Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Grant Johnson at Good Danny's, Austin, Texas
Years and years ago, almost six of them now, I asked Bill Baird what the craziest thing he'd done that week was. He answered it with this written response:
"Stayed up til well past sunrise night before last. Twas Harry NiIlsson's birthday! I wouldn't call it a particularly crazy night, but it felt perfect so I'll write it up: Hung with old bandmate Sam, smoking spliff and downing cold ones and dreaming of various scenarios for the future, talking about art and life and the dreams we had and how they're all panning out, laughing a lot at Internet art and YouTube videos. Later attended a screening for Nilsson's birthday and watched crazy old footage of Harry hamming it up with Hugh Hefner. That Nilsson -- such a voice, and a damn funny dude. Hanging later with old friends Joey and Maverick, drinking piles of coffee and walking the streets, met up with Paul and Sarah, headed to Sarah's where we spoke of solitary time, alone time, and how no real art can be made in a group... it's an individual vision, at least we felt that at the time. Paused for air, spoke for hours more on facing up your own shadow, standing close to the flame of creation and not getting burnt to crisp like so many have; I kept referring back to Townes Van Zandt and we jammed his self-titled album - "Miss Carousel" hit me especially hard that evening, though normally "Columbine" really floors me. Actually, that whole album really floors me, and we played it through several times over, talking about facing down the darkness, breathing life through your words. Inspired, I jammed out old tunes on her upright piano, remembered old songs needing recording, walked to the street and breathed the cool night air, saw the sun rising and decided we should drive down South and give Laura a ride to work at 7am. Headed down with video camera, Paul ablaze with inspiration and directing us with camera, silly but still profound in its own way, sweat pouring down his forehead, determined eye, ecstatically hopping up and down, fast arm movements and quick smiles. We arrived, cooked eggs and drank more coffee, drove Laura to work. Fell asleep on a hammock at 10 a.m. and woke two hours later for a 2nd interview for a job as train conductor for kiddie train at Zilker Park. I got the job."
He's now a new father and things have changed considerably in his life. It's what happens when you begin to live for some little creature that you personally brought into the world. One thing that we'd bet on with all kinds of certainty is that Baird is still unable to kill time. He probably maximizes it even more these days. These four songs were recorded just days before he left Austin, Texas, perhaps for good, though there's never much confidence in where Baird's roads are going to take him, as swerving and loopy as they are. He headed out to California -- that old story -- with his family, to start a new life. My guess is that, even now, asking him what the craziest thing he's done this week would still bring you the answer you were hoping for -- something improbable and strangely affirming. What exactly it would be affirming -- that hanging moonlight, the ticking of time, the beauty of tiny flashes -- isn't entirely clear, but it hardly matters.