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Andrew Bird and Phoebe Bridgers Transform an Old Emily Dickinson Poem on ‘I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain’

Track pairs Dickinson’s verses from 1861 with a tender, albeit occasionally chilling folk arrangement

Andrew Bird has enlisted the help of Phoebe Bridgers to create a tender folk interpretation of Emily Dickinson’s 1861 poem, “I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain.”

Bird and Bridgers recorded the song this fall, and the interpretation pairs Dickinson’s verses with soft guitar, light whistling, and drum patter, as well as strings that can feel rich and grand one moment, then cool and steely the next. Bird and Bridgers share vocal duties, trading verses and then coming together for some lovely harmonies, like on the final verse: “And then I heard them lift a Box/And creak across my Soul/With those same Boots of Lead, again,/Then Space – began to toll.”

In a statement, Bird said, “I came across this Emily Dickinson poem and found it to be the most vivid description of an inner world I’ve ever encountered. It became an inspiration for the songs on [Bird’s most recent album] Inside Problems. Who better to sing it with than Phoebe Bridgers? I sent her a demo, and so here we are. Thanks to Ms. Dickinson’s publisher at Harvard University Press for allowing us to use this poem. As I understand, her poems weren’t published as she intended them until the 1950s — that is, without the heavy hand of her male editors.”

Bird released Inside Problems back in June, marking his first solo album of all new material since 2019’s My Finest Work Yet. In the intervening years, he dropped the 2019 holiday album, Hark!, and in 2021 collaborated with Squirrel Nut Zippers’ Jimbo Mathus on These 13.

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