Johnathan Mahler penned a nice, well-timed profile on singer-songwriter/prolific whistler/our imaginary fake boyfriend Andrew Bird for the Times Magazine this Sunday. There’s a lot of good stuff: about how Noble Beast is supposedly going to be Bird’s break-the-mainstream pop record (possible, but even if it isn’t, it’s an incredibly consistent piece of work that we might even like better than Armchair Apocrypha, though it’s a little too soon to tell); about how Bird completely gave a former label exec the total face after doling out the unhelpful suggestion he just “act like a rock star” as a marketing plan; about how Bird is a stand-up-and-eat workaholic when he records; about how Bird has always been a musical misfit; and about how Bird tends to become “emotionally destabilized” after a show.
But the thing we can’t quite stop thinking about, after reading this story, is the not-so-surprising yet wonderfully gratifying revelation that Bird is a serious loner, like, Bon Iver/Thoreau/Emily Dickinson territory loner. For one thing, instead of hitting on all the skinny girls with glasses who wait for him to play small venues in the hipster area of Chicago, he prefers hanging out in his parents’ barn. With his brother. You see, Bird is coming off break-up life support right about now:
But slowing down and re-entering reality was proving to be even more
difficult for him. Bird is something of a loner. When he’s not on tour,
he spends much of his time by himself in the barn on his family’s farm,
where he does most of his writing and composing. Being back home,
bumping into old friends whom he hadn’t talked to in months, was
reminding him of what he gave up to play music. He was feeling, as he
put it, "a little bit like a ghost in my own town." Bird’s life in
Chicago seemed particularly tenuous to him at the moment; he had just
come off a difficult breakup and was living for the time being with his
Mahler goes on to pump Bird for info about the meaning of one of the
finest tunes on the new disc, ‘Not a Robot, But a Ghost.’ While it
isn’t quite as heart-wrenching as ‘Souverian’, we’re a little terrified
to hear the back-story subtext for that particular,
yrlifeisfallingapart melody. But, anyway, ‘Not a Robot’? It’s a
…anchored in the disconnected feeling Bird experienced
after the end of his most recent relationship — or more specifically,
how he felt when he heard a powerful piece of music while in the throes
of that post-breakup funk: having been moved by the music, he no longer
felt like a robot, but he still felt like a ghost.
Now then: who was this young lady? A regular citizen? A musician herself? It’s a shame Zooey’s utterly taken by Gibby, because those two truly could have made a quirktastic indie-rock super couple. In an alternate universe, perhaps.