“You sink or swim or you learn to fly”: Bridget Kearney Rises and Shines in ‘Comeback Kid,’ a Record of Resilience, Rebirth, & Reconnection

Bridget Kearney © Rodneri
Bridget Kearney © Rodneri
Singer/songwriter Bridget Kearney (of Lake Street Dive) takes us track-by-track through her spirited third solo album ‘Comeback Kid,’ an intimate, impassioned, and inspiring record of resilience and rebirth, overcoming life’s challenges and rising out of our lows.
Stream: “Security Camera” – Bridget Kearney

Bridget Kearney opens her new album with a beautiful, bold declaration of passion and possibility.

I don’t know which way we’re headed or how wild the winds will blow, but if you’re driving, baby, I wanna go,” she sings, all-in on whatever the future has in store, ready to face tomorrow’s tomorrows head-on and make her way onward and upward, forward and through all of life’s challenges. It’s an inspiring entrance, to be sure, and more than anything, one that helps set the tone for Comeback Kid, an invigorating album about resilience and rebirth, inner strength and staying power, and the unrelenting tenacity of the human spirit.

Born during the pandemic and brought to life in its aftermath, this record is the rise after the fall; the rebuilding after the storm; springtime’s warm, cathartic exhale after a long, cold winter.

Comeback Kid - Bridget Kearney
Comeback Kid – Bridget Kearney
You pulled up in your ’76
You said “baby, you wanna go for a trip?”
Well, let’s go
Cause I’ve been idling out for awhile
With nobody to help me count the miles
They go slow
So pick me up
On your way out of town
I don’t care where we end up
as long as you’re around
If you’re driving, baby, I wanna go
And if we’re vibing, baby let’s let it flow
I don’t know which way we’re headed
Or how wild the winds will blow
But if you’re driving
If you’re driving
Baby, I wanna go
– “If You’re Driving,” Bridget Kearney

Released April 12, 2024 via Keeled Scales, Comeback Kid is a multifaceted record of life on pause and life in motion: Beyond that salient sense of survival that has seeped into our bones these past few years, Bridget Kearney offers snapshots of our collective lockdown and subsequent return to “normalcy”: Life as we once knew it, with a newfound appreciation for all that we lost and all that we previously took for granted.

But it’s not quite that simple (and it never is). A founding member of Lake Street Dive with three additional solo albums under her belt (the latest, Snake of Paradise, released just a year ago in April 2023), Kearney is no stranger to evocative, vibrant storytelling; the Iowa-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has, for over a decade now, captured the beauty and pain and wonder of her world through music of all shapes and sizes, colors and sounds. A staunch non-believer in concept albums (“I think if you are putting that type of rule over the process of writing, then I find it limiting,” she says), Kearney would rather each song to be its own universe. “It’s like reading your own diary and then making sense of it after the fact,” she smiles. Working together with producer and longtime friend Dan Molad (Lucius, Buck Meek), Kearney captured a slice of life in beautifully expressive songs yearning for connection, catharsis, and release.

Several of the tracks were written during the initial COVID lockdown period, as part of a song-a-day group led by Rubblebucket’s Kalmia Traver and Alex Toth. “It was a community of musicians that were all writing each day on their own, and you had to send the song in by the end of the day or you’re kicked out of the group,” Kearney recalls. “It’s brutal, but it’s good accountability. Writing, allowing yourself to start and finish a song in one day, I think erases some of the paralysis of self-doubt as a creator. It was also very inspiring, because not only were you writing your own songs, but also each morning, they would then send out the playlist of all the songs that everybody else had written the day before.”

“And so I’d be in isolation, alone in my apartment, but turn on, make my coffee in the morning and listen to thirty-something songs that had been written the day before by all these other people who were simultaneously doing the same thing. It was a really wonderful bit of sunshine in a dark time. There’s also some amount of purity, I think, in this batch of songs that’s non-commercial, because when I was writing them, it was uncertain whether there would ever be a music industry again.”

Bridget Kearney Ponders the Death of Empires on “Roman Sunset”


Thankfully the industry did bounce back, and Kearney was able to gather a dream team around her to bring these songs to life.

