. I’m renovating a farm house I bought with five other people and I’m also going on a European tour with my band for three months from September on (tickets are at wallisbird.com/live) It’s all nice things!

Massive thanks to Wallis Bird for taking the time to answer our questions!

Hands, the latest album from Wallis Bird, is out now via Virgin Records / Mount Silver Records.

Get In Her Ears Live @ The Victoria w/ Nikki & The Waves, 12.08.22

Following a heartwarmingly fantastic July in which we were able to raise £500 for Abortion Support Network from our sold out gigs with Charmpit and ARXX, we returned to The Victoria for the first of our August live events. Hosting Manchester based Nikki & The Waves with support from Birmingham duo First Frontier and GIHE faves Panic Pocket, it may have been a hot night, but it was full of all the coolest vibes with these three wonderful bands and the lovely folk who came out to support them!

Kicking things off in the refreshingly air-conned venue, duo Sophie Peacock and Natalie Healey – aka Panic Pocket – deliver their uplifting, synth-driven indie-pop with all the twinkling charm and tongue-in-cheek wit we’ve come to know and love. With subjects ranging from gatecrashing boyfriends to the anxious British need to apologise, each shimmering offering lilts with sugar-sweet harmonies and the duo’s infectious charm, and – being treated to some new numbers that I’d not yet heard – it’s a perfectly smile-inducing way to start the evening.

Next up, Birmingham based duo First Frontier deliver their fuzzed-out garage-rock with a an immense, driving energy. As Paul’s scuzzy hooks whirr alongside Helena’s fierce, thrashing beats, they’re able to create a swirling sense of optimism with each empowering offering and their vibrant charisma, and I can’t wait to hear more.

Headlining, we’re super thankful that Nikki & The Waves have made the long, very sweaty journey from Manchester to play for us tonight! With a vibrant, retro charm and joyous energy, they create unique funk-fuelled indie-pop as each of the seven band members contribute to a shimmering musical cacophony. Oozing a blissful allure – with shades of an eclectic array of influences, from early hip-hop to Lily Allen – the set comes complete with swooping trombone solos, colourful keys, sparkling harmonies and a relatable witty lyricism; perfect for shimmying along under the air-con, and showcasing all there is to love about this truly magnificent collective.

Huge thanks to three wonderful bands who played for us on Friday and to anyone who made it out to support them! We’re back at it this coming Saturday 20th August at The Cavendish Arms w/ phenomenal Australian duo Mannequin Death Squad, with support from Maya Lakhani and brand new ‘supergroup’, Dogviolet – nab tickets here!

Words: Mari Lane / @marimindles
Photos: Paul Dawes / @paullikesrobots

Five Favourites: Mega

Having received acclaim from the likes of BBC Radio 1, NME and The Independent, London-based artist Mega has recently released her new EP Colour Your World. Combining her influence of legends such as Amy Winehouse, Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone with inspiration from her Ugandan heritage, she creates beautifully shimmering melodies propelled by the rich, soaring emotion of her soulful vocals; a collection of instantly uplifting anthems oozing an exquisite heartfelt splendour.

We think one of the best ways to get to know an artist is by asking what music inspires them. So, to celebrate the release of Colour Your World, we caught up with Mega to ask about the music that has inspired her the most. See below for her choices of her five favourite albums, and listen to latest single ‘If Not My Heart’ at the bottom of this feature.

Amy Winehouse – Back To Black
I remember when I first heard this album. I hadn’t heard a voice like this in the UK. I was obsessed with her voice, lyrics, melodies: everything. She reminded me of the great artists that I loved growing up. I loved how you can hear the ’70s influences shine through, but also how you can hear influences from as early as the ’50s/’60s such as artists like Dinah Washington and Billie Holiday. What I love about this album and Amy Winehouse’s music is her unique and distinctive writing style, as well as her painfully vulnerable lyrics and storytelling. She had this incredible way of telling haunting stories, with an uptempo twist. She may have been heartbroken, but she used that ache, twisting the emotional scars to suit her songs and refused to allow that heartbreak to defeat her.

Alicia Keys – Songs in A Minor
I remember hearing this album for the first time. I had never experienced all the things that Alicia Keys was writing about at the time, but her music encouraged exploration of all the emotions that she was portraying through her vocals and music. It’s pretty impressive that she wrote songs such as ‘Butterflyz’ at 14. Her vocals on this album and songwriting is incredibly persuasive. Her musical arrangements are very interesting on this album – whenever I’d listen to it, it takes me on an incredible journey. I’d listen to it from beginning to end – no skipping!! It’s so innocent and sincere. The sincerity of an artist is the number one thing that draws me to the music.

