“There’s always a deeper truth to hold”: Blind Pilot Soar Once More on “Just a Bird,” Their First Song in 8 Years

Blind Pilot © 2024
Blind Pilot © 2024
Blind Pilot’s Israel Nebeker opens up about life’s deeper truths, the joy of making music, and new single “Just a Bird,” the Oregon indie folk band’s first song in eight years – a beautiful, triumphant return, and the first look at their upcoming Josh Kaufman-produced fourth album, ‘In the Shadow of the Holy Mountain’!
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Stream: “Just a Bird” – Blind Pilot




Tell me why I hear the curtain calling still,” Blind Pilot’s Israel Nebeker sings, his tender voice soft, aching, and full of care.

Hearty drums pulse a steady beat and electric guitars glisten and glow as the Oregon indie folk band make their long-awaited return, building a warm wall of sound that covers the ears like a blanket would a body. “Tell me why time gets away from me so well,” Nebeker gently croons, wondering aloud as much to himself as to the world at large.

It’s the start to a candid, confessional self-reflection, and an entrance that feels especially self-aware given the circumstances. Yet while it’s been eight years since Blind Pilot’s last studio release (2016’s third LP, And Then Like Lions), they’ve never sounded better than they do right now: A dramatic and dreamy anthem of intimate, authentic connection, “Just a Bird” finds Blind Pilot soaring once more as they erupt in a flurry of radiant, spirited folk-soaked passion.

Just a Bird - Blind Pilot
Just a Bird – Blind Pilot
Tell me why I hear the curtain calling still
Tell me why time gets away from me so well
If you can do it, I’ll give you my salt
Everything right, everything wrong
Everything I kept behind to tell you why
Just come on honey, yeah I know you’re tough
And you might be right – not right enough
If you’re just burning all that holds you back
That fire’s warm but it sure burns fast
Gonna stand where I see the truth
If I can’t see it yet,
I’m gonna walk ’til I see it

Through

Released June 18, 2024 via ATO Records, “Just a Bird” is a beautiful and welcome best-foot-forward from a band we once praised for capturing “sincere moments in our greater human experience” through music that “shines a little light on life.”

Blind Pilot more recently featured in Atwood‘s Best Concerts of 2023, having put on a breathtakingly intimate show at Woodstock, NY’s Levon Helm Studios. It was a “truly moving and unforgettable night for everyone in attendance… Their performance is a reminder that you don’t need massive arenas, pyrotechnics, or really props of any kind to capture the magic, the wonder, and the beauty of music.” Included in that evening’s setlist of “beloved catalog songs and unreleased material” was a new tune Nebeker called “Just a Bird,” and among the many faces in the crowd that night was Hudson Valley resident Josh Kaufman, who would be recording and producing Blind Pilot’s fourth album just a week later at his 19th Century church-turned-home studio in Kingston, New York.

Blind Pilot © Fawn DeViney, 2023
Blind Pilot © Fawn DeViney, 2023

“One reason I wanted to work with Josh, who produced this record and my [upcoming] solo record, is because he’s always seeking and exploring to find the truer form of a song,” Israel Nebeker explains. “He asked us to try this, try that, change the beat a little, then a lot, then back to a little. We were just feeling our way through it, and during that exploration, one of the first takes really hit. I was so astonished. Ryan and I looked at each other when listening back and we were just giddy. It’s the best feeling I know, when something better than you knew you could create chooses to come through for you.”

It was actually at Kaufman’s suggestion that Blind Pilot scheduled that short run of intimate concert dates in the Northeast last fall, with the intent of road-testing their new songs just before getting into the studio. Kaufman had done the same with his own band, Bonny Light Horseman, as well as with Hiss Golden Messenger; it was a means of getting more comfortable with the songs and letting them find their own souls onstage.

“I wanted to take these new songs on the road before the studio, because I knew we’d come up with valuable things in that setting,” Nebeker says. “I think what happened was, we got the songs in our bones on that tour and we understood them from the inside, enough to just mess it all up and explore with Josh in the studio, while still holding that thread of what the song is.”

