The former Talking Heads frontman, who’s touring the world for his album ’American Utopia,’ on his penchant for two-wheeled exploration, losing his way in a Swedish forest and his devotion to leftovers

By Matthew Kronsberg   March 14, 2018 11:05 a.m. ET
 THIS SPRING and summer, you may notice a familiar-looking figure pedaling along your local cycling path, and you may ask yourself: “Is that David Byrne, the former frontman of Talking Heads?” It could well be. Mr. Byrne has just embarked on a world tour—taking him to more than 90 cities, from Santiago, Chile, this Friday, to Brooklyn, N.Y., on Sept. 17—to promote his new album, “American Utopia,” and he’s bringing his bike.

Though this is his first solo record since 2004, these last 14 years haven’t been idle ones. Mr. Byrne has racked up countless miles, and he has the projects to show for it. His cycling habit led to his 2009 book “Bicycle Diaries,” a collection of essays drawn from his two-wheeled excursions in cities such as Istanbul, Buenos Aires, Pittsburgh and New York, where he lives, as well as Manila, in the Philippines, where he found inspiration for “Here Lies Love,” the 2010 disco-musical about Imelda Marcos he created in collaboration with Fatboy Slim. Mr. Byrne’s worldly expeditions informed another recent project, called “Reasons to be Cheerful,” a collection of pioneering initiatives in wide-ranging fields, from transportation to energy production, all cataloged on a website of the same name. His observations on these initiatives gave rise to a TED Talk-like presentation, which he’s given recently in New York, London, Amsterdam and Berlin.

Travel of a more allegorical nature is a recurring motif on the new album. In the lead single, “Everybody’s Coming to My House,” Mr. Byrne sings, “We’re only tourists in this life. Only tourists, but the view is nice,” which sums up his engaged approach to life and travel. In other words, Mr. Byrne said, “Life is fleeting. One hopes we participate, and that we don’t just watch from the hotel balcony—that we’re part of it.”