David Byrne announced his forthcoming solo record, American Utopia, during a presentation of "Reasons To Be Cheerful," an ongoing series curated by Byrne of hopeful writings, photos, music, and lectures. The presentation was given at New York's New School to a live audience, as well as livestreamed via his Facebook page; you can watch it below. American Utopia will be released March 9, 2018, via Todomundo / Nonesuch Records, accompanied by a world tour that will bring a choreographed concert that Byrne has called "the most ambitious show I've done since the shows that were filmed for Stop Making Sense." Tour information to date is below, with extensive additional dates to be announced soon. The album track "Everybody's Coming To My House"—co-written with Brian Eno, featuring contributions from TTY, Happa, Onyx Collective leader Isaiah Barr, Mercury Prize winner Sampha, and others—also was released. The song is available to download instantly with pre-orders of American Utopia on iTunes and in the Nonesuch Store, where pre-orders also include an exclusive print facsimile of an early handwritten lyric sheet to the song.
While David Byrne has collaborated on joint releases with Eno, Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim), and most recently St. Vincent over the past decade, American Utopia is Byrne's first solo album since, 2004's Grown Backwards, also on Nonesuch. American Utopia morphed during the writing and recording process, beginning with longtime collaborator Eno, and eventually growing to include collaboration with producer Rodaidh McDonald (The xx, King Krule, Sampha, Savages) alongside a diverse cast of creative contributors including Daniel Lopatin (aka Oneohtrix Point Never), Jam City, Thomas Bartlett (St. Vincent producer, aka Doveman), Jack Peñate, and others. The album was recorded in New York City at DB Spare Bedroom, Reservoir Studios, Oscilloscope, XL Studios, and Crowdspacer Studio and in London at Livingston Studio 1.
Speaking about the album, Byrne said:
These songs don't describe this imaginary and possibly impossible place, but rather they attempt to describe the world we live in now—and that world, when we look at it, as we live in it, as it impacts on us—immediately commands us to ask ourselves- is there another way? A better way? A different way?
This group of songs is indirectly about those questions. And what drives us to ask those questions. The songs are sincere—the title is not ironic. The title is not so much about a utopia, as it is about our longing, frustration, aspirations, fears, hopes regarding what could be, what is possible. How and what could we be. Surely, we ask ourselves, it doesn't have to be like this. There is a longing for possibility— and I have a feeling that is what these songs touch on.
America—or to be correctthe United States—was founded as a Utopian Experiment. Though it never did succeed in all its aims enough were realized in the brief history to give hope to many. Now it seems we are seeing that hope, those possibilities, be withdrawn. The project seems on the verge of complete and utter failure. So, naturally, we all now ask ourselves—was it too much to ask? Are we wrong about how humans can be? Is there another way? Can we start over?
I am as mystified as any of us—I have no prescriptions or sure-fire answers—but I sense that I am not the only one asking, wondering and still willing to hold on to some tiny bit of hope, still willing to not succumb entirely to despair or cynicism. It's not easy, but music helps.
The album packaging features the work of "outsider artist" Purvis Young, whose work was often a blend of painting/drawing and collaged elements comprised of everyday found objects. A painting depicting a head with a face of indeterminate race or possibly gender—dreaming, meditating, contemplating—is on the album's cover.
David Byrne’s recent works include Joan of Arc: Into the Fire, a theatrical exploration of the historical heroine which premiered at The Public Theater in New York (2017); The Institute Presents: NEUROSOCIETY, a series of interactive environments created in conjunction with PACE Arts + Technology that question human perception and bias (2016); Contemporary Color, an event inspired by the American folk tradition of color guard and performed at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and Toronto’s Air Canada Centre (2015); Here Lies Love, a twenty-two-song theatrical production about the life of Imelda Marcos, authored in collaboration with Fatboy Slim that premiered at The Public Theater in New York (2013), traveled to London’s National Theater for a sold-out run (2014–15), and was remounted at the Seattle Repertory Theater (2017); Love This Giant, a studio album and worldwide tour created with St. Vincent (2012); and How Music Works, a book about the history, experience, and social aspects of music (2012). In 2015 Byrne curated Southbank Centre’s annual Meltdown festival in London. Aco-founder of the group Talking Heads (1976–88), he has released nine studio albums and worked on multiple other projects, including collaborations with Brian Eno, Twyla Tharp, Robert Wilson, and Jonathan Demme, among others. He also founded the highly respected record label Luaka Bop. ecognition of Byrne’s various works include Obies, Drama Desk, Lortel, and Evening Standardawards for Here Lies Love, an Oscar, Grammy, and Golden Globe for the soundtrack to Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor, and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Talking Heads. Byrne has published and exhibited visual art since his college days, including photography, filmmaking and writing. He lives in New York City.
DAVID BYRNE ON TOUR
Mar 3 Count Basie Theatre (Sold Out) Red Bank, NJ
Mar 4 F.M Kirby Center (Sold Out) Wilkes-Barre, PA
Mar 6 Center for the Arts (Sold Out) Buffalo, NY
Mar 7 Hershey Theatre (Sold Out) Hershey, PA
Mar 9 Palace Theater (Sold Out) Waterbury, CT
Mar 10 Ulster Performing Arts Center (Sold Out) Kingston, NY
Mar 16 Lollapalooza Chile Santiago, CHILE
Mar 18 Lollapalooza Argentina Buenos Aires, ARGENTINA
Mar 24 Lollapalooza Brasil São Paulo, BRAZIL
Apr 7 Corona Capital Guadalajara Zapopan, MEXICO
Apr 14&21 Coachella Indio, CA
May 4–6 Shaky Knees Festival Atlanta, GA
Jun 23 Metronome Festival Prague, CZECH REPUBLIC
Jun 25 Inmusic Festival Zagreb, CROATIA
Jun 30–Jul 1 Down the Rabbit Hole Ewijk, NETHERLANDS
Jun 30–Jul 7 Roskilde Festival Roskilde, DENMARK
Jul 5 Open'er Festival Gdynia, POLAND
Jul 11 EDP Cool Jazz Festival Oeiras, PORTUGAL
Jul 13&14 Bilbao BBK Live Festival Bilbao, SPAIN
Jul 14 Cruilla Barcelona Barcelona, SPAIN
Jul 19 Ravenna Festival Ravenna, ITALY
Jul 20 Umbria Jazz Festival Perugia, ITALY
Jul 21 Piazza Unità d'Italia Trieste, ITALY
Jul 27 XPoNential Music Festival Camden, NJ