“I’m so grateful for this band,” he smiles. “They’re amazingly talented, and willing to be fueled by intuition and feel. I think it’s kind of rare.”

In the Shadow of the Holy Mountain - Blind Pilot
In the Shadow of the Holy Mountain – Blind Pilot
Tell me why so much to say and have no words
Tell me why sometimes a bird is just a bird
If you can do it, I’ll give you my salt
Everything burned, everything gone
Everything I kept behind to tell you why
Just come on honey, yeah I know you’re tough
And you might be right – not right enough
If you’re just burning all that holds you back
That fire’s warm but it sure burns fast
Gonna stand where I see the truth
If I can’t see it yet, I’m gonna walk ’til I see it
Through

A song about honesty, connection, and deeper truths, “Just a Bird” is the first glimpse at Blind Pilot’s work with Kaufman – which Nebeker calls the most “free-flowing of the band’s career” – as well as the lead single off their forthcoming fourth studio album, In the Shadow of the Holy Mountain (out this August via ATO Records).

“The album opens with a song of gratitude to the people in my life who have waited on me to come back to my path; back to joy; back to sight; back to trust, specifically in gratitude for Ryan, who started the band with me,” Nebeker says of his group’s long-awaited new record. “There’s a song Ram Daas sang to me in a dream, amidst a congregation of new age hippie spiritual seekers. Where our past albums have often felt like a songwriter being lifted by an amazing band, this album feels much more like an instant of creative flow, all together.”

Come on honey, yeah I know you’re tough
And you might be right – not right enough
If you’re just burning all that holds you back
That fire’s warm but it sure burns fast

BLIND PILOT’S ISRAEL NEBEKER DISCUSSES TWO NEW ALBUMS IN 2024

:: INTERVIEW ::

Atwood Magazine recently caught up with Israel Nebeker to chat about Blind Pilot’s new songs, the joy of making music, and tapping into life’s real, raw, unavoidable, and undeniable truths.

“My basic hope is that ‘Just a Bird’ moves people and helps them feel good,” Nebeker shares. “My deeper hope is that it helps some individuals (maybe a little) to throw off outdated and hurtful social programming around relationships, and feel empowered to walk their own path of what is a deeper truth.”

“But that’s not really my business. I just listen for the songs that want to come through.”

Join us in welcoming Blind Pilot back in our interview below, and get lost in the beauty and wonder of “Just a Bird,” their first song in eight years’ time!

Come on honey, yeah I know you’re tough
And you might be right – not right enough
If you’re just burning all that holds you back
That fire’s warm but it sure burns fast
Come on honey…

— —

:: stream/purchase Just a Bird here ::
:: pre-order In The Shadow of the Holy Mountain here ::
:: connect with Blind Pilot here ::
Stream: “Just a Bird” – Blind Pilot



A CONVERSATION WITH BLIND PILOT

Just a Bird - Blind Pilot

Atwood Magazine: Great to catch up, Israel! What's the story behind “Just a Bird,” and why did you choose to release this as the first single off your new record (and your first song back in over eight years)?

Israel Nebeker: “Just a Bird” is a song that came through while I was in the precarious first stages of a relationship a few years back. The other person wanted full-on, all-in, everything right off the bat, which came in the form of an ultimatum, and it felt too early to me. We were still getting to know each other. The sentiment of the song felt part contrarian, and part honest plea to connect authentically. It’s asking questions I knew they couldn’t answer about me, trying to prove the honest truth of where we actually were as a couple.

Tell me why I hear the curtain calling still,” you sing in the song's entrance. “Tell me why time gets away from me so well.” It feels very self-aware, knowing how long it’s been from the last record. Is this your intentional way of saying “hello again”?

Israel Nebeker: Ha! Yeah, I did like that as part of it being the first song released after so long. But honestly, time is something I’ve struggled with my whole life. ADHD is a struggle and a gift.

You've talked about this song being an examination of doubt and comfort in the early stages of a relationship; where, for you, did those emotions stem from?

Israel Nebeker: Did I say that? I think at its heart, the song is talking about truth, the way it exists whether we want it to or not.