Carole King – Tapestry 
Although this album came out in the 70’s, the first time I heard this album was like a warm hug. I love how raw her vocals are, her careful phrasings, and how understated but powerful the songs are – connecting you directly to her as a person first and then artist. I got the feeling that this was just about the art and her expressing her heart – rather than creating a polished and perfect sound/recording (although her voice and everything on this album is perfect) My favourite songs on this album are: ‘It’s Too Late’, ‘You’ve got A Friend’ and ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’. And how can I forget ‘Natural Woman’. My goodness – her lyrical ability is such a gift.

Miriam Makeba – Pata Pata / A Promise 
Miriam Makeba was an incredible South African singer who managed to crossover two genres and do it so well. Not only did she manage this, but each of them felt authentic and believable. She was also bilingual and her vocals are sensational. She made incredible American soul as well as incredible South African songs, so I have chosen two of her albums here – Pata Pata and A Promise – as they demonstrate her ability to do both so well. I’ve never really liked to define myself using genres as I find them quite restrictive, so I was delighted when I came across Miriam Makeba. I just adore her music and how distinctive it is.

Afrigo – Teri Mubi
Afrigo band are a Ugandan band that I grew up listening to, and they have an album called Teri Mubi which translates as ‘we are no liars’ or ‘there are no liars’. African music/melodies are something that I will always be inspired by; from the rhythms/melodies to instrumentation and the laidback storytelling. Drums, percussion and bass are the key instruments on African music and Afrigo band do it so, so well. They still manage to stay true to their music styles and are not really influenced by the later emergence of Afrobeat. Their music evokes feelings of joy and makes me feel so warm. 

Massive thanks to Mega for sharing her Five Favourites with us! Listen to recent single ‘If Not My Heart’ below:

Colour Your World, the latest EP from Mega, is out now via Nettwerk.

Introducing Interview: Gemma Laurence

Having charmed our ears with the beautiful tones of last single ‘Adrienne’, Brooklyn-based “Sapphic folk” artist Gemma Laurence has announced the release of her new album, due out this winter, and has now shared the exquisite title track, ‘Lavender‘. An empowering anthem for the queer community, it flows with lilting melodies and heartfelt lyrics showcased by the raw emotion of Laurence’s rich vocals. Oozing a stirring, shimmering grace, it’s a beautifully poignant, evocative slice of twinkling alt-folk.

We caught up with Gemma to find out more about the upcoming album, what inspires her, her thoughts about how the industry is for marginalised communities, and more. Have a read and make sure you listen to the new single now!

Hi Gemma! Welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about yourself? 
Thank you so much for having me! What a delight. Well, I’m Gemma, I use she/her pronouns, and I’m a queer artist from the coast of Maine now based in Brooklyn. I’m gluten free, not by choice. I was on Jimmy Fallon one time (still in denial that happened). I’m really into crunchy Cheetos, plants, poetry and re-enacting the best scenes from Fleabag. And I used to have a British accent when I was a kid.

Are you able to tell us a bit about how and why you initially started creating music?
I played classical piano for years as a kid, but the rigid structure of classical music never really appealed to me much. It wasn’t until I picked up an acoustic guitar (and figured out I’m a lot better at learning from ear than by reading sheet music) that I really felt the freedom to create my own shapes and sounds. I wrote some silly songs at summer camp as a kid, then some more serious environmental protest songs in high school, and now I’m here! 

I love your beautiful, emotion-strewn sounds, but who would you say are your main musical influences?
Thank you, that is so kind of you to say! Growing up I listened to a lot of Joni Mitchell and Norah Jones, both of whom are still two of my all time favourite artists. I really look up to Gregory Alan Isakov as a songwriter – he has this knack for writing songs that sound like poetry. I’ve listened to The Weatherman more times than I can count. Phoebe Bridgers has inspired me a lot, same with Adrianne Lenker. All such incredible songwriters. People who cut straight through the noise. 

You’ve just released your new single ‘Lavender’. Are you able to tell us a bit about the single? 
‘Lavender’ is one of my favourite songs on the album and I am so excited to share it! It’s a song I wrote for my best friend to tell her how much I love her. So it’s a song for her, but it’s also more widely a song for the whole queer community, honouring the hardships and the joys and the beautiful parts of coming out. It’s a queer rock ‘n’ roll anthem about coming out and embracing who you are.

