The Bird Yellow.
Folk and alternative singer from Barcelona, The Bird Yellow, shows us his most honest and pure vision about music, creating, enjoying what you do, cinema and appreciating what we have. It's a really cool interview.
"I think I'm more of an empty body that allows for the song to go through. All feelings and messages are in the song itself and I'm just a messenger".
When and what made you realise you could express yourself with your voice and guitar?
Probably when I started listening to folk music. Folk music taught me ways to tell stories and to express one’s feelings from a more intimate perspective. Before that, I listened to great classic bands, like Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Nirvana, AC/DC, Jimi Hendrix… What I found inspiring about rock n’ roll was the show, the energy, the going crazy on-stage, the controversial lyrics… things I learned a lot from as well. With time, though, as I discovered folk music, in came sorrow and feelings. Teenage problems, yes, but I started to feel more identified with who I was at the time.
I wasn’t a rock-star, I couldn’t write about sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. I was a 13 year old boy who got B’s at school. So I started to relate to singer/songwriter songs, a guitar and a broken voice. Having a room in silence listening to someone’s cries felt just as rock-star.
Your particular voice makes you immerse into a completely different world and dimension. What process did you go through to discover this register you ended up with?
At the beginning I didn’t really have the voice for it. When I started to sing I was around 13 or 14 and everything sounded fine in my head, but when I recorded myself I realized I wasn’t good. At all. I thought singing was something you either had or didn’t have, but my mom told me otherwise. She said it was more like a muscle, something one could train, just like going to the gym. So I did. I started taking lessons and it took me a few years to understand the different techniques and actually know what I was doing. After that, without much consciousness or planning, I guess I began to look for, as you say, “my own voice”, whatever that is… And I’m still searching for it, I guess.
How would you describe your creative process? What personal and professional phases do you go through until you have the final song?
It depends on each song, really. I try not to impose any rules on how I want the songs to be or how I want them to come out. In my case, lots of songs are written out of improvising with chords, a melody and some made up lyrics (“songish”). From then on, some words and verses start to resonate with how I think the song could sound like… until there’s a tone, a structure, a theme, and so on. Obviously, there’s a process of discarding all that doesn’t fit in what I have in mind, and throwing away things that might not be right for that song in particular.
Curiously enough, most of the times I end up with songs about things that are happening to me (and in me) at that moment. But, as I said, it depends on each one of them. There are songs that I know what they are about from the beginning and there are others I wrote years ago that I still don’t. I find that quite beautiful and intriguing.
"The fact that I can listen to music all over the world, sample it, share it, learn from it and use it to create my own material is something we should be thankful for".
How would you describe what happens inside of you when you sing?
I’m not sure that I can… it’s a weird state of mind. To me, it’s not so much as re-living what every song tells or even feel the same thing I felt when I wrote it.
When I’m singing a song, I think I’m more of an empty body that allows for the song to go through. All the feelings and messages are in the song itself and I’m just a messenger, if that makes sense. Of course, there might be distractions. Sometimes I’m not completely empty when I’m singing a song, sometimes there are things in me that change the songs. There might be something that happened that day, the tension, someone in the audience, or even my own sneaky inner demons. It might do good to the song or ruin it, but that’s what makes playing live so interesting.
Why "The Bird Yellow"?
The Yellow Bird was too obvious. Just kidding.
I read it in a poem by Zbigniew Herbert just when I needed a name, and I didn’t overthink it.
You debuted with your album Little Kids at the age of 22. What is the inner message behind what we listen? What was Gerard trying to express with that album?
There actually wasn’t a planned narrative behind Little Kids. The album was just a handful of songs that I had written in a certain time in my life. The songs were about different things, some songs were old, some others were new… Gerard at that time had no idea what the hell he wanted to say. It was my first big release with a label behind me but, to me, ultimately, they were just a bunch of songs. Songs about being young and acknowledging pain, songs about not knowing enough to do the right thing, stories about made up people… I felt I was just a kid singing songs. Therefore, Little Kids.
Which are your biggest influences and how do they affect your process of working and creating?
I’d say my greatest influences are the musicians that are closest to me now. Pol Batlle, Òscar Garrobé and Toni Llull, the members of my band, are definitely very big influences for me. They’re some of the best musicians I’ve ever known. I love what they add to the songs and I admire what they do in their own musical projects. I’m lucky to be playing with them.