Blind Pilot © 2024
Blind Pilot © 2024



Sonically, what were you going for with “Just a Bird” – what was your vision for it, and did that change at all between when you first wrote it, and when the band went into the studio together with Josh Kaufman?

Israel Nebeker: This song has changed a couple of times since its initial form when I wrote it. I wrote it on guitar with simple chords, and this last summer when I was writing the Blind Pilot album, I was reworking the chords and harmony on piano. I got it to a good place by the time I brought it to the studio. But one reason I wanted to work with Josh Kaufman, who produced this record and my solo record, is because he’s always seeking and exploring to find the truer form of a song. He asked us to try this, try that, change the beat a little, then a lot, then back to a little. We were just feeling our way through it, and during that exploration, one of the first takes really hit. I was so astonished. Ryan and I looked at each other when listening back and we were just giddy. It’s the best feeling I know, when something better than you knew you could create chooses to come through for you.

My wife and I remember you playing this song at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock last year, and we instantly fell in love with it. How did those shows, and road-testing that song, live, in particular, help inform the studio recording?

Israel Nebeker: I’m so grateful for this band. They’re amazingly talented, and willing to be fueled by intuition and feel. I think it’s kind of rare. I wanted to take these new songs on the road before the studio, because I knew we’d come up with valuable things in that setting. I think what happened was, we got the songs in our bones on that tour and we understood them from the inside, enough to just mess it all up and explore with Josh in the studio, while still holding that thread of what the song is.

I love the line, “Gonna stand where I see the truth, if I can't see it yet, I'm gonna walk ‘til I see it through.” Do you have any favorite lyrics or lines from this track (and why)?

Israel Nebeker: Thanks. I’m glad. My favorite is “and you might be right. Not right enough,” because it says pretty clearly what I was wishing I could express then. We’re all in that spot from time to time. There’s always a deeper truth to hold. Sometimes people can be right, and still be missing so much.

Blind Pilot © 2024
Blind Pilot © 2024



It's been a whopping eight years since And Then Like Lions’ release. How, for you, does “Just a Bird” serve as a reintroduction to Blind Pilot?

Israel Nebeker: It was hard choosing the first single for this album. I’d have been as happy going with five other songs on the record, which is just astonishing to me. I spent so long wishing I could put new music out into the world, and now it feels like the biggest gift I could ever ask for, to be releasing an album I feel this through and through good about.

Continuing along that line of thought, how does the Blind Pilot we're getting to know today compare to the band we last really knew in 2016? How do you feel you've changed over the past eight years, and what excites you about returning with new music now?

Israel Nebeker: I hear joy in this album. I’ve been through a lot of personal growth and transformation in recent years, and I hear some of the rewards on this album. There’s a freedom we’re all feeling in the band that hasn’t been this strong since maybe ever. I hear that in the sound we’re creating together right now.

Blind Pilot © 2024
Blind Pilot © 2024



In the spirit of teasing listeners, what else can fans look forward to off the new album, In the Shadow of the Holy Mountain? Anything we can share to start getting folks amped up and excited?

Israel Nebeker: The album opens with a song of gratitude to the people in my life who have waited on me to come back to my path; back to joy; back to sight; back to trust, specifically in gratitude for Ryan, who started the band with me. There’s a song Ram Daas sang to me in a dream, amidst a congregation of new age hippie spiritual seekers. Where our past albums have often felt like a songwriter being lifted by an amazing band, this album feels much more like an instant of creative flow, all together.

What do you love most about this new song, and what do you hope listeners take away from it?

Israel Nebeker: My basic hope is that it moves people and helps them feel good. My deeper hope is that it helps some individuals (maybe a little) to throw off outdated and hurtful social programming around relationships, and feel empowered to walk their own path of what is a deeper truth. But that’s not really my business. I just listen for the songs that want to come through.

— —

:: stream/purchase Just a Bird here ::
:: pre-order In The Shadow of the Holy Mountain here ::
:: connect with Blind Pilot here ::
Stream: “Just a Bird” – Blind Pilot



— — — —

Just a Bird - Blind Pilot

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