Inspired by her time working with The Brother Brothers (she produced their brand new LP The January Album, released April 19 via Stumbling Rose Records), she reached out to her good friend and storied producer Dan Molad, who instantly agreed to work together on the album. Kearney credits Molad and engineers John Joseph and Rob Shelton as playing integral roles in the album’s eventual look, feel, and sonic identity.

“The Brother Brothers had put together this recording session at the beginning of 2021 that was kind of like a seize-the-day moment,” she explains. “It’s like, ‘Hey, we can’t do anything else right now. Let’s get in the studio.’ And so we spent an entire month making their dream record where everybody that they wanted to have on the record was free. We all pulled up together at this studio in Virginia and made that record, and that was very eye-opening for me. Like, ‘I should just think of my dream record, and now’s the moment to start working on it.’”

“And so that was when I decided to hit up Dan Molad, and I started gathering the songs that I’d written and sent them over to him. And he went through them, helped me pick out the ones that he thought were really promising and could make good studio productions, and then we got to work.”

I’ll pour out your nightcap
when you’ve had too much to drink

You don’t have to overthink
What we’re starting
Cause I’ll be by your side
Songbird on the fire escape,
keep singing in my ear

I know it’s been a crazy year
In the darkness
But you don’t need to fly
Sleep in
‘Cause no tomorrow
could erase our yesterday

Sleep in
– “Sleep In,” Bridget Kearney

Kearney quaintly describes Comeback Kid as a soothing, sad, and funk, while acknowledging the energy and resolve embedded in so many of these tracks.

“Early on, the album title ‘Comeback Kid’ kind came to the surface, and I think that also has to do with the cycle of loss and resilience that the pandemic taught a lot of us,” she muses. “We faced a challenge that was unlike anything we’d ever seen in our lives before, and then came out on the other side of it, which teaches you not only how to deal with that particular thing, but also the idea that you’ll be okay when something else happens that’s unexpected and scary.”

“I think [the name itself] has to do with that aspect of resilience and cycles, and that having to do with what was happening in the world with the pandemic, but also what was happening in my own life, as a sort of follow up to Snakes of Paradise, this rebirth and comeback. The ‘Comeback Kid’ in the song ‘Comeback Kid’ is not as simple as just that, as you might think on the surface. So that immediately felt like a potent narrative to sum up certain aspects of the record.”

Bridget Kearney © Rodneri
Bridget Kearney © Rodneri

For Kearney, Comeback Kid is the metaphorical and musical rise out of Snakes In Paradise’s emotional low point.

“Life goes on and you have your highs and lows, so it’s not like you can compose an emotional arc for your life and expect for it to go just as you planned it,” she says. “Snakes In Paradise was being honest with some of the darker things that I was feeling. I’m very much an optimist and a cheerleader, and always trying to put a good spin on things in my day-to-day life, but we all experienced loss and heartbreak and jealousy and fear. That’s something that’s easier for me to put into song than to really talk about face-to-face. That was a place for me to just give some real talk and then hopefully move on. Comeback Kid, I think, especially towards the top of the record, like ‘If You’re Driving’ is coming from a moment of uncertainty, but of just saying yes to the moment, jumping back on that horse, metaphorically, and going for a ride, and even if something happens to interrupt it, it’s like, ‘yes, let’s go.’”

From the exhilarating, sun-kissed warmth of “If You’re Driving” to the cathartic exhale of album closer and title track “Comeback Kid,” Kearney’s album is full of memorable moments and special sonic surprises.

One early highlight was “Don’t Think About the Polar Bear,” the lush, soulful track released last December. “There’s something just funny to me about putting out like a sad song about psychology as a Christmas song,” Kearney beams. “That really tickles a weird satisfaction or something. I was excited about this ‘sad Christmas song’ that’s not actually a Christmas song, and outside of that, it’s sad funk music. There’s not a lot of people making really sad funk music, and so that was fun to me too, this blending.”

