David Byrne, songwriter and founding member of Talking Heads, spoke about his writing process at the Songwriters Hall of Fame Master Sessions @ NYU on November 8th.
In a two-hour interview held at NYU, the award-winning, iconic punk rocker discussed his four-decade career in music, film, theatre, and visual arts with Phil Galdston, NYU Faculty Songwriter-in-Residence and master teacher of songwriting.
Byrne, who moved to New York City in the 1970s with the dream of becoming an visual artist, launched his career at CBGBs at 315 Bowery in Manhattan. He talked about a first, quiet version “Psycho Killer” (“I imagined “Psycho Killer” as a beautiful ballad; it was much creepier that way.”), and shared the chain of associations that led to the lyrics of “Burning Down the House.”
Byrne described a songwriting process where words can be gibberish, standing in for other words until lyrics are finalized, as well as the painstaking process of creating a song out of “regurgitation, molding, and hours of art and craft.”
When asked if he required inspiration to write, Byrne answered: “I’m not waiting for the muse to strike, I’m going to sit down and try to come up with something.”
(Photo: David Byrne shared his notes for “Burning Down the House” with Phil Galdston.)