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Birds of Chicago: An empathetic state of song  

Tuesday 23rd, October 2018 / 10:45
By Sarah Allen 

“It’s no secret that record got made right at the start of the current presidency … doing something that joyful felt kind of defiant.” 
Photo by Yve Assad

 

CALGARY – Birds of Chicago are known for their beautiful, robust lyrics and storytelling. Their new album, Love In Wartime (2018) serves to confirm that the husband and wife duo of JT Nero and Allison Russell are thoughtful, socially conscious, and looking to make a difference in the world with their words and music.  

According to Nero, artists often struggle when trying to get the magic of their live shows to translate into a record, but the pair believes they’ve pulled it off on Love In Wartime. 

“When we finished our previous album, we were excited to get in and make a proper rock and roll album with a little more scope. Real Midnight (2016) felt like more of a mood piece – it was a bit more of a somber record. We were very proud of it, but I think we were really hungry to change the script a bit and also capture the way that our live show evolved.” 

The Women’s March was also happening during the studio sessions for Love In Wartime. Though avid supporters, the duo was unable to attend due to their busy recording schedule, but the album still comes with political and social foundations.

“It’s no secret that record got made right at the start of the current presidency. It felt really good to be able to do something kind of joyful … doing something that joyful felt kind of defiant.” 

Nero adds that Birds of Chicago was already in a place where they wanted to make a jubilant, loving document of being alive in today’s world and circumstances.  

“In some ways it feels like the political is a symptom of a deeper, spiritual, cultural thing and as things took a bit of a foreboding turn, it felt like the path we were already on, the urgency to do that sharpened. Music and the enjoyment of it is one of the few ways there is still an opportunity for people who feel differently about things, politically and culturally, to be in a room at the same time and be humans with each other and have some empathy.” 

On the title track, Nero notes, “One of the consistent themes on the record is the notion that we think on the macro level so much. We’re so worried about the broad perspective. I know for me, whenever the big picture is feeling particularly bewildering or terrifying, it’s always important for me to kind of dig in on the micro. Little acts of love and recognition between humans, it’s a replicating act.” 

“Baton Rouge” is possibly Nero’s favorite vocal performance of Russell’s to date. “Baton Rouge is a very beautiful town,” says Russell. “So much of the music we are inspired by has filtered through Louisiana at some point. As Northerners, we can sometimes believe that when ugly things happen down South, it is a Southern problem. That couldn’t be more absurd.” 

Again, with empathy and a sense of oneness in mind, Nero adds, “A place can be so beautiful and so tormented at the same time. It’s a little bit of a Namaste from Chicago to Baton Rouge. Not only do I see you, but I am you.” 

 

Birds of Chicago perform Oct30 at The Geomatic Attic (Lethbridge), Nov. 2 at The Arden Theatre (St. Albert) and Nov. 3 at The Gateway (Calgary). 

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