Baby Bird is half beast and half songwriter. He is wholly a force of nature. But he is not the Beatles

In pop, command of the middle ground is all. The maverick spirit is dead. At least, that's the way it seems. But soft, here come three eccentrics to restore your faith in the weird and wonderful

On a busy Thursday night, the Splash Club at the Water Rats pub in King's Cross is one of those places where over-priced leather jackets go to die. Expense account envelopes are pushed out while hordes of A&R men swarm like leaf-cutter ants over putative next-big-things. The A&R bit formally stands for Artist and Repertoire. Onstage, the man who has lured enough of them here to purify the entire British music industry in the event of a gas explosion is suggesting that it really stands for "Arse and Rectum".

This may not be the most mature jokethat the Sheffield-based songwriting prodigy Steven Jones (aka Baby Bird) has ever cracked, but in the circumstances, it is quite funny. Indecently handsome, in a Keifer Sutherland sort of way, he stalks the stage in a horrible white suit and matching shoes, pulling Max Wall faces and assuring the laughing-too-heartily assembly that they are going to have to grant him sexual favours if they want his signature on a contract. Not so much a frontman as a force of nature, Jones twirls an enormous comb, spits all over his bass player and mockingly challenges the big names of contemporary Britpop to "write a song that's not the Beatles".

Offstage, Jones is far from the paragon of arrogance this performance might suggest. In fact, he is polite to the point of being demure. He's just getting a bit fed up with jumping through hoops for record companies. A couple of months back, a deal with EMI was more or less finalised, and he was flown to Dublin to perform for an international conference. Sandwiched somewhat incongruously between Cliff Richard and Louise out of Eternal, Baby Bird sang a blockbusting ballad of sexual unease called "Man's Tight Vest". It wasn't the song that caused problems so much as the dedication: "My dad died yesterday, and this was the last song he ever wrote for me."

Now the subject of renewed inter-corporate competition after EMI mysteriously sacked the man who wanted to sign him, Steven Jones has already released two of the albums of the year - one on the last day of July and one last Monday - on his own label in 1,000-copy limited editions. On first hearing Baby Bird's debut, I Was Born A Man, or its successor, Bad Shave, the most popular response seems to be "What the hell was that?" The Flying Lizards play Frank Sinatra, maybe, or U2 sing Astrud Gilberto? It takes only a few listens, however, to realise that standout numbers such as "Dead Bird Sings" are anthems of a new suburban dreamland.

In an era when most new bands are only too eager to wear their record collections on their sleeves, the impossibility of pinning down where this music comes from only adds to Baby Bird's allure. The number of styles on display makes it hard to believe these albums are the work of one person, let alone that they were all recorded at home on primitive four-track equipment, and that there are several hundred more completed songs where these came from. Who knew there were this many classic pop songs left to be written, never mind that one man was going to write them all?

Perhaps mindful of the danger of assassination attempts by Menswear and others even less talented, Baby Bird has been somewhat inscrutable up to this point. The sleeve of the first album tells how he got his name - he trod on a bird, and its spirit entered his soul, much as those of the Indians on the highway entered Jim Morrison's. Bad Shave has pictures of its author after what looks like a horrific bathroom mishap,sporting Union Jack underpants beside the legend "English ostrich... back from Spain".

Three more Baby Bird albums will be released within the next six months, with a Greatest Hits selection to follow, compiled on the basis of the polling cards that accompany each CD - "Your choices will shape Baby Bird's future!" Once the big record deal is finalised, Jones and his band - who only got together in April to start playing the songs live - will re-record their best material for mass consumption.

This career plan is so bizarre that it's small wonder misconceptions about Baby Bird already abound. The commonest of these is that he's spent his whole life locked in his bedroom, writing songs and "eating nothing but fish fingers". In fact, Jones had been around the world by the time he was seven (his parents were teachers who took him from Telford to New Zealand via the Panama Canal, and via Suez on the way back). Baby Bird is not his first showbiz venture, either. As a partner in a "multi-media performance group" called Dogs In Honey, he spent more years than he cares to remember travelling the country, performing to very small numbers of people and eking out a living from subsidy and sponsorship.

His songs were written on whatever instruments came to hand. "As I moved from place to place," Jones says, "I'd get a new drum machine or have to sell a guitar." Initially, at least, it was for friends and family only. "I know it sounds a bit naive, but I had no intention of releasing them. I secretly thought it would be nice; I just never thought it would be possible." Convinced otherwise by a canny and enthusiastic manager, he opted to release them "more or less as elaborate demos", but now this ruse has been overtaken by its own success, as the five-album Bird cycle has built up a momentum that is all its own.

Jones is not just a master of the snappy title (one being "Too Handsome To Be Homeless"); he writes complete songs that, given half a chance, will claim squatter's rights in your brain. With the hilarious "Valerie" and the bewitching "CFC" ("I look up at the sky and a plane's flying by, smoking around the loops of your nickname"), he achieves a perfect balance of cynicism and romance. Baby Bird will grow up to find the sky is not the limit. "People do see it as pop music," Jones insists. "Even my brother, and he likes Sting and George Benson."

n 'I Was Born A Man' and 'Bad Shave' (Baby Bird CD only) are both out now. Baby Bird plays the Dublin Castle (0171-485 1773) on Monday and a fortnightly residency christened 'Ont' Nest Wi' Baby Bird' at the King's Cross Water Rats (0171-278 3789) from 1 November


Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Off the wall: the cast of ‘Life in Squares’

Arts and Entertainment

Books And it is whizzpopping!

Arts and Entertainment
Bono throws water at the crowd while the Edge watches as they perform in the band's first concert of their new world tour in Vancouver

MusicThey're running their own restaurants

The main entrance to the BBC headquarters in London
TV & Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
    I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

    I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

    Latest on the Labour leadership contest
    Froome seals second Tour de France victory

    Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

    Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
    Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

    The uses of sarcasm

    'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
    A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

    No vanity, but lots of flair

    A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
    Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

    In praise of foraging

    How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food