ARTIST PROFILE| ANDREW BIRD
BY SEAN O’GRADY
Distinctive singer songwriter Andrew Bird is returning to our shores this month to play Bluesfest at Byorn Bay, as well as his own headlining shows at the iconic Sydney opera House and in Melbourne at the Recital Centre. A highly regarded live performer who takes his audience on an intense emotional journey I asked Andrew during a recent chat what audiences can expect.
“I’m bringing a full band on this tour we do a dynamic set that becomes increasingly intense and complex and breaks it down to one microphone all acoustic, and it recalibrates everybody’s ears. You never hear the same song twice and it keeps it interesting for us as well. The musicians I work with are phenomenal, they are all New York jazz musicians they are amazing players and they appreciate a well put together pop song, it take a lot of physical and emotional energy.”
His most recent studio album Are you Serious has been floating around the ether for more than twelve months and I asked Andrew, an artist who never stands still and is always in the midst of a creative project what was next on the horizon. “I’ve been pretty active I’ve just finished a film score and I’m working on the Echolocations project which is four albums of instrumental music recorded in extraordinary outdoor spaces in nature, the idea is to do a sonic map of these different environments. I’ve also been doing The Great Room series which is a TV show from my living room where I have various musicians come over and play and have a chat.”
Are You Serious is a departure both from a musical perspective as well as a lyrical one, more contemplative it reflects on what it means to find a nurturing relationship leaving the cynicism and misplaced angst behind. Bird builds a more expansive and diverse sound on the album, moving away from the more stripped back acoustic nature of previous records Are You Serious is a bold sonic statement. I asked Andrew what he wanted to achieve with Are You Serious.
“I asked myself what would it sound like if I made an across the board top shelf record on my terms, not in terms of high production or slickness, but more in terms of bringing in the right people and working as hard as I ever have. It was very much intentionally going for the jugular on every song, the recording was intense. I keep comparing it to what I imagine the wrecking crew was like back in the 1960’s, those records where no instrument was filler and every part had to have a distinct melody, I really enjoyed the nuts and bolts of putting it all together.”
The album broke new ground for Andrew in other ways, changing the way he assembled the material with a lengthy pre-production process to his embrace of a more rhythmic approach as he explained.
“There was a good four or five months of pre-production where producer Tony Berg would come over to my house and we would go over the songs which to me was my favourite part of the process. I had never given myself so much time before to vet the songs, so that was key I think. I’ve been interested in the New Orleans to Caribbean connection, then Jamaica to Africa to Cuba that kind of cross pollination that took place. That whole region is fascinating to me rhythmically, a song like Capsized has a real Meters sound to it a really lean and tight feel.”
Are You Serious stands as a highlight in Andrew Birds oeuvre it’s a brave departure but it hits all the right spots, his insightful lyricism is always present and it’s now presented alongside a captivating wide-ranging sonic palette.
Andrew Bird plays the Melbourne Recital Centre on the 18th of April, see the link below for more details.