The band Backyard Tire Fire formed 20 years ago in Asheville, NC— and after going on a ten-year hiatus— the band is back together and ready to rock. The alternative country group, fronted by acclaimed singer/songwriter Edward David Anderson, will be returning this September with their first new album in 11 years, Black Dirt, Blue Sky. They are also eager to get back to performing live, and will be hosting their second annual Black Dirt Music Festival in Bloomington, IL, headlined by Wilco on September 11.
The band’s new single, “Little Wren,” is scheduled to drop tomorrow (July 15), and is the song Anderson credits with bringing the inspiration to get the band back together after a full decade. It captures a slow-paced, relaxing country lifestyle where bird songs inspire country songs.
Frontman Edward David Anderson sat down with American Songwriter to share the story behind the single, his personal journey with finding himself and regrouping the band. From 200 miles on the Appalachian Trail to a little bird singing to him every morning for a week, Anderson’s musical and personal revelations stemmed from one common entity— nature.
You can listen to the exclusive premiere of “Little Wren” here now.
American Songwriter: Hi Ed! Where are you currently based out of now?
Edward David Anderson: We [my wife and I] live outside of a little town called Havana and there’s only 3600 people in it, and it sits right on the Illinois River. We’re about an hour southwest of Chicago. We sort of shifted things… we were in the middle of the pandemic living in Bloomington, Illinois and we have a small daughter, she’s just 22 months. In the pandemic, we decided that we wanted to start trying to look at living in more of a kind of homestead. Now we have this five-acre homestead with a garden, chicken coop, and trails. It’s a good place to raise this little girl for sure. And I feel like that’s the strange way the pandemic actually helped. I don’t think we would have been able to look for places to live with me touring and playing music as much as I generally do. But because we had all this downtime, we started looking around at pieces of property here and there.
AS: Everything about your rural lifestyle makes sense with the lyrics of “Little Wren,” because it feels like a slower kind of life that is connected to nature.
EDA: This is kind of interesting. I wrote that song still living in our old house in Bloomington when my wife was pregnant. I would just get up and go downstairs and sort of take some time on the back porch and drink coffee. And this little bird sort of appeared out of nowhere. We were just hanging out, and it started singing this song and it kept coming back for the course of a week. I would just go downstairs, and over a couple of days, I put that song together with the bird. But it was all in more of a city. You know, we lived in Bloomington and we’re just a few little houses off of the main road. And we lived by the hospital that our daughter was born in, so there were a lot of sirens and it was an urban sort of scene. And then the place that we just moved to, it’s actually a certified bird and butterfly sanctuary. It’s just kind of weird that I wrote this song with this bird when I was still living in Bloomington, sort of in this urban area. And then a couple months later, I record the song and then end up living in the bird sanctuary where literally, the wrens are so plentiful that I hear them singing all day now. I think you can kind of get a vibe from the song, a very happy one.
AS: Tell me about how the single came to be in that new setting?
EDA: The song “Little Wren” was actually pieced together in a strange way. The whole recording wasn’t done in the general way that we have ever made music before. The whole new album was a pandemic recording and we did it in isolation; we were never in the same room together. That seems to be getting more normal in this day and age in recording, but I’ve never made music like that. So it was a sort of methodical way that it was put together. All that [the normal recording process] was sort of taken away this time. It was like, ‘Okay, well, we’re going to assemble this the only way that we can because we can’t get in the same room together.’ It’s all a part of the pandemic in a strange way. I found this beautiful new place to live as a family, and I think we got a pretty cool recording out of it. Just out of the bad circumstances, I think it turned into something pretty cool.
AS: The song almost foreshadowed your lifestyle now. You found joy in a certain part of your day there, and now that that part of your day has become a part of your life.
EDA: Which is strange because I was never really a bird watcher. But now we have multiple feeders on our property and there’s Eagles and it’s just incredible. My wife and I were actually hiking the Appalachian Trail [right before the move] and we spent a month out there and did the first couple hundred miles. That’s where we just sort of decided have a child. We decided to take some time off the road, and I had a record in the can, and it was done. We were like, “Let’s just take some time off and go hike and see how long we last on the AT.” We would be hiking all day long, up and down mountains. We didn’t know what to do but talk. So we talked a lot about having a child and it was a total metamorphosis for us. You know, we went from smoking Camel Lights and drinking a 12 pack PBR, being out on the road. We just changed everything around, it was on this trajectory. And so I reconnected with the band, Backyard Tire Fire. It seems like we were, back in the day, sort of being groomed for something bigger, and it just kind of imploded… I lost touch with my little brother who played bass. And went through a lot of stuff. And I felt like, after this transformation, I had to reconnect with my brother.
AS: Was it the single “Little Wren” that helped you to feel called to reconnect to the old band members?
EDA: It kind of dawned on me, “Wow, ‘Little Wren’ really needs to be a Backyard Tire Fire song.” Like in hindsight when I look back at writing the song, it felt like Backyard Tire Fire right from the beginning. You know, I’m pretty pleased with the way that it turned out given the circumstances.
AS: Now that the band is back together, what is next?
EDA: We’re hosting a musical festival, Black Dirt Music Festival in Illinois, on September 10-11 to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the Castle Theatre; Wilco is the headliner! I think that there is a specific sort of sound that comes out of the Midwest, so that’s the whole idea for Black Dirt. And I really love Wilco. They were number one on the list to get to headline the festival. I thought it would take a lot longer to get to the point where we could get a band like Wilco and grow this thing a little bit more than we have just in this year, so it already feels like a huge success. We are just thrilled to be doing the festival and to have a new album coming out right around the same time. We saw the Castle Theater open up 10 years ago, and then went on hiatus shortly thereafter, and now the festival is celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the theatre.