Interview With Birds Of Chicago

tweety stuff @ronanfromcork

first published in @The Evening Echo 2014-5-8


Described as “roots music made in heaven” by the highly regarded Americana music magazine No Depression; JT Nero and Allison Russell, two of the most highly rated new voices in American Roots music, come to Cork next week with their collaborative project ‘Birds Of Chicago’.


JT Nero spoke with Ronan Leonard and firstly explained how he and Allison originally connected “we had mutual friends in music, I was living in San Francisco and was friends with the ladies who formed the Be Good Tanyas, even though the band were based in Vancouver one of them was living in San Francisco – there’s always been a back and forth scene between the two cities as in between those two cities are Seattle and Portland so it’s great for organising short tours. After one show I played with the Be Good Tanyas, I vividly remember their guitarist Trish Klein, telling me about this woman who played clarinet, banjo and ukulele as well as singing like a 1920’s speakeasy vocalist. That turned out to be Ali, who I then met, since then it’s like we’ve been finding more and more reasons to collaborate.”

JT Nero explained how the development of Birds Of Chicago was a slow process, “at the time I was in a band called JC And The Clouds based in Chicago and so for the better part of 2003 to 2008 Ali and I followed and loved each others’ music, and then slowly we went from guesting on each others’ records and finding ourselves on tour together to finally realising we had to carve out our own space to work together. None of those leaps have felt that drastic for us because our previous bands became intertwined and became a tribe of musicians who love and trust each other. I remember though the day that we decided that we had to give this thing that we were playing a name, and that’s how ‘Birds Of Chicago’ came about, the naming ritual gives it a certain distinction away from everything else.”

The further JT and Ali have developed their sound the less they have worried about how to describe their music, as JT put it, “more and more I just call what we do as ‘rock and roll’, but my caveat is when I say ‘rock and roll’ I mean it without the last 40 or 50 years of baggage but rather the hybrid of gospel, blues, country and jazz which used to be what they call ‘rock and roll’. Obviously that term is now weighed down by what has evolved from early rock and roll but for me I mean we play the heart of that original blend.”

The Birds Of Chicago will play 8 gigs in the 11 days they spend in Ireland, JT was keen to explain such a whistle-stop schedule, “touring is a professional necessity, particularly in the current climate of needing to pay for recording and equipment costs, but also something Ali and I really love doing. We both have that spirit of wanting to be on the move, find new places and meet people; it’s very much in our blood. Touring is the deal these days; you have to take your music out to the people. The one thing about this project is that we always envisioned it as a collective where people would come and go depending on the situation, we can play “listening rooms” as well as loud venues.”

Birds Of Chicago play in Cyprus Avenue on Friday 9 May, doors are 8pm with tickets at €15, available from or on the door.


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