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Music producer Jack Antonoff answers a 'Wild Card' question

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Each week, on NPR's Wild Card With Rachel Martin, a well-known guest draws a card from the deck and answers a big question about their life. Well, this week, we hear from Grammy-winning music producer Jack Antonoff. He has worked on hits by artists like Lorde, Lana Del Rey, Taylor Swift. He also makes music with his own band, Bleachers. And on the latest Bleachers album, Jack Antonoff grapples with how to move on from an early tragedy in his life - the death of his sister. That experience came up in his conversation with Wild Card host Rachel Martin.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: Pick a card - one through three.

JACK ANTONOFF: One.

MARTIN: How has grief shaped your life?

ANTONOFF: Entirely.

MARTIN: Entirely?

ANTONOFF: I almost see it as, like, an emotional lens - you know? - like a contact lens or something that, like, goes over your eye emotionally. And so it's sort of, like - it's not, like, a thing that happened that you sometimes feel. It's like - it's how you see things now. So, like, grief is just, like - and I assume it will be, the rest of my life, just part of how I see things.

MARTIN: How old were you when your sister died?

ANTONOFF: I was 18, but she was sick since I was 5. So it was a big part of my life.

MARTIN: So how does that manifest in how you see the world?

ANTONOFF: The thing about sick people - people who are unsure how long they'll get to live - especially kids in that position - I mean, the lack of cynicism - the obsession with creation, joy, love, family - you know, it's just - when you might not have a lot of time on Earth, you don't define yourself by the things you hate, quite - put very simply. And so that just lives in me, you know? I'm not someone who moves through the world - I'm not really doing a bit, you know?

MARTIN: Yeah.

ANTONOFF: I'm really - feel very sincere about the things I'm doing and saying, and I think a big part of that is just being confronted with time and fragility and - yeah - that was always on the table. Especially, like, when she actually died - you know, she was dying and actually died when I was 18, so - and then the years before, obviously, were pretty tough. So it's like - those are pretty powerful life moments. I remember very clearly seeing everyone in my world kind of like planes taking off, and I was not, you know? That's a very specific moment in time when you're supposed to feel, like, free. And...

MARTIN: Like you're getting better.

ANTONOFF: ...Anything possible.

MARTIN: Yeah.

ANTONOFF: Well, instead, you know, most people are just graduating high school. This is the moment...

MARTIN: Ah, I see.

ANTONOFF: ...When you're supposed to be like...

MARTIN: Yeah.

ANTONOFF: ...I can do anything in the world.

MARTIN: Right.

ANTONOFF: You know, those are really - as I've heard, 'cause I didn't really have them - those few years you get where you're just sort of, like, endless stamina, endless possibility.

MARTIN: Yeah.

ANTONOFF: You know, those are the years that everyone talks about. I didn't really get them in the same way. I think that colored my life a lot.

MARTIN: How do you feel most connected to her?

ANTONOFF: Probably through my family. That's why we - you know, I think when you have a great loss, people either kind of like run or glue themselves to each other. We definitely did the glue method.

MARTIN: Jack Antonoff, award-winning musician, songwriter, producer - Jack, thank you so much for doing this.

ANTONOFF: Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate this.

KELLY: And you can hear a longer version of that conversation with Jack Antonoff on NPR's podcast, Wild Card With Rachel Martin.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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