Every single thing I do is influenced by something. Listening to artists I admire allows me not to get stuck in things, as well as getting to know different possibilities of what someone can do when it comes to writing a song, recording it or playing it live. Are the things we do ever original, unaltered and pure, or do we all gather ideas from other people and use them for our own work? Who cares.
What do you like the most from music industry and what do you hate the most?
How connected everything is nowadays. I like that. The fact that I can listen to music all over the world, sample it, share it, learn from it and use it to create my own material is something we should be thankful for. I just released The Place We’re In, a song I wrote, recorded and mixed at home. The song had some additional bass recordings by Òscar Garrobé, which he did at his own home; it was mastered by Ander Agudo, who lives in NY; and has a video made by Mario G. Salinero, with his computer, also from his home. To be able to do all of that with only computers in less than a month is amazing!
That makes everything go by much faster, though. There’s so much content available that we don’t stop and really listen anymore (myself included), we devour content with such speed that it makes it very hard to get people to truly listen to what’s out there. Now you need to be persistent, you need to be on social media, never stop creating content, and blah blah… and I hate that.
From a personal and professional point of view, what difference can you afford to the music industry?
I have absolutely no idea. Every day I realize there are hundreds of thousands of people trying to make a name for themselves in the music industry. And it’s up to each person to decide whether that’s good or bad, innovative or used up. I work hard and try not to publish anything I’m not proud of, that’s it. Boris Vian wrote in a poem that “everything has been said a hundred times” and that he writes “because it’s fun”, nothing more. I really like that. I don’t think I’m here to change the world, or change the music industry. I’m here to do what I like and have a good time while doing it. If I can make a living out of it, even better. Who is THE MUSIC INDUSTRY, anyway? (beep) them.
What would you listen to while you take a shower?
Nessun Dorma by Pavarotti and anything by Cohen.
What would you listen to while you cook a homemade pizza?
I actually made one recently while listening to the album Love, Loss and Autotune, by Swamp Dogg. Oh my.
You’ve just published two new songs, My Matador and Slippin, which we can clearly see they are tasting and providing us a different vibe from your old songs. Are they part of a new upcoming album? Are you trying to experiment with some new styles and vibes? Are you opened to experiment with new stuff?
No, these songs are not part of an album. My Matador and Slippin (and Everything Moves, yet to be released) are individual singles that I recorded over the summer. Each song needed something different, and each song was recorded in a different way.
I like many different kinds of music and I don’t want to limit myself to one single style or genre. I’m always looking for new things, otherwise I get bored. I try a lot of “weird” stuff when I’m producing my own songs at home. Nonetheless, working with different producers has transformed my songs in ways I wouldn’t have imagined all by myself.
Cover art for Slippin single, by Uri Llobet, @fal_co_ne_ra
Do you feel you have an inner goal to achieve as a musician?
Playing at Tiny Desk, does that count? Haha I don’t know. Not really, because I know I will always want more. Ultimately, my goal is to keep doing this and to be able to work with people I admire.
You’ve directed your first movie “ Les dues nits d’ahir”, which has not premiered yet but it’s having a really good impression in festivals like Málaga Film Festival and San Sebastián. Which is your relationship with cinema? Do you feel it’s a different source of self-expression than music? And what connection do cinema and music share according to you?
I think cinema is a very different way of doing the same thing. In the end you’re telling a story, whether it’s literal or metaphoric, with or without characters… it’s all the same. And I love putting them together, giving images a soundtrack (and the other way around) and seeing how one can add to, or even modify the other. When we shot My Matador, for instance, it was really beautiful to able to create with images a whole other universe that expanded the meaning of that song.
What do you hate the most about yourself?
Hating stuff about myself in the first place… and my laziness. I love being lazy, though. I hate loving my laziness.
What do you like the most about yourself?
My wordplay, on most days.
If you close your eyes right now and imagine yourself in 20 years, in which scenario do you picture yourself?
Shit, I don’t even know what I’m making for dinner. I’m not good at planning the future. Although I can picture myself buying some nice vegetables in the market, making lunch for my friends somewhere outdoors and, after eating, passing a guitar around and everyone playing a song they like.
That and having a thousand trillion dollars.
Interview by Katrin Vankova