“One of my favorite metaphors for songs comes from the movie Inside Out – the main characters in the film are these animated representations of emotions. There’s joy, sadness, whatever. And when the kid is younger, the memories are all stored, and they’re just a single color, which is the color of the emotion that they had when that memory happened. And then by the end of the movie, there’s this whole crisis and whatever, but it’s solved by sadness and joy working together. And then this memory ball rolls out, and for the first time, it’s dual colored. With songs, for me, I feel like one of the amazing things is that you can create this mini universe that has all these layers to it and is blending all these different colors and feelings. ‘Don’t Think About the Polar Bear’ has got this meditation, thought consciousness sort of theme, but also loss, and then also a ‘60s happy, lucky, funky sound. Finding those unexpected blends is one of the things that excites me about song and what you can do with it.”

Another notable standout is “Security Camera,” which started as a note in Kearney’s phone to “write a song about security cameras.”

It also stemmed from a moment where I was out in the world and doing something and the security camera was spotted and someone said, ‘Oh man, that security camera’s really getting an eye full.’ Like the camera is capturing all these aspects of life beyond what its intended purpose is, which is capturing a criminal in the act of committing a crime. But in the meantime, all of life is brewing under the eyes of the security cameras.”

“So I went back to that security camera idea and sat down and thought, what is that? Okay, it’s about memories… What kind of vibe do I want to put on that? I want it to be a little nostalgic, but also have a backbeat, like rock n’ roll, find a sort of soundtrack for that thought, and then just let it grow from there. I’m always recording stuff into my computer as I’m coming up with the ideas and then listening back to it and saying, ‘If I was hearing this song, where would I want to go next?’”

“I think what it really is tapping into your love of music, your fandom of music. There’s that amazing special feeling when you hear a song that you really connect to, and the dream is that you can give that feeling to someone else. And so, if I was that someone else, what’s going to do it for me? What knobs do I need to twist right now to just really go…?”

Some of Kearney’s own favorite tracks include the jazz-soaked “Not a Game to Me” (she went to Tufts University for English and New England Conservatory for Jazz Bass), “Comeback Kid,” and “I Feel So Bad For You” – the latter two of which feel very McCartney-esque, for her. “He’s a big influence on me, but I really love the way that, again, with all the layers of things that you can put into a song, the recordings of those two songs disguise that a little bit. Anytime you’re able to recontextualize something and put a drum machine on it and put these different sonic footprints on it, it’s just so exciting to me.”

As far as lyrics are concerned, “I like the last verse of ‘Roman Sunset’ where it says, ‘You sink or swim or you learn to fly.’ That’s the comeback. That’s finding a way to continue when things are hard. And then I like anything that maybe hasn’t been put into a song that much, like Rorschach tests and polar bears, and ‘Comeback Kid’ has a Seinfeld quote in it – the first verse, ‘What would I say if I saw you again? Would I say, the Jerk Store called, and they’re running out of you?’” That’s from a famous Seinfeld episode. You have to listen a few times to hear it. And also verse two of that one is like, ‘Hail Mary,’ which is a sporty sort of comeback vibe, but also religious, like, ‘Hail Mary, full of grace. I drove a thousand miles to watch you run away and hide. I’m sorry is all you could say, but I said, I know you are, but what am I?’ Which is another sort of comeback. Managing to make a dense chocolate cake of references is just fun to me.”

Bridget Kearney © Rodneri
Bridget Kearney © Rodneri

Whether you’re falling head over heels for “Obsessed” or join Kearney in lamenting the fall of empires with “Roman Sunset,” Comeback Kid follows through on its promise as a comforting, cathartic, enchanting and uplifting listen.

For Kearney, this record is just the start of a special new era in her solo career; she feels more emboldened than ever to chase her dreams, follow her gut, and drive down whatever road she damn well pleases.

“I think it’s given me a new kind of openness to new collaborators,” Kearney shares, “and the way that I connected with Dan on this project after many years of not reaching out to someone who I admired and saying, ‘Will you make a record with me?’ – that just went so well, that I want to keep doing it. In terms of the live shows for this record, I’ve been doing these shows in different parts of the country with different local bands. I did a Los Angeles show that was all musicians in Los Angeles that I’ve known for a long time as friends or admired from afar, and you feel comfortable to take the opportunity to say, “Hey, I’ve got this show. Will you play in my band?” and just do this one-time special event band. And then same thing in Nashville, same thing on the East Coast. It’s a band that I’ve never played with before, so I think that’s something that I’ve gotten out of it.”

