Label president David Bither on having scored the most nods in its 59-year history with projects in more than a half-dozen different genres.
David Bither has something on his mind. Sitting at his desk at the Warner Music Group’s midtown Manhattan offices, he pulls up a recording he heard the night before on SiriusXM’s Beatles Channel: accomplished jazz pianist Brad Mehldau performing his solo interpretation of “I Am the Walrus,” off his upcoming album of Beatles covers out Feb. 10. It’s the last minute of the song Bither keeps coming back to: how Mehldau teases out the melodies, takes the song to new places that seem at once completely disconnected from the acid-infused silliness of John Lennon’s original and at the same time still retaining its pop essence.
It’s a Friday afternoon, which in these post-pandemic days means there are few, if any, others in the building. But Bither is here, as he has been for decades, manning the ship for Nonesuch Records’ eclectic, intensely artistic roster of musicians. His office is bursting with vinyl records, and plaques and posters line the walls and the floor: Emmylou Harris, the Velvet Underground, Steve Reich, artists who have influenced him deeply, on both a personal and professional level. It’s no wonder his focus is, at all times, on the music, which filters out through his open office door into the building’s hallways.