Interview: Andrew Bird on Old Songs, New Songs and Fiona Apple

Andrew Bird
Andrew Bird

Violinist, composer and singer Andrew Bird has been making swinging, folkish, art pop as a soloist since 1996. Beginning with his first album, Music of Hair, and continuing with each recording and project (e.g. the soundtrack of the Louis C.K. produced FX Network sitcom Baskets) proving to be more intriguing than the last. No less is true of his newly released Are You Serious album, one that finds him singing his most personal, least cryptic lyrics yet (getting married and having a son can do that), crooning a duet with Fiona Apple and generally sounding as if he's loving life more than ever.

A.D. Amorosi: At the earliest part of your career, you played with a single backing band, Bowl of Fire. Do you miss playing with them or are you not a guy to miss people much?
Andrew Bird: What was Bowl of Fire anyway? The personnel changed a lot, as did the genres. The only constant was Kevin O'Donnell on drums, who I still play with from time to time. If the question is, 'do I miss playing old-timey American music,' the answer is yes. So, I jump at any excuse to play it, be it for a film score or with my current Hands of Glory band.

A.D.: On the new album, there's one song – "Capsize" – you have been doing for a while that really fits the vibe of Are You Serious. Not to sound so literal, but did you write "Capsize" to yourself, as some sort of reminder of your past?
Andrew: I've been performing it in some form for the last 13 years. It began as “Trimmed and Burning" and merged with “Dyin Bed Maker,” both old spirituals that simply spoke to me. Then I wrote the "wake up nights falling...spoon dirty laundry" part about a bad breakup years ago where my support system fell apart, the well was poisoned and I was walking around my hometown with a target on my head. That's how it felt anyway. What's special about this song is that it is so proven on stage. It changes with my moods.

A.D.: How and why did you decide to get Fiona Apple to duet with you on "Left Handed Kisses"?
Andrew: She's strong, principled, and not buying what I'm selling. Fiona was awesome. She took a lot of risks and my respect for her is great.

A.D.: What song or moment did you write first for Are You Serious that would have presaged everything that would come for the rest of the album? How did that first song push you toward a direction?
Andrew: Besides "Capsized," which is sort of in a world of its own, "Left Handed Kisses" was next and labored over for 4-5 years. That song was even profiled in The New York Times, when it was then called ‘Begging Questions." But, "Valleys of the Young" is the song which encapsulates the record for me though. It's brutal and unflinching. These songs are not inaccessible internal musings. I'm just trying to ensure that you won't look away.

Andrew Bird has a string of live dates on the East Coast: Philadelphia, PA (April 4, Electric Factory); Washington, DC (9:30 Club, April 5); Brooklyn, NY (Kings Theatre, April 7); New York City, NY (Terminal 5, April 8); and Boston, MA (Wang Theatre, April 9). For more info about Are You Serious and tour dates visit

Photo courtesy of Biz3 Publicity

Posted on Monday, April 4 2016