“In terms of what other people get out of it, I don’t know! I just want them to enjoy it. I want them to have that special feeling that I get when I listen to music that I love.”

Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Bridget Kearney’s Comeback Kid with Atwood Magazine as she takes us track-by-track through the music and lyrics of her third solo album!

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:: stream/purchase Comeback Kid here ::
:: connect with Bridget Kearney here ::
Stream: ‘Comeback Kid’ – Bridget Kearney

:: Inside Comeback Kid ::

Comeback Kid - Bridget Kearney

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If You’re Driving 

A love song about an imaginary roadtrip. The idea being that there are some people you would go anywhere with, wherever life or the road could take you, you’re just happy to be side by side. And when these things come along, it’s best not to overthink them and just let it ride. I wrote this in my basement on a borrowed Yamaha DX-7. The twinkly synth part is still magic to me.

Security Camera 

There are a lot of security cameras around Brooklyn, where I live. Specifically there are some on my apartment building’s roof deck and when you go up there are signs everywhere warning you that you are being filmed. So at some point I happened upon the idea that you could use the recorded footage not just for capturing people in the act of a crime, but for capturing people at their very best. You could search through the footage and find the most wonderful, transcendent, peak moments of your life, put them on your television and just kick back and watch them on repeat. When I thought about what those moments would be for me, a lot of them had to do with falling in love and the “firsts” of a relationship–first kisses, first “I love yous” etc. Even though you are watching you at your very best, there is something secretly sad about this kind of backwards looking reliving of the past. But in the end I think the point is being able to celebrate pinnacle moments in spite of their ephemeral nature and carry them with you through the hard times. We are not always going to be existing at life’s peaks but we can always keep them with us in the “security cameras” of our own memories, and know that more of these peaks lie ahead, someday.
This song imagines searching for security camera footage that accidentally captured your life’s most perfect, transcendent (yet sadly, ephemeral) moments so that you can relive them over and over again. Maybe you had your first kiss on your apartment building’s roof deck. It happened and it was wonderful, but now it’s over. But if you could contact your building’s super and ask them for the security camera footage from the roof from the date and time of that first kiss, you could have that moment forever. The security camera becomes a metaphor for our own lived memories, our desire to watch them on repeat and our attempts to celebrate those pinnacle moments in spite of their fleeting nature, so that we can carry those memories with us through the hard times and know that more pinnacles lie ahead, someday.
Musically, I think there is something of Tom Petty in this song. Big strummy power chords on the guitar, that kind of elusive Americana meets Rock and Roll sound (but with maybe more synthesizers than Petty would have used.) I’ve also been told by a few people that this song could be a Pop Country hit if it were produced in a different way, so maybe that’s hiding back there somewhere too in the chords and the melody!

Sleep In 

A fast lullabye to comfort someone in stress. Someone who has no idea how cool they are. Someone who is overwhelmed by the idea of what’s coming next and doesn’t realize that they are perfect just the way they are, and they have already won the race. The chords from this song are a version of the first 5 chords from Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, which I had a magical experience listening to at my chiropractor’s office. I was curious how those rich, lush chords would send under a fast rock beat, sort of Radiohead meets impressionism. I was very happy with the results, sent my demo out to some friends after I wrote it and Alex Toth said it was “drugs” which is just what a fast lullaby should feel like.

A.J. (Interlude)

Just a little intro to the next song!

Not a Game to Me 

When a flirtatious game has become all too serious for you. Dan and I wanted to re-create a sort of drunken falling over feeling in this track that my demo had baked into it because it was me playing the drums on it (and I don’t really play the drums.) I love how Dan embraces weirdness in music instead of trying to “fix” it. I think the tripping feeling is appropriate for this song in which you’re kind of exposed as caring about something more than you had let on. It captures the embarrassment and the desperation


This song is meant to be an expression of just how quickly and unexpectedly and insanely love can knock us off our feet. You might think that you’ve grown out of this kind of explosive, engrossing, blind love and then BAM somebody comes along and just changes everything in an instant. Helpless to escape it, all you can do is sit back and marvel at your own obsession and capacity for magnetic attraction.