And your new album is set for release in November – exciting news! Are there any particular themes that run throughout this? And what was the recording process like for you?
Yes I am so excited! The album (named Lavender as well) reads like a collection of short stories. I was an English major in college, so I’ve always been drawn to the idea of these interwoven narratives between character and story arcs, some of which might intersect and others just mirror one another in theme or style. Kinda Dubliners style, or Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge. But the themes on the album are exploring different expressions of queerness, intimacy, and love. It’s a very reflective album – I wrote it during the pandemic when I was isolated on the coast of Maine for fifteen months and really taking the time to reflect on my life, my queerness, my friendships, people I love, or once loved. If my first record (Crooked Heart) was a series of reactions to curveballs life threw at me, my second album is more of a response, or a reflection. It feels a bit more intentional. It feels more true to who I am right now. I spent a lot of time reading while I was writing the album, so there’s all sorts of literary allusions to different writers – Frank O’Hara, Adrienne Rich, Sappho, Elizabeth Bishop, the list goes on. Recording it was a blast – I got to work with Charlie Dahlke, who is this brilliant producer, multi-instrumentalist, and artist too (you can check out his band The Brazen Youth here). He operates out of this gorgeous studio in the countryside of Lyme Connecticut, surrounded by nature and farmland. We recorded the whole album in a week, with the help of Will Orchard, Micah Rubin, Andrew Goldridge, Steve Varney, Matt Phillips, Hill Kourkoutis, Jess Kerber, April Reed-Cox, David Sirna, Anna Sage Jordan, Mike Nunziante, and Aída O’Brien. Couldn’t have asked for a better or more talented group of individuals! 

Being based in Brooklyn, do you get to see lots of live music? It seems like a great scene there! Would you say it’s recovered from the effects of the pandemic?
Oh boy, what a question. I’ll come at this from two minds – firstly, yes, I am so incredibly excited to be getting back out there and performing. The Brooklyn music scene is wonderful – there’s so much amazing live music happening in NYC right now, and I’ve met so many amazing people through it. With that said, I’m not sure we (or anywhere) will ever truly recover from the pandemic; I mean after all, we’re still going through it. As an able-bodied, healthy, young person I feel so privileged to be able to be in these packed venues in front of so many people, but I know not everybody is able to exist in those spaces in the same way as I do. There’s been this rush (on a governmental/societal/social level) to “get back to normal” and forego masking/testing etc., which puts so many folks at risk. And it’s really unfortunate and super ableist. As an artist, I want to create a safe space for folks, so I really think we need to be taking covid precautions more seriously than we are in order to create more of an inclusive space.

How do you feel the industry is for new artists at the moment? And do you feel much has changed over the last few years in its treatment of female and queer/LGBTQ+  artists? 
There’s certainly some improvement happening – there’s less blatant homophobia and misogyny now (at least at a surface level). And it’s really inspiring to see so many diverse voices out there in the music scene now, advocating for queer voices, trans voices, non-binary voices, black and brown voices. But there’s a lot more work to be done! I’m conscious of this as a self-titled “Sapphic folk” artist: I identify as queer, and write a lot of music about my queerness but, as Emma Madden noted in her article in NPR Music, if you look at the Sapphic folk scene and “aesthetic”, it’s predominantly white. Queerness has become more palatable to the mainstream audience, but the industry still feels white-washed – I think we could do a lot more to promote queer and trans artists/producers/musicians of colour. 

As we’re a new music focused site, are there any other upcoming artists or bands you’re loving right now that you’d recommend we check out?
Oh yes absolutely! I cannot stop listening to Reliant Tom right now. They sound like Weyes Blood-meets-Lana Del Rey, and their live shows are spectacular. Also can’t stop listening to Jess Kerber’s new album (she’s an amazing vocalist and songwriter – she actually sang on my last single ‘Adrienne’!). Also obsessed with Pictoria Vark, bestfriend, Big Stuff, partygirl, America Jayne, Youth in a Roman Field, Forever Honey, Babehoven, and The Answers In Between.

As well as the album release, what does the rest of the year have in store for you? 
Well I’m just so excited to be signing with Better Company Records! I could not think of a better team to get behind this album; it’s artist-run (started by Allen and Ellis from San Fermin!), and they work with so many artists I look up to and have followed for years  – Sorcha Richardson, Wye Oak, Daisy The Great, Thao, to name a few. I’m so honoured to be a part of the Better Company family now. My band will undoubtedly be playing some fun shows this year, and hopefully even (maybe!) going on tour at some point. Keep an eye out!

Massive thanks to Gemma for answering our questions!

‘Lavender’ is out now, ahead of the release of Gemma Laurence’s upcoming second album of the same name, which is due out on 4th November via Better Company Records.