Interview By Hilary Porter

BIRDY has achieved so much since she exploded onto the world music stage with her rendition of Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love,” aged just 14.

The extraordinarily talented singer from the New Forest - who performs at Southampton Guildhall tonight ( Friday October 21, has released three albums, toured the world, performed at the 2012 Paralympics Opening Ceremony, been nominated for a Brit Award (for British Female Solo Artist), written songs for the hit movies The Fault in Our Stars and The Hunger Games and sung on Mumford & Sons’ Grammy-winning song “Learn Me Right” (part of the soundtrack for the Pixar animation, Brave)... and she is still only 20 years old!

Apart from a long list of international accolades, including Best International Female (Echo Awards, Germany 2013) and Best International Female (Principales, Spain 2014) she has accumulated over 413 million views on Youtube and sold over 10.5 million records worldwide to date.

Her music is everywhere, from a Lloyds Bank commercial to the RED Valentino campaign.

And yet you couldn't meet a sweeter, more unassuming soul than Birdy, aka Jasmine Lucilla Elizabeth Jennifer van den Bogaerde. She was nicknamed ‘Birdy’ for the way she opened her mouth for food as a baby and it stuck.

Bizarrely, I first met Birdy when she was a school girl just on the threshold of being 'discovered'. She was a pupil at Durlston Court School at Barton-on-Sea with my niece Annabelle and Birdy came to a sleep over party at her house, along with my daughter Amber. We all sat round the table drinking tea and eating birthday cake. I recall my sister-in-law telling me what a beautiful natural voice Birdy had but Birdy, who by her own admission is shy, just shrugged it off. She was just one of the ( very nice) girls doing what young girls do when they hang out together.

Fast forward a few years, we arrange to chat about her new album 'Beautiful Lies' and her forthcoming UK tour. She remembers that time and recalls how supportive her classmates were of her.

"I was lucky that all the kids from my school were so supportive. When things happened – like chart hits or awards – it was like it was a celebration for all of us. No one was mean or jealous."

It all rocketed for her when Southampton music consultant Chris Grayston launched a national talent search contest Open Mic UK and Birdy won it.

She told me: "I was only 12 when I signed the publishing deal. It was so exciting. I won the Open Mic competition and everyone at school voted for me and then out of nowhere my record company got in touch. It was definitely a huge surprise. I was never expecting that. I always secretly knew it was what I loved doing but it was something out of my reach and something that other people do and how could I possibly do it!

The record company came round to my house and it was really exciting and once I signed the publishing deal I was writing for two years and developing it . I did a cover of Ben Iver's Skinny Love that got played on Radio One and it got such a big reaction on YouTube.

"I was asked to go to the US, to Europe, to play in front of thousands of people. I never expected it to happen. I always found it terrifying going up on stage but once I was out there, everything was OK. Music has always been my comfort zone."

Birdy is the very antithesis of today's sassy pop starlets and has never milked the publicity machine, despite her astounding successes.

For starters, she is pure blue blood, being the daughter of the Honourable Sophie Patricia and Rupert Oliver Benjamin van den Bogaerde. She grew up in an ancient mill house near Lymington on the New Forest estate of her maternal grandfather, Lord Teynham, and is the great niece of the actor Sir Dirk Bogarde (who anglicised his name).

Her father is a writer and her mother a concert pianist, she has two older half-brothers, Moses, 26, and Sam, 24, and a younger brother, Jake, 17, and sister, Caitlin, 16. Most of her aunts, uncles and cousins also lived in houses on the 1,500-acre estate.

Her musical talent blossomed from a very early age growing up in such an artistic family.

"We just love the arts- acting, dancing and singing. I grew up with that . My mum is a concert pianist and she taught me how to play and my dad would play music all the time. I was surrounded by it and could play the piano before I can remember. When I was eight I was writing my own songs. I don't know about my voice - it's just very natural for me.

"Mum and Dad stood at the stairs one day listening to me at the piano and said what has she got to write such sad songs about at the age of eight! I think it comes from the classical music I use to listen to like Chopin!"

Birdy studied for GCSEs at Priestlands School, but was forced to abandon her A-Levels in art and French at Brockenhurst College to complete her second album, Fire Within, which includes the song Wings, made famous by the Lloyds ad.

Looking back on that time working towards her GCSEs at school whilst also making her first album and starting out as a performer she said:

"I started to tour a lot and that was quite terrifying - especially doing interviews as that's not natural to me. When I did my first interview I couldn't say a word - I was so scared. I had to have a few lessons because talking about yourself doesn't come easy - it feels like showing off. It's been nice for me that it's been quite a gradual process and I've slowly learnt to do them!"

As for fame she says: "It's not something that I've ever really wanted. It just comes with what I do. I'm lucky to do what I love but I don't think I will ever be comfortable with it. When someone recognises me in the street it's weird; I'm a private person, and always will be.

"I've been really lucky to have my parents with me from the beginning and to travel with me. It would have been terrifying if they hadn't.

"I'm one of five children and they are all very honest with me: they are brutal - as a family should be! There are so many people saying nice things to me but my family tell me the truth and joke with me. In my family you are not allowed to be good: you don't get praised. They are really jokey about it all and that's good and that keeps you humble. They are definitely supportive though and always have been ."

This year has been manic and touring Asia proved an eye-opener:

"I've been travelling a lot this year with the new album in America and Asia. It's been amazing. I've been in Asia for three weeks . It was like another planet. It's such a different world. I went toTokyo and South Korea. Hong Kong, China and Taiwan . They are very reserved and quiet. It's a respectful thing. There is a huge gap after each song and then they start clapping and I thought 'do they like me?!' They don't really clap that much and then after the show they were going crazy and screaming - it was really strange!"

I remark that she has achieved so much yet she is still only 20 and ask what she is most proud of.

"For me it's the new album, 'Beautiful Lies' because I had the most involvement in it. Before I didn't know what I wanted . I didn't know myself and that comes from being older and stronger and speaking my own mind. I was even involved in the art work for it. I was working with the photographer Olivia Bee who started out at 14 like me so we had a lot in common. She was lovely and so talented.

"I've written all the songs and some are co-written, which I really enjoyed. I really gelled with everyone I worked with.

"The album is about growing up and not accepting change. It's about not really wanting to grow up; it's about lying to your self. I'd missed a lot of growing up with my family so it's about that. It's also inspired my Memoires of a Geisha so it has an Asian feel to it and it's about feeling a much stronger person.

I'd just moved to London when I wrote it and I've been there two years now. It's great but I'm not really there a lot. When I'm in the UK I end up going home to the New Forest.

I just love it when it's boiling hot and being back home and having a lovely picnic by the sea.

I have a flat in Notting Hill. I'm so use to noise and fighting and always having someone to talk to so it was quite strange living on my own at first and having that silence, but I like having time on my own. And my brothers are only just down the road. "

In her spare time Birdy likes to be with her boyfriend and when I ask about him she says: "I have to keep him secret. He really loves what I do and works in something similar to me. "

So how does she see her self in the next ten years?

"I don't know. I hope I will have a family by then and I'd love to still be making music. I hope I can do some more music for film. I really enjoyed it and that's my dream to do a movie score some day."