Roman Sunset 

I wrote “Roman Sunset” in November 2020 in the days that me and the rest of the United States spent in hellish limbo awaiting the results of the first Trump vs. Biden presidential election. As the votes were being counted and re-counted, we all stood teetering on the precipice between two very different futures. The Trump presidency exposed more hatred and animosity in this country than I ever could have believed existed and fanned the flames of our worst selves into an inferno. Standing on the brink of 4 more years of that, I honestly didn’t know if we could survive it. This got me thinking about the death of empires and what it feels like to know that something is ending. The shift in the air that takes place. The fear, the resistance, the reality and what it would take to turn the tides. It’s strange to be putting this song out as we begin a 2nd election with the same exact candidates and the same exact, critically high stakes. There is an element of defeatism in this song but also a hopefulness that a new path can be forged even in the most trying times, “you sink or swim or you learn to fly.”

I Feel So Bad for You 

A song finding empathy for the one who broke your heart. The layering of music and lyrics on this one is particularly interesting to me. There is a darkness in the music that you would not get from just reading the lyrics on a page. You get the sense when the narrator says “I feel so bad for you, I do, I do, I do” that they really maybe don’t. Or that they are trying to but havn’t really talked themselves into it yet. Those “I dos” by the way, are a reference to weddings and so is the boy standing by the altar trying to figure out what to do. You sympathize with him…but he’s also an asshole.

Don’t Think About the Polar Bear 

A sad, funky song about being bad at meditating, trying not to think about your ex and a metaphorical polar bear. To elaborate: last year I fell in love with someone who was really into meditation and so I tried for the first time in my life to get into meditation. But of course, I was in the early stages of new love and so closing my eyes and trying to focus on my breath was inevitably interrupted by wonderful, happy thoughts about him and our future together. Which was very pleasant…but not really meditation. When things eventually unraveled between us, I was experiencing what I would call my first “mindful” breakup. I was wallowing in the same old thought spirals that come with every breakup, but also aware of my own thoughts in a brand new way. Why can’t I just focus on my breath and stop thinking about this guy?! I happened to hear a podcast about a psychological phenomenon called “Ironic Process Theory” otherwise known as the “white bear problem” because of this Dostoevsky quote:
“Try to pose for yourself this task: not to think of a polar bear, and you will see that the cursed thing will come to mind every minute.” -Fyodor Dostoevsky
The idea being that when you are actively trying not to think about something, you are actually much more likely to think about it. This resonated with me and I decided to write a song about, with a polar bear standing in for my meditation enthusiast ex.

In the Morning

I like a song with a non sequitur chorus. John Prine’s “Six O’Clock News” comes to mind. The lyrics to the verses are this absolutely devastating tale of an orphaned son who finds out a dark secret about the mystery of his parentage, but each time it jumps back to the chorus it just says “come on baby, spend the night with me” and there has always been this intriguing question of what that’s supposed to mean. Again, a layering of meaning. This song has it’s own version of that, kind of in reverse, where the verses are kind of carefree and meandering through a morning spent with a lover eating pancakes and drinking champagne but the choruses reveal a lingering darkness to the situation, “please don’t worry about me.”

Comeback Kid 

I found the phrase “comeback kid” to be inspiring as it relates to resilience and perseverance. In the context of this record, I think of it mostly in terms of being able to overcome many heartaches and still keep believing in love. In playing around with the language, I realized there were a lot of ways to repurpose the word “comeback.” The song includes a couple of different interpretations. “The jerk store called and they’re running out of you” comes from a famous Seinfeld episode, “I know you are but what am I?” is a schoolyard classic, and the “hail mary” in the second verse is a reference to sports comebacks, trying to make a big play at the last minute to miraculously make your way to victory when it seemed all but impossible. This can happen in a relationship too, just making some ridiculous attempts to save the thing from falling apart when it seemed like all hope was lost.
The trick of the song is that it’s not really about victory. The narrator is called “the comeback kid” because they are always begging their lover to “come back “ to them. The happy ending is when she finally learns to walk off the field and give up the game.

— —

:: stream/purchase Comeback Kid here ::
:: connect with Bridget Kearney here ::
Stream: “Comeback Kid” – Bridget Kearney

— — — —

Comeback Kid - Bridget Kearney

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