Talking Heads Frontman David Byrne Talks About the Tough Parts of Parenting: 'You Have to Kind of Figure It Out for Yourself as You Go'

In the latest episode of We Are Family, the Talking Heads singer and creator of American Utopia talks about how he coped with social awkwardness, what creative freedom meant to him as a kid, and what he found to be the most challenging aspect of parenting.

David Byrne remembers that while growing up, he had friends, but he also enjoyed spending time alone—whether it was exploring in the woods or drawing for hours in his basement. He was artistic from a very young age and Byrne's parents didn't discourage his passion, which the Talking Heads founder felt was very important.

"They just left me alone to do what I wanted to do," he remembers. "And I think that was really, really important for me that it wasn't like, 'Oh, you're wasting your time doing that.' There was no attitude like that. It was just like, 'This is what David wants to do, let him do it.'"

He remembers that around the same time, he felt uncomfortable socially. "I didn't quite know how to do things, and what to do, and how one was supposed to behave in certain ways," says the artist.

Later on, he was told that he might be on the autism spectrum. "I never saw it as being a kind of disability or a problem for me," notes Byrne. "You just think, 'That's who I am.' I think that being a performer was a kind of compensation for that. It allowed me to kind of put myself forward on stage and then I could retreat into myself when I came off stage. But it also allowed me to have an outlet to express myself in ways that I was not able to do socially."

In 1987, Byrne married his now ex-wife Adelle Lutz with whom he had a daughter named Malu Abeni Valentine Lutz Byrne in 1989.

The experience gave him a new perspective on his younger life. "You kind of relive your own life, in some ways, vicariously through this young person who's discovering the world, and discovering other people, and discovering themselves," he muses.

Still, he admits "a lot of the mundane elements" of parenting were difficult for him. "A child really likes a routine," notes Byrne. "Once there's a pattern, they kind of like to expect that to continue. And I think I also, as with a lot of first time parents, I was trying to figure out how do you be a parent? And there's plenty of books about it, but really you have to kind of figure it out for yourself as you go, which is not always easy."

But these days, he's in a flow as a dad and grandparent to Malu's son who's familiar with his famous grandpa's work.

"I think he's seen me on a video or something like that, so he can imitate my dancing," says Byrne. "Sometimes I'll play an instrument for him, but not necessarily sing. The singing part is, it's just the rhythm. A child will get a rhythm, like if you just play a rhythm on a guitar or something like that, the child will start dancing to it immediately. It's kind of amazing how it affects our bodies, how music does that. And they love it."

When all is said and done, Byrne's journey as an artist, father, and grandfather has led him to wish for all his family members to simply "find happy, engaging lives" and "to be kind" to themselves.

Check out We Are Family Season 2, Episode 21 now for more with David Byrne on family and creativity.

Listen to We Are Family on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart, TuneIn, Stitcher, Google, and everywhere podcasts are available.

Listen to Season 2, Episode 21 right now:

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