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Yeasayer's Anand Wilder releases debut 'I Don't Know My Words'

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Like many of us, Anand Wilder's time in quarantine was not always easy.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DELIRIUM PASSES")

ANAND WILDER: (Singing) Gonna do it one day soon.

RASCOE: The singer spent much of it in his Brooklyn home with his wife, who's a health care worker, and his two daughters. But he used the time to create and write what became his debut project, "I Don't Know My Words." It's his first solo project since his former band, Yeasayer, called it quits in 2019. And Anand Wilder joins us now to talk about life as a solo artist. Welcome to the program.

WILDER: Thanks for having me.

RASCOE: So you spent more than a decade collaborating with a band, with your bandmates, to make music. Like, I'm wondering, like, how does it feel now to be working by yourself?

WILDER: Well, you know, it's - there's ups and downs. You know, sometimes I'll be working on something and be like, oh, man, I wish I could get their advice on this one, you know? But I kind of just got to that point where I was like, you know, I don't - I can do this. I can put it out. I can put out an album of all my material and be proud of it and - but, I mean, more of - with the band, it's more just like, you know, you just have these memories of, like, sleeping in the same bed together in a hotel or something (laughter) and, like...

RASCOE: (Laughter) It's a relationship, right?

WILDER: How many people out there are - yeah, have - can say that about anyone besides their, you know, romantic partner?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SICK HOTEL")

WILDER: (Singing) My lungs are soaked like a sponge in the (unintelligible). Could it be that I am only dreaming instead of being at the...

RASCOE: You have songs like "Sick Hotel" where you talk about, like, dealing with illness in really stark terms. Like, I like the line you had - and you said, even the TV has a cough. Like, what did you mean by that?

WILDER: (Laughter) You know, that was - there was this moment during the pandemic where Andrew Cuomo became this, like, hero. My wife and I were, like, pretty cynical about politicians. And I remember her being like, I just saw him on TV, and he was just - it was great. And I was like, are you serious? This guy just likes to hear himself talk, you know?

RASCOE: You say that. And there's a line - the next line says that.

WILDER: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SICK HOTEL")

WILDER: (Singing) All of these (unintelligible) love to hear themselves talk. Turn it off. They've got nothing to say.

So that song was about this article that I read that was like, four people die in hotel after being discharged from the hospital. And I was just trying to picture this guy in the hotel room, watching TV and being so angry about (laughter) these blowhard politicians talking on TV like they're some great heroes, you know?

RASCOE: Yeah. We had talked about, like, relationships and things like that. I want to talk about your song "I Don't Want Our Love To Become Routine."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I DON'T WANT OUR LOVE TO BECOME ROUTINE")

WILDER: (Singing) I know you got a busy work schedule. Sometimes you want to bliss out (ph). But I'll get the kids to bed, and I swear to keep the house clean. But I don't want our love to become routine.

RASCOE: A lot of people who have been in long-term relationships may be able to relate to those sentiments. What made you want to write this song?

WILDER: So that song actually started off as, like, this idea of, like, I don't - which - it happens in the bridge of the song, where it says, I don't want you to ever stop speaking your mind to me. I don't ever want you to stop telling me when I'm being a jerk, you know? Because then we're just going through the motions here. We're just, like, co-parenting or whatever.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I DON'T WANT OUR LOVE TO BECOME ROUTINE")

WILDER: (Singing) And I don't want you to ever stop speaking your mind to me. We were...

But, yeah, and then that was - then - and that song was kind of - I was trying to make, like, a - kind of a country song, something that was very direct, something that I could picture Willie Nelson, like, singing much better than me (laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I DON'T WANT OUR LOVE TO BECOME ROUTINE")

WILDER: (Vocalizing).

RASCOE: A lot of the album kind of expresses a sort of discomfort with the world and situations around you. But it also seemed to be about confronting some of those situations. Like, you express a bit of that in the song, like, "Never Looked Good To Me Until Now" - another song I liked.

WILDER: Oh, thanks.

RASCOE: Can you talk a little bit about that?

WILDER: Well, I'm curious. What do you think that that song's about?

RASCOE: To me, it was about - I never wanted to run away before, but now (laughter) I feel like...

WILDER: Yeah (laughter), the time is now.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NEVER LOOKED GOOD TO ME UNTIL NOW")

WILDER: (Singing) Running away never looked good to me until now.

Once I recorded, I was like, oh, this is about me and, like, getting away from my band - this whole thing, you know?

RASCOE: (Laughter).

WILDER: Like, because it was this career that I held onto for dear life, you know? And, you know, I had to go through all these steps - you know, had to lose our old manager, had to get dropped from a record label, had to make an album completely on our own before I could say, you know what? I think I can just let this go.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANAND WILDER SONG, "NEVER LOOKED GOOD TO ME UNTIL NOW")

RASCOE: Is there a particular song on the album that surprised you?

WILDER: I don't know if this song surprised me, but, like, the song "Get More Than My Share," which is - which you - has this kind of Indian raga.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GET MORE THAN MY SHARE")

WILDER: (Singing) And I haven't got a leg to stand on, and I don't even know what my demands are except to get more than my share, get more than my share.

I have, like, a fond memory of how it came about because I had a - kind of a piano-y (ph) song with all these different chords. And then I was just in the studio with my kid and she was - I think a bass was plugged in, and she just was plucking one string over and over again. And I had been working on this song. And then I was, like, singing the song over her drone. And it was just this wonderful, serendipitous moment of, like, a kid being so limited by just being - just - she was just so excited about plucking this one string. And I was like, oh, no, that's what the song should be. It should just be a drone. I'm really - I don't know if I was surprised by that, but I was really happy with the way that that turned out.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANAND WILDER SONG, "GET MORE THAN MY SHARE")

RASCOE: Anand Wilder joining us from Brooklyn. Thanks for being with us.

WILDER: Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANAND WILDER SONG, "GET MORE THAN MY SHARE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.