Little Birdy at Big Day Out, Perth, 2007
|Origin||Perth, Western Australia, Australia|
|Genres||Indie rock, alternative rock|
|Labels||Eleven, Virgin, EMI, Universal|
|Associated acts||The Plastik Scene, The Sleepy Jackson, End of Fashion, Jebediah, The Fergusons, One Horse Town|
Scott ('Barney') O'Donoghue
Little Birdy are an Australian indie rock band formed in Perth, Western Australia in 2002 by singer and guitarist Katy Steele, drummer Matt Chequer, guitarist and keyboardist Simon Leach, and bass guitarist Scott O'Donoghue. They gained public attention when their single "Relapse" gained popularity on alternative radio stations such as Triple J, leading them to be signed with the record label Eleven: A Music Company. To date, they have released three studio albums (all three of which entered the top ten in the ARIA charts), two EPs, and ten singles.
Katy Steele's father Rick Steele is a local blues musician in various cover bands, and her brothers Jesse and Luke were both members of The Sleepy Jackson. Jesse left the band in 2000. Steele was the singer-songwriter and guitarist in her band, The Plastik Scene. A friend of Luke's, Simon Leach, heard Steele singing at her brother's 21st birthday party. "Katy was always there... She was around 15 when I saw her sing. Three years later, Katy and I were playing together". Steele left her band and, with Leach as drummer, they performed several gigs as a duo. Scott ('Barney') O'Donoghue later offered to play bass guitar. Leach became tired of percussion and began playing guitar when Matt Chequer joined on drums. In 2002 Little Birdy was formed, named after the Ween song of the same name.
A demo, leaked to radio, was played on alternative stations. A friend of the band dropped a copy at band manager Phil Stevens' home (manager of The Waifs, John Butler Trio and The Flairz). Stevens offered his management services. The band supported Placebo, Morcheeba, and The Superjesus in Perth concerts. A home recording of one of their songs won a WAMi Award for 'Indie-Alternative Song of the Year'. Triple J, a national radio station, started playing an early version of "Relapse", while local Perth radio station Nova 93.7 aired a demo of "Baby Blue". As a result of independent media coverage and radio playing demos, Australian labels sought to sign the band. Little Birdy opted for the independent Eleven label with distribution through Virgin Records-EMI. Steele, along with Leach, who was a graphic designer, quit their jobs and became full-time musicians after the signing.
Little Birdy released their self-titled debut EP Little Birdy in October 2003, which peaked at No. 27 on the ARIA Singles Chart. "Relapse" reached No. 16 on the Triple J Hottest 100 and "Baby Blue" attained No. 25. In September, Steele, in an interview on Whammo.com.au, described the band's progress: "I think we've already written a lot of the first album already. A lot of songs we play live would be awesome if they were recorded". The band played gigs in London and New York later that year, with interest from international record companies.
Their second EP, This Is a Love Song, was issued in March 2004 and debuted at No. 22. Also in that month, Steele won the inaugural Jessica Michalik Contemporary Music Award, presented by The Big Day Out. At the ARIA Music Awards of 2004, "Relapse" was nominated for 'Breakthrough Artist - Single'.
In October, the band released their debut album, BigBigLove, which was produced and engineered by Paul McKercher (The Cruel Sea, Spiderbait, Augie March) and peaked at No. 5 on the ARIA Albums Chart. It contains new versions of "Beautiful" (renamed "Beautiful to Me") and "Relapse", and includes "I Should've Known" with its original title of "Andy Warhol". The album received generally positive critical reviews. Two tracks reached the Triple J Hottest 100 of 2004, "Beautiful to Me" at No. 8 and "Tonight's the Night" at No. 78. Another track, "This Is a Love Song", taken from their This Is a Love Song, attained No. 40.
In 2005, at the WAMi Awards, Steele won 'Best Female Vocalist' and "Beautiful to Me" won 'Most Popular Music Video'. Additional nominations were, Leach for 'Best Guitarist', the band for 'Best Popular Act', 'Most Popular Commercial Pop Act' and 'Best Indie/Pop Act', and BigBigLove as 'Most Popular Album'. At the ARIA Music Awards of 2005, BigBigLove was nominated in four categories: 'Breakthrough Artist - Album', 'Best Rock Album', 'Producer of the Year" (McKercher), and 'Engineer of the Year' (McKercher). Also that year, Little Birdy's version of "Six Months in a Leaky Boat" from the tribute album, She Will Have Her Way, of Neil and Tim Finn songs performed by female Australian and New Zealand musicians, reached No. 96 on Triple J's Hottest 100 of 2005.
During 2006, the band recorded tracks for their second album, Hollywood, which peaked at No. 9 in October. The first single was "Come on Come on", in September, which reached No. 18 – the group's highest charting single to date. It was placed 11th on the Triple J Hottest 100, 2006.
