Andrew Bird is likely your favorite musician’s favorite musician. Few artists have mastered the art of blending contemporary music trends with symphonic elements of composers like Beethoven the way that Bird has. His latest studio effort, his 13th LP Inside Problems, is no exception. Featuring Bird’s signature whistle and layered violin on top of clever and cunning lyrics, the record leans into modern indie pop influences while staying true to Bird’s signature sound. The subject matter is also quite modern, exploring how today’s culture impacts mental health and emotional well-being— what Bird describes as “inside problems.”
Watch Andrew Bird perform “Make A Picture,” “Atomized” and “Underlands” from Inside Problems live at WNXP’s Sonic Cathedral.
Justin Barney: The new album is “Inside Problems.” And the last song you played was “Underlands,” which I think is just such a great way to start that album. Everyone is so in the pocket. Listening to this album, I really feel like it sounds so effortless. Like, you are at a point where you have completely figured out who you are and what you are doing. Do you feel like that?
Andrew Bird:I do. There’s other records where I think, okay, I’m going to I’m going to create a new sort of vocabulary, a new language in this. This one wasn’t like that. It was like, I’m going to do everything that I’ve developed over the last 25 years. If it wants to happen. You know? Because we were still kind of on lockdown waiting for the vaccine, we just were playing a lot together. Until we could get into the studio. So we did many months of pre-production and rehearsing and so once we got in, it was just a live ten day performance, you know?
And that comes across from the outset. You’re performing with a great familiarity with each other.
Yeah. It’s taken me like 16 records to get to that point. To bridge that divide between live performance and studio recording, to try to trick yourself into like, well, it’s just to me. It’s like, my favorite recordings, either of other people or of mine in the past, are ones that were live to tape because there’s just more depth and more weight to it. The ones where I did track by track sound really cool, like they sound more hi fi and you can make yourself sound more awesome that way. But, in listening to those, those sound more like architecture than a performance.
In talking about the the album “Inside Problems” you said that “There are two types of problems: Outside problems and inside problems.” And that you are “really confused. But ‘I’m really confused,’ doesn’t make a good chorus.” Which I think is very funny. But I wondered, what are you, you know, confused about?
Well, first of all, yeah, the title “Inside Problems” was just struck me is funny that you could boil things down to such, you know, basic things. It’s not that black and white, of course, but I thought it kind of captured this weird job I have where I’m working internally in my head for a few years, and then suddenly kind of just projected all out across this threshold from inside my head to all these people. And it’s just, it just struck me. I was just more like acutely aware of that, that internal world in the last couple of years. Um, but to answer your question, what I’m confused about, um, you know, we’ve all been through some crazy stuff the last couple of years and I think we identity is an issue on this album like the song “Stop and Shop” that was the song where I thought of that like I was literally that all I could think of. It’s like, “Whoa, I’m so confused now.” And I was like, That’s that, that can that’s not going to work. But that that was sometimes there’s a they say, as a writer, you should sometimes you just come out and just say it. But as a songwriter. That doesn’t always work. It’s got to be musical and lyrical and make sense and not be fringy. That that would have been crunchy if I had done that. But that’s what I was thinking.
I love the idea of leaving some space for ambiguity, but I will now crush that space in an interview. I really love the song “Eight.” Mm hmm. I think it’s so clever lyrically. And I wonder who those characters are in the numbers.
Um, you know. It’s I’ve never even been happy to talk about songs in interviews. And I was finally, I was just like, “Maybe I’m not doing the song any favors by talking about it.” Like that one, it turned out to be one of my favorite tunes on the album, but it’s probably the least meaningful of all the songs. It’s funny. Maybe it’s been freed of the need to communicate.
Yeah. And I think that also a song can just be, but I like that that song is just kind of innocent fun.
Exactly. So I’ve I’ve always loved the number eight and since I was a kid and I always thought of, this is going to sound bizarre, but I loved olives and eight and I loved looking at moose horns with the moss on it. I thought that those three things were kind of the same thing. To me. Like texturally. They were just kind of sensual. So I thought, there’s, days of the week songs and there’s like Schoolhouse Rock math songs. So I thought, I’ll just do a counting song. A counting to eight song.
You’re playing the Ryman. Is there something special about the Ryman?
Of course, yeah. It’s a really cool room, not just historically, but the fact that it’s really designed to do it without a PA. Like you could, you can, you could just turn everything off and people can hear you. We should do that tonight, maybe. To do no PA, that would be kind of fun to see if that actually works.