As we chatted, I came to understand why Byrne moved from Portland—where he was working at another award-winning agency, Wieden + Kennedy—to New York.
“The lure of New York City. I’d lived here before and I loved it. What’s that Sinatra song? ‘If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.‘ But I think you have to keep making it here. I love the energy of it. I wanted to challenge myself and scare myself.”
It does not, therefore, come as much of a surprise that Byrne attributes much of his creativity to the city itself, and cites much of his inspiration as flowing from the multitude of stories that are being lived out every day on NYC’s chaotic streets.
“I think I just have my antenna up all the time. It might be something that you say. It might be sitting in traffic in the car and overhearing a conversation.” But the main center of interest for Byrne is not the stories, but the people who are the actors of these many plot lines:
“I think the number one thing that I do, and have done subconsciously since I was a little boy, is to people watch. It’s like, “I wonder what she does for a living and where is she going right now? What’s in that bag? Is she happy or sad?” Or like, “What are those guys doing? Are they having an argument? Are they in love? Are they not? Movies, books, conversations. Nothing beats people watching.”