David Byrne’s career is nothing less than extraordinary.
He’s the lead singer and frontman of the Talking Heads. The band behind iconic songs like “Psycho Killer” and “Burning Down the House.”
But Byrne is also a solo artist in his own right.
The Scottish singer recorded instrumental electronic albums, pop records and even spoken word. He’s collaborated with Brian Eno, St. Vincent, Philip Glass, Selena and so many more.
His talents never run dry. He’s written books and scored soundtracks. He even wrote and directed his own movie back in 1986: True Stories.
If you wanted to find a common theme in his work, it might be that David Byrne has always worked to push the boundaries of what pop music can be. At the same time, he takes high art – the kind of stuff you see in Manhattan galleries or in repertory theaters in Brooklyn – and makes it more familiar.
American Utopia is his latest project. It started as an album in 2018 then he toured on it with a handful of dates across the US. Only, he’s David Byrne, so he went the extra mile and then some: 12 musicians, all dressed alike in gray suits, carrying their instruments like a marching band and dancing with them.
In 2019, he parlayed the tour into a full on Broadway production. Then, American Utopia’s live show became a movie directed by the one and only Spike Lee. It’s available to stream on Max now.
When we talked to David Byrne back in 2021, he’d just brought American Utopia back to Broadway. Since then, another live masterpiece is brewing in Byrne world: it’s the 40th anniversary of Stop Making Sense. The Talking Heads’ groundbreaking concert film was directed by Jonathan Demme – the director of Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia. A24 is set to rerelease the film in September.
On Bullseye, we talk with Byrne about his time with the Talking Heads. Plus, he gets into American Utopia, his weirdly cool dance moves, and the power behind his art.
This interview originally aired in September 2021
About the show
Bullseye is a celebration of the best of arts and culture in public radio form. Host Jesse Thorn sifts the wheat from the chaff to bring you in-depth interviews with the most revered and revolutionary minds in our culture.
Bullseye has been featured in Time, The New York Times, GQ and McSweeney’s, which called it “the kind of show people listen to in a more perfect world.” Since April 2013, the show has been distributed by NPR.
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