Texan experimental musician Bill Baird speaks to Big Issue North about how books made him a better musician. Bill performs at The Castle Hotel in Manchester on 27 March.
What informs your music/songwriting?
A longing, either spiritual or physical. Often a desire to reach across time. A wish to transcend the human condition. To transcend my own limitations. I approach this through the lyrics or if I’m feeling particularly brave/abstract, I will attempt to convey these mysteries without words. Also, I really like to laugh. Even if I’m the only one laughing. Those are usually my favourite jokes, actually.
How have you evolved as an artist evolved over the years?
I used to be pretty bad. I mean, painful. I started out with a head and heart full of feelings that were trapped inside. What I wrote was zero per cent useable. So I read a bunch of books that were way over my head. Sometimes I got a hint of knowledge and wisdom. Usually I was just made aware of my ignorance. Also, I left home and started making my own mistakes. After writing thousands of terrible songs, I have upped my percentage. I’d say I now keep about 10 per cent of what I write, it’s a process. Sometimes you miss the mark. My genre seems to change often but I’d say it’s been rooted all along in the song tradition, albeit from a DIY home recorded perspective. I have learned a few tricks to summon the “muse” but mostly I’ve learned that it’s out of my control. Giving up control in this way ironically allows you better access to creative inspiration.
What are you up to at the moment artistically?
I am writing as many songs as I possibly can and throwing away the bad ones. That sounds basic, but it really is that simple. It’s a sifting process. I am seeking epiphany. Seeking revelation. Sometimes I find I’m writing the same song over and over again, in different form, until I’ve completely burned through whatever feeling originally compelled me.
What’s on your rider?
I don’t have a rider. If I did, I’d ask for two espresso machines and a typewriter.
Tell us your most embarrassing or surreal experience.
I delivered a pizza to Michael Bolton.
What song do you wish you’d written?
Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell.
What’s your worst lyric?
I’m pretty bothered when people rhyme “rain” with “pain”. It makes me nauseous. That said, there’s this one line by Toby Keith: “We’ll stick a boot in your ass, it’s the American Way”. I take issue with that. I mean, you’re actually going to put a boot *in* their ass? Not just kick them with said boot? Inserting a boot into someone’s ass sounds rather difficult.