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
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Shenaz Treasurywala
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

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.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all