First Watch: Amanda Shires Animated Hopes And Heartaches : All Songs Considered Watch this bittersweet story song by the talented Amanda Shires set to "paper doll animation"
NPR logo First Watch: Amanda Shires Animated Hopes And Heartaches

First Watch: Amanda Shires Animated Hopes And Heartaches

When we were heading to SXSW this year, NPR Music critic Ann Powers told us to watch out for Amanda Shires' "plainspoken poeticism." You can hear that on her new album called Carrying Lightning. Amanda Shires is a talented songwriter, singer and fiddler. Here's a video premiere for the track "Ghostbird," a song she so badly wanted animated.

Ghostbird, music by Amanda Shires, film by Cory Basil


"Do you know how much they charge for a trained bird, a fish submarine, and a dragon? But seriously, I had been thinking about how to make the video — really — how was I gonna put the song out in a visual way? It was a serendipitous spark of an idea. You can do whatever you want in animation. Animation answered all the questions and solved all of the problems of how to best represent this song visually.

"It was random how I thought of Cory. I think I was eating goldfish crackers and a light bulb went off above my head. I looked up and the light bulb was Cory.

"I don't know how synapses fire. All I know is that I admire Cory's work. I felt really strongly that he would be the person to capture the song without it being soft.

"We didn't talk much about it. I think an artist's vision is the way to go. I said a few things about darkness and hope, and about the bird, and how I thought the song would tell him where to go. I feel like that's exactly what happened. There are contrasting elements of innocence and darkness in both his and my work. That's the thing that drew me to call on him. We are kind of 'samey' in the melancholy department.

"I saw little bits and pieces of the work he was doing as we went but not much.

"When it was finished, I felt relieved for both Cory and myself. He spent many hours on it. It's like making a lemon souffle with raspberry sauce: The whole time it's cooking you are just thinking maybe I should've stuck with regular cupcakes. And then you are ecstatic at the end when there's no kitchen fire and it tastes great.


"I sat down with Amanda outside of Fido in Nashville's Hillsboro Village to discuss the possibility of creating an animated music video for her. She pulled out her iPhone and as I placed the ear buds in I closed my eyes and allowed the song to come to life. With the initial strum of the guitar canvases began to fill with paint before my mind's eye and I knew we had something special with this song."

"Amanda gave me a creative freedom that is rarely given to an artist with this type of situation. She only had one request - that my film have a blue bird in it, whose heart would beat red. Amanda had seen my previous work and has a love for my visual art and with that she placed complete trust and confidence in me to deliver my best for her. When you give an artist the gift of zero boundaries the sky truly is the limit and wheels are invented."

"I set to work scouring my imagination for the perfect characters to represent Amanda and this song. Pages upon pages of pencil scratched sketchbooks finally birthed little Pearl and her Ghostbird. From there I developed the remainder of the cast and set to work hand painting every piece that you see."

"I wanted a storyline that paralleled softly with the lyrics and mood already created wonderfully by Amanda's song; however, I didn't want cliché. I rewrote my story a few times to be certain that it had personality and meaning throughout. I feel deeply connected to this piece, as it is a reflection of what I have been through personally."

"It may take several viewings to capture all of the symbolism and metaphors sprinkled throughout. For example, when the color red appears on screen it represents danger. The color blue, hope. All of the main characters heartache, represented playfully, comes together at the close. As it was her constant struggle that brought color to her world and gave her the hope to carry on."

"For me, all 350 hours and weeks without sleep proved worthwhile, as I was able to birth something completely unique that represented not only Amanda's story but mine, and yours."