This is one of the most exciting moments in my short blogging career. The Yellow Bird Project has provided me with the opportunity to interview one of my favourite new artists, who I was introduced to by my American friend, Jeremy. Birdie Busch has been getting a lot of play time by me ever since I was told about her and was immediately hooked on the catchy as hell “Mystical”, a song off of her second full length album, Penny Arcade. Birdie was nice enough to allow us to interview her, and we are so glad we did, because not only is she super talented, but she is quite witty too. Take a look.
Middle Distance Runner: I understand your real name is Emily. When and how did you come to be known as “Birdie” Busch?
Birdie Busch: Birdie was a nickname bestowed upon me by a friend after a beret with metal studs was bestowed upon my head. It had nothing to do with singing just silliness. So when they ask, “what came first the beret or the bird? I do say the beret.”
MDR: At what age did you start writing music?
BB: I started writing music at the age of 5 on my portable tape recorder, a tune in which I rhymed Manhattan with “blatten”, a fictitious word that served the purpose of rhyming with Manhattan, so I sung, “I will take Manhattan with my blatten.” I had a dormant period that ended in my twenties where life just started to feel right to me distilled into the shape and feeling of a song. I must have been looking for songs for a long time and didn’t know it but when they came, oh boy.
MDR: What kind of music did you listen to growing up and what are your major musical influences?
BB: In my parent’s station wagon it were these tapes, Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline, and I distinctly remember Neil Diamond’s Hot August Night. Patsy still has a gigantic place in my heart and memory. I like how she really takes her time with her delivery, kind of behind the beat. My sister, almost a generation older than me passed down her cassettes and mix tapes, fluorescent 80’s colors and all. I remember her Grateful Dead cassettes she would draw her own pictures for and also, Paul Simon’s Graceland. Another fond memory is when she decided to pop in George Michael’s single, “I Want Your Sex” into the player on a family road trip. Kinda awkward.
Major musical influences? I love Canadians! Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Rick Danko of the Band. I also love Bill Withers, John Prine, Nina Simone. I love Tahitian lullabies and Mexican Nortenos. Jeff Tweedy and Jerry Garcia. The Staple Singers. Toots Hibbert. Gillian Welch. Daniel Lanois. So many I could talk about though. Folks that I call my influences I do because I take from them the inspiration to be myself, for that is what is so appealing about all of them to me, that they were and are so free with giving their own thing to the people.
MDR: Do you play any other instruments besides guitar?
BB: I played violin in grade school from about 5-7. I remember that I really liked Minuet 3. I started playing some again cause I really find that different instruments open up different portals of melodies and violin for sure has some great ones.
MDR: What have you been listening to lately?
BB: Lately I’ve been really enjoying instrumental things, lots of John Fahey, Jim O’Rourke, and I just recently heard for the first time Juana Molina and love the way it’s making my brain bend. I am also hugely in love with early rock steady/ska/reggae. My friend and I want to do a whole record of those old songs, like “Adam & Eve”. It’s this great song, not sure if he wrote it, but Bob Marley sang it way way back.
MDR: Are you a fan of any of the bands that have been a part of the Yellow Bird Project?
BB: Oh yeah. You’ve got quite a crew. It’s funny, I lived behind this bar in Philly and would go there after work to just have a beer and ended up in the midst of a Devendra Banhart concert pretty early on in his touring and playing, without knowing anything about it and always took the line he sung, “from the womb to the tomb, I’ll always be a child” around with me in my head. Really enjoy Neko Case and the way her records sound.
MDR: If you could see any 3 artists or bands dead or alive playing the same show who would they be and why?
BB: I’ve been asking this question all around town since I read it, wondering what others say….Anything contemporary I just assume that I will be able to see if I want some time, which isn’t necessarily true but it allows me to widdle it down to music of folks that have passed from this here world that I might bring back for this show. I would have loved to have seen Bob Marley in his prime, with that big stage show and all the girls singing…also, Nina Simone. Nina Simone being backed by Bill Withers band, which someone told me happened at some point. And of course, John Lennon singing Instant Karma. When I told someone John Lennon, they said, “How about the f****** Beatles!?” And the list goes on and on. Can I add an opener or special guests? Like Charles Mingus, Led Zeppelin, and Clara Rockmore on the theremin?
MDR: What is your favourite movie?
BB: As a lot of my favourites, there’s a huge range, in which is included Ghostbusters, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Forrest Gump, Aliens, and Waiting for Guffman. When I have the chance, most times I’ll rent a movie to laugh before I cry, and if it does both, beautiful.
MDR: What is your favourite book?
BB: Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson. Just Above my Head by James Baldwin. Books of poetry by Langston Hughes. These are some that come to mind. I really like the era of American Literature from the turn of the Nineteenth century and onwards some, in which all of these favourites are included.
MDR: What is your favourite thing to do on a lazy Sunday?
BB: Park myself on my couch facing and in between two old wooden speaker cabinets and listening to records I’ve gotten along the way. Not washing dishes and listening, not reading and listening, or even folding laundry. I’m just listening. I also am a big fan of walk-abouts in my West Philly hood. Does walking cancel out lazy though? Not sure.
MDR: Do you have any new material in the works? Tour plans?
BB: Yes! We are finishing up a recording in the next couple months; it’s about lampshades, Eden’s suburbs, and Mexican dishwashers amongst other things. I promise they do all come together. Stay tuned……
I recently received an e-mail from an enthusiastic Frenchman who wants to book us in France so now I am working at turning that into a first time European tour come the New Year. The U.S. is tough lately with the gas crisis so we’ve been riding our bikes around Philly and concentrating on the recording. We need more trains. We need gigantic zip-lines or sling shots.
MDR: And finally, When are you coming to play in Montreal?
BB: As soon as you have a Yellow Bird Festival!
Well YBP, it seems a Yellow Bird Festival is in need. Get on that!
And as a special gift, Birdie has provided us with a video of her playing a new song from her upcoming album. The song is called “Penny Arcade” and I absolutely love it! Check it out.
Here is the song as an mp3 for you:
I would like to thank Birdie for taking the time to answer my questions. I can’t wait to hear your new album, I will keep my eyes wide open for it!
Until next week…