In 2008, the band relocated to Melbourne and started recording a third album, Confetti, which they released in May 2009 and peaked at No. 6. A website was created for previews of new recordings and videos of studio sessions. The album was self-produced and the band worked with engineer-mixer Steven Schram. It was nominated for 'Best Adult Contemporary Album' and 'Engineer of the Year' (Schram) at the ARIA Music Awards of 2009. In February, they issued a music video for the first song, "Brother". The song features Paul Kelly on backing vocals and harmonica.
The experience of working with Paul just reminded me of why he’s such a legend. It wasn’t like he just rocked up to the studio to do a session – he really poured everything into it. We kinda felt like he joined our band for that day and that was a pretty great feeling.—Katy Steele
Confetti's first official single, "Summarize", was released in April, it was followed by "Hairdo" and "Stay Wild". In February 2010, Chequer announced on the band's website that Steele moved to New York and expected to work on her debut solo album, Leach was working on solo material, O'Donoghue was working with other bands, and Chequer himself was doing production work. Steel trialled some solo material at four Australian concerts in May.
Little Birdy undertook their own concerts throughout Australia in 2004 and 2005. They supported R.E.M. during the Australian leg of their world tour in 2005. Little Birdy appeared at national festivals in 2007, including Falls Festival, Big Day Out, Sonic Bloom Festival, Southbound (in Busselton, Western Australia), and Great Escape Festival (Sydney). The band played at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne and supported Eskimo Joe's national tour in May. They were unlisted performers at the 18th East Coast Blues & Roots Music Festival.
Little Birdy appeared at Sound Relief at the Sydney Cricket Ground in March 2009, which was a benefit concert for victims of Victorian bush fires and Queensland floods. The Sydney concert included, Coldplay featuring John Farnham, Eskimo Joe, Hoodoo Gurus, Icehouse, Jet, Josh Pyke, The Presets, Wolfmother, You Am I, Architecture in Helsinki, Marcia Hines, Taylor Swift, and Barry Gibb with Olivia Newton-John.
- Matt Chequer – drums, percussion
- Simon Leach – guitar, synthesiser, steel guitar
- Scott 'Barney' O'Donoghue – bass guitar, vocals, melodica, harmonica
- Katy Steele – vocals, guitar
- Fergus Deasy – keyboards, vocals, synthesiser, guitar
- Studio albums
- Jason Ankeny. "Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 30 August 2011. "Australian alt-rock unit Little Birdy formed in Perth in 2002."
- Murfett, Andrew (14 January 2004). "Little Birdy Learns to Fly". The Age (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 18 March 2008.
- Murfett, Andrew (3 November 2006). "Chirpy Songbird Seeks High Times". The Age (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 18 March 2008.
- "Little Birdy". WHAMMO Interviews. Worldwide Home of Australasian Music and More Online (WHAMMO). 28 September 2003. Archived from the original on 2 April 2004. Retrieved 31 May 2011.
- "Discography Little Birdy". Australian Charts Portal. Hung Medien. Retrieved 31 May 2011.
- "Winner Jessica Michalik Contemporary Music Endowment – Katy Steele". Professional Development Awards – 2004 Winners. Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). 2004. Retrieved 1 June 2011.
- "Artist: Little Birdy". ARIA Awards 2010 – History: Winners by Artist. Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Retrieved 1 June 2011.
- "2004: 18th Annual ARIA Awards". ARIA Awards 2010 – History: Winners by Year. Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Retrieved 1 June 2011.
- Holmgren, Magnus. "Paul McKercher". Australian Rock Database. Magnus Holmgren. Retrieved 1 June 2011.
- "2005: 19th Annual ARIA Awards". ARIA Awards 2010 – History: Winners by Year. Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Retrieved 1 June 2011.
- Donovan, Patrick (22 May 2009). "Fully fledged Birdy". The Age (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 1 June 2011.
- "2009: 23rd Annual ARIA Awards". ARIA Awards 2010 – History: Winners by Year. Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Retrieved 1 June 2011.
- "Little Birdy - Confetti". FasterLouder.com.au. 1 January 2009. Retrieved 12 May 2009.
- "Katy Steele Going Solo". Triple J Media. Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). 18 May 2010. Retrieved 1 June 2011.
- Chequer, Matt (5 February 2010). "Band Statement – News". Little Birdy – Official Website. Little Birdy. Retrieved 1 June 2011.
- "REM, Bright Eyes, Little Birdy". Triple J. Retrieved 4 Feb 2013.
- Australian Associated Press (AAP) (9 March 2009). "Bushfire Relief Concert Breaks Record". The Age (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 1 June 2011.
- Brumby, John (24 February 2009). "Artists Unite For 'Sound Relief' Bushfire Benefit – Premier of Victoria, Australia". Premier of Victoria. Retrieved 1 June 2011.
- "Sound Relief Raises More than $8 Million for Charity". Sound Relief. Retrieved 1 June 2011.