On Andrew Bird's Latest, Real Life Takes The Reins "All my songs are personal on some level; it's just a matter of how much that personal thing is buried." Bird says that on the new album Are You Serious, his private world has bubbled to the surface.

On Andrew Bird's Latest, Real Life Takes The Reins

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And if you thought you heard something a little different under our theme music, you are not imagining things. That is the trademark whistle of musician Andrew Bird.


MARTIN: Over the course of producing his past 12 albums, Bird has become known for meticulous composition and lyrical wordplay. Usually, Bird says, he begins his songwriting with a melody in his head then finds the words to fit. But on his latest album, "Are You Serious," he says he worked in reverse, building many of the songs from deeply personal stories he wanted to tell.

ANDREW BIRD: And in the past what I would do is then try to find just the right vowels and syllables and start speaking in tongues and work my way from nonsense towards sense. But this record happened a bit differently. I had more of a strong intent to tell, something that I've been through. And that was a bit new for me.

I mean, all my songs are personal on some level. It's just a matter of how much that personal thing is buried. In this case, they're quite close to the surface.


BIRD: (Singing) You used to have just one foot out the door, you're always wanting more. I always was the one you thought would never marry.

MARTIN: If his new lyrics sound more direct and vulnerable to long-time listeners, that's because over the past six years Andrew Bird's life has changed a lot. He's gotten married, had a son and watched his wife go through cancer treatment.


BIRD: (Singing) I'm going to cut to the quick. This is all nonfiction that you beat with a stick. These are my true convictions. So tell me are you serious? Are...

MARTIN: In the song Valleys Of The Young, he sings about the gulf that grew between him and his friends after his son was born.

BIRD: You know, New York is a land single people mainly. And we were kind of pioneers amongst friends in this realm of starting a family. So we didn't have too many peers. So we were very aware of that divide that suddenly happens.


BIRD: (Singing) Do you need a reason we should commit treason and bring into this world this son and leave the valleys of the young, brunch and tedium, where your friends brunch will become strange to you as you will become strange to them. You live across a great divide.

I'm just a very guarded, reserved person. And I've always had this feeling, like, why - why should - just because I'm a songwriter do I need to confess all my private feelings? And then having a child kind of makes you there in the present. And that's been good for me. I think it's kind of unfrozen me in a lot of ways emotionally and put more heart in my songs I think.


BIRD: (Singing) From the cradle to our grave...

The song "Puma" sort of chronicles our time in New York and my early years with my wife leading into kind of a scary time with this illness. And the music originated separately.

This baseline is (imitating baseline to "Puma"). That happened before I put all the lyrics together. And I thought that is going to be - that's going to be something.


BIRD: (Singing) Do you see particles in the air, unguided particles in the air?

I walk around thinking about these unseen subatomic particles lacerating our bodies all day.


BIRD: (Singing) She was radioactive for seven days, how I wanted to be holding her anyways. But the doctors, they told me to stay away due to flying neutrinos and the gamma rays, oh.

I just sang - she was radioactive or seven days. That's exactly what happened. She had to take a radioactive pill and hole up in our studio apartment in New York alone while I took our son away so he wouldn't be exposed. And that forced separation - I just thought what's the point of disguising this? The reality is crazy and mind-blowing enough. But ultimately, the song - it's a celebration of how she dealt with this incredibly scary thing with humor.


BIRD: (Singing) Cause it gives rise to the rumor she's a girl, and not a puma. Don't try to tell her she's a girl. It's just a rumor.

MARTIN: That's Andrew Bird. His latest album "Are You Serious" is out now.


BIRD: (Singing) How I wanted to be holding her hand anyway. But the doctors, they told me to stay away due to flying neutrinos and the gamma rays...

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