Amid Pandemic and Stress, UT Freshman Finds Safe Place in Songwriting
By Lauren Goodman
When Bird Anderson started writing songs around 7 years old, they were about things around her like Legos. Growing up, her house was often filled with the noise of banging drums, guitars or banjos as her father taught Bird and her three brothers to play different instruments.
“[Songwriting] developed more into how I like processed my relationships and the world around me,” Anderson said. “I really struggled to figure out what was going on in me emotionally sometimes. And so songwriting was just a way that I found that felt safe.”
As a Plan II and psychology freshman at UT-Austin, music grounds Anderson and reminds her who she is. Without many private areas to practice, Anderson’s rehearsal space is usually her dorm room or the top of parking garages around the campus. If a passerby listens closely, he might hear Anderson’s voice echoing through the San Antonio Garage across from campus.
“Music is like self-care,” Anderson said. “It’s a way that I’m in touch with myself in staying true to what I’m passionate about and staying true to my art.”
Anderson said she has not quite figured out yet how to balance her college course load with her music. Sometimes she has to stop herself from strumming her guitar to go back to her psychology homework. The self-discipline of tearing herself away from a new song is tough, but she has to get her priorities straight in the midst of final exams.
“Even if everything else doesn’t make sense, and I don’t know how to balance everything, [music] will help me re-focus,” Anderson said.
During quarantine, Anderson became one half of the duo Downers Grove as she and her 15-year-old brother JJ decided to write a five-song album entitled “Talkers Quiet”.
“We’ve always written songs together, and we just decided, let’s make a project for ourselves,” Anderson said. “We wanted to put them out into the world but just for us, not because we wanted to get famous or anything.”
Bird remembered the meticulous process as she and her brother often locked themselves in their house’s music studio, yelling at each other over a lyric or a chord until it made sense. Once they finally got it right though, they were completely in sync.
“It’s a love-hate process, especially when you do it with someone you’re so close to you,” Anderson said.
Anderson called the first track “Rufus” her quarantine song, detailing being away from someone she loves.
“It’s been a while since I’ve seen you,” Anderson sings in the first verse, “But there’s no ocean keeping you away.”
“It is strange and lonely and based off of the dreams I had while in my house for weeks on end,” Anderson said. “It’s terrible to live ten minutes away from someone you love and not be able to see them, it makes your heart hurt so much.”
Other tracks like “Night Drive” and “Ivory Tower” reflected on the insecurity Anderson felt in a previous relationship.
“There’s drama in the tensions that arise between people who really love each other,” Anderson said. “That drama and suspense add nuance and flavor to the relationship, for better or worse, and the song is supposed to make you ask — are we good?”
Anderson said that the words and music in “Night Drive” intend to convey the romance, but there is something not quite right.
“Take me on a night drive, tell me what you mean again,” Anderson softly sings. “Sit in silence. Call me in the morning. Do you miss me?”
After hours upon hours of rehearsals, jokes, and playing around with melodies, came five wistful alternative songs from Anderson and her brother.
Their first performances took place at their high school, farmers’ markets and local restaurants. Hearing the syncopated claps from the audience to their music, Anderson was thankful she finally got to share what she was working on after their isolation.
“It was such a good time, like a really beautiful thing came out of that after such a long period of loneliness,” Anderson said.
While her brother is still in high school in Houston, Anderson continues to work on music with him over the phone. Even though Anderson still has nearly all four years of college to go, music will always remain a constant in her life.
“The point is not really about promoting myself or that I think I’m this crazy, special, unique person that the world has never seen before,” Anderson said. “It is about making like good and beautiful art that people can resonate with, so that’s the goal ultimately. And if I was able to succeed in that, that would be something I’d be super excited about.