The 30 Best David Byrne Quotes

You may not think it immediately, but David Byrne has enjoyed a long, distinguished career that has included many reinventions.

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The 70-year-old, Scottish-born Byrne rose to fame with his 1975-founded rock band, Talking Heads. That group was known for songs like “Burning Down the House” and its epic concert film, Stop Making Sense. Later, Byrne went solo, releasing a handful of records, including his eponymous 1994 album, David Byrne.

More recently, the artist and stage performer earned a new bit of fame thanks to his award-winning Broadway show, American Utopia, which sold out performances in The Big Apple. A recorded version released on the streaming platform, HBO Max, was directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Spike Lee.

Indeed, Byrne is an artist for the ages.

But what did the musician and performer have to say outside of his artistry? What are his thoughts on life and love, his craft, and the world at large? Let’s dive into the 30 best David Byrne quotes.

1. “In retrospect, I can see I couldn’t talk to people face to face, so I got on stage and started screaming and squealing and twitching about. Ha! Like, that sure made sense!”

2. “Forces that you might think are utterly unrelated to creativity can have a big impact. Technology, obviously, but environment, too. Even financial structures can affect the actual content of a song. The making of music is profoundly affected by the market.”

3. “With pop music, the format dictates the form to a big degree. Just think of the pop single. It has endured as a form even in the download age because bands conform to a strict format, and work, often very productively, within the parameters.”

4. “I think I had a mild case of Asperger’s as a younger guy, but that typically just wears off after a while. For some people, anyway.”

5. “One knew in advance that life in New York would not be easy, but there were cheap rents in cold-water lofts without heat, and the excitement of being here made up for those hardships. I didn’t move to New York to make a fortune.”

6. “Performing is a thing in itself, a distinct skill, different from making recordings. And for those who can do it, it’s a way to make a living.”

7. “When I was in high school, there were these British blues-rock-type bands with really good guitar players that would jam on one song for half an hour. And as much as I was amazed by some of those guitar players, seeing them prompted me to make a note that that’s not something I could do.”

8. “I meet young people who know me and are familiar with my stuff. They know the package. They might have cherry-picked five or six key tunes. That’s how it seems to work. I sometimes wonder if they realize they are not getting the whole context.”

9. “On a bike, being just slightly above pedestrian and car eye level, one gets a perfect view of the goings-on in one’s own town.”

10. “Work aside, we come to New York for the possibility of interaction and inspiration.”

11. “Before recording technology existed, you could not separate music from its social context.”

12. “I use a stream-of-consciousness approach; if you don’t censor yourself, you end up with what you’re most concerned about, but you haven’t filtered it through your conscious mind. Then you craft it.”

13. “Occasionally, I hanker for the time when I sold more records, but I don’t sit and drool about it. When I do look at early footage of Talking Heads, I realize I was just a wreck.”

14. “I encourage people not to be passive consumers of music and of culture in general. And feeling like, yeah, you can enjoy the products of professionals, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to completely give up the reins and give up every connection to music or whatever it happens to be.”

15. “I didn’t have any agenda or plan when I started writing stuff.”

16. “I like to combine the dramatic emotional warmth of strings with the grooves and body business of drums and bass.”

17. “I never listen to the radio unless I rent a car.”

18. “I try never to wear my own clothes, I pretend I’m someone else.”

19. “I’m afraid that everything will get homogenized and be the same.”

20. “To some extent I happily don’t know what I’m doing. I feel that it’s an artist’s responsibility to trust that.”

21. “There are plenty of people who are, I think, completely racist who love hip-hop.”

22. “Ninety percent of all music is always crap, and when too many people decide they’re going to have guitar bands, then ninety percent of them are going to be crap. It’s just a given law.”

23. “I’ve got nothing to say most of the time.”

24. “Sometimes I write stuff that strangely predicts what’s going to happen in my life.”

25. “Sometimes it’s a form of love just to talk to somebody that you have nothing in common with and still be fascinated by their presence.”

26. “I’ve been in beautiful landscapes where one is tempted to whip out a camera and take a picture. I’ve learned to resist that.”

27. “Life tends to be an accumulation of a lot of mundane decisions, which often gets ignored.”

28. “One of the benefits of playing to small audiences in small clubs for a few years is that you’re allowed to fail.”

29. “The assumption is that your personal life has to be a mess to create, but how much chaos can you allow in before it takes over?”

30. “We don’t make music—it makes us.”

Photo by Jody Rogac /Grandstand PR

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