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

BEN THOMPSON

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
The Rolling Stones at the Roundhouse in London in 1971: from the left, Keys, Charlie Watts, Mick Taylor and Mick Jagger

Music ...featuring Eric Clapton no less
Arts and Entertainment
In the dock: Dot Branning (June Brown); Union boss claims EastEnders writers are paid less than minimum wage

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Roger Christian wrote and directed the 1980 Black Angel original, which was lost until 2011

film
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Green (Hand out press photograph provided by Camilla Gould)

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones reviewWarning: Spoilers aplenty
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

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

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

    ‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

    Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
    The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

    The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

    ... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
    12 best olive oils

    Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

    Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back