David Byrne’s 2018 record American Utopia happened by accident. The Talking Heads vocalist had been passing ideas back-and-forth with freuqent collaborator and longtime friend Brian Eno before he realized he had enough material to form his first solo album in 14 years. The record debuted at No. 3 on Billboard’s album charts and the musician even turned it into a musical of the same name. Now a film version of the show is coming exclusively to HBO Max.
The film was directed by Spike Lee and recorded during the musical’s 2019-2020 run at Hudson Theatre on Broadway. Throughout the show, Byrne is accompanied by an ensemble of eleven musicians, singers, and dancers from around the globe. The musical features Byrne speaking directly to the audience about the state of America, as well as performances of songs spanning his career up to American Utopia.
In an interview with Uproxx after American Utopia‘s release, Byrne described his collaboration process with Eno:
“It’s still pretty good. As you said, We’ll send things back and forth. He’ll send me something. I’ll add something to it or reshape it, send it back to him. A little bit of back and forth. In this case, after a certain amount of back and forth I had gotten very enthusiastic about the songs and had kind of added more musicians to change it, shape the stuff in various ways. At some point Brian said, ‘I think these are yours now. It’s not a joint collaboration anymore.’ Not that he didn’t influence them to an incredible degree, but he was saying, ‘You have taken charge of these now.’”
David Byrne’s American Utopia premieres 10/17 on HBO Max. Watch the trailer above.
American Utopia is out now via Todomundo/Nonesuch Records. Get it here.