Illustrating Mental Health through Music: A Catch Up with Lauren Bird.

Photo by Conor Kerr

Singer songwriter Lauren Bird is back to chat to Sam from The Jumble Magazine all about her new EP ‘The Farewell EP’, discussing how the EP works as a timeline through her recent journey struggling with her mental health- right trough to the light at the end of the tunnel. We chatted about production, reliving your teenage pop punk phase as an adult, and looking forward to a post-pandemic world.

Hi Lauren! Since we last spoke you have released The Farewell EP, featuring singles like ‘Millennials’ and ‘Keep Trying’, how would you describe the new EP to someone who isn’t familiar with your work? 

It’s an EP that tracks a certain period of my life. Before this, in 2017 I released an album called ‘The Inbetween’ which was framing a time period when I had just left University and was starting to figure out my path in life. This EP is sort of similar, but it’s about the time after that when I realised I was actually really mentally unwell, and I had to do something about it. The opening track ‘Here Again’ is about the day that I was prescribed antidepressants for the second time in my life- the rest of the EP acts as a little arc to the ‘Farewell’ – when I actually started to feel better after having done all the work and felt the medication doing its job. I didn’t realise I would be making an EP about how much better I felt and this journey to mental wellness right before a global pandemic started, but we can’t predict the future. I think a lot of people who may have never struggled with mental health issues before have been faced with them over the past year, so I think that’s why more people have (unfortunately) been able to relate to the songs. 

On that first track ‘Here Again’ you have a really distinctive sound, almost an acapella feel that starts to build up into an epic mix of vocals and reverb in its final minute. Did the subject matter of being prescribed antidepressants again influence you to go for such an unusual sound for this track? 

Normally when I write I don’t think too much about production, I find myself noodling on the ukulele or guitar and seeing what happens- but having made an album already and having enjoyed all the elements of arrangement, I had a feeling from the beginning that production was going to be very vital for this EP and especially this track. I knew right away it had to feature a cappella- I recorded myself on a voice memo doing the hums that make up the background at the beginning and built it up from there. It’s partially inspired by a track I really love called ‘Once Upon Another Time’ by Sara Barellies. In the beginning I thought it was just going to be an acapella song, I wasn’t totally sure how to end it. My friend Darren Doherty from the band ‘Northern Lights’ recorded it with me before the first lock down, which meant that once rules were enforced he was just sort of left with it, without me there in the room to work on it with him. He sat down one day and recorded heavier drums, bass, and guitars, and blended them into the track, which was really inspired by his own musical sound. He sent it to me and although I appreciated it, something was off. Suddenly he knew what to do to fix it- he sent back to me with the reverb done, siting ‘Garden Song’ by Phoebe Bridgers as one of his inspirations- the reverbed band sound blended really well into the a cappella and the heartbeat drum loop- and all of it came together to sort of amplify the intensity of the track, it suited the lyrics more to have it sound this way. It was definitely the track that spent the longest in production. 

Photo by Conor Kerr

It’s interesting how a song can come to be as a result of two very different musical tastes and backgrounds coming together. Do you find that someone coming in from a totally different angle to add their own flair to a track is something that happens often in your music making process?

On the first album I crowdfunded, so I was able to afford really good session musicians,I had been playing for a while but the recording process was new to me. Cormac O’Kane (who did the first album in Red Box in Belfast) gathered these amazing musicians together to do it. I’m a big Paul Simon fan, and I had it in my head that I wanted to make my own ‘Gracelands’ and he really helped me follow that vision exactly as I had imagined. Working with Darren is different, considering that we’re also friends, it’s definitely more casual and DIY, which means there’s a little more room for experimenting, we have a lot in common in what we listen to, but there’s also a lot of stuff he’s into that I don’t really listen to at all. He brought a more electric sound to it. I love the music I made before but it’s not always necessarily identical to my own music taste- I love ukulele musicians but as I’ve got older my tastes have changed, this EP feels really cool because it’s more sonically linked to my current musical taste. I think Darren adding his own influences is definitely partially responsible for that, and I hope to keep working with him in the future (when we can!) 

Let’s delve more into your musical taste, is there anything you would point to as something you have fallen in love with over the past year, particularly while we’ve all been in and out of lock down? 

I feel like I always talk about it, but I spent so much of the year listening to Phoebe Bridgers, but I’ve also been trying to get some more upbeat stuff into my ears. I’ve really enjoyed falling back into my love for pop punk- that’s something that seems to happen every year around the time of my birthday- as if I’m trying to time travel back to my 14 year old music taste, so I’ve been loving 

Simple Plan, Blink 182, Greenday, and No Doubt. I’d love to make an album (or a covers album) in that style one day. I don’t think emo has died, by the way, I think it’s just become folk. 

Lastly, as a performer, musician, artist, and just as a person- is there anything in particular that you’re most excited to get back into when the world safely opens up again? 

I can’t wait to hug Darren, I can’t wait to hug all of my friends! Today I got up early to get Julian Baker tickets, and that feeling of sitting waiting for the website to load, and the excitement of hoping I’ll get one before they sell out was something I really missed. I’d love to go to gigs, and I’d love to go to a restaurant and have a meal that I didn’t cook!

Listen to Lauren Bird’s music on Spotify, follow her on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook.

You can Check out ‘Here Again’ on The Jumble Magazine Local Music Playlist by clicking here.

Interview by Sam Dineen

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