Siri Undlin’s wandering feet have taken her all over the world, but the singer, who performs as Humbird, still finds herself coming back to Minneapolis to rest.
“I’m sure I’ll settle down one day,” Undlin says from Poulsbo, Washington, having recently completed a train tour that took her from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon. “I know once you settle down, it’s hard to pick up and move again. When I’m home, I love to garden and cook and do boring domestic things, so it balances out.”
Undlin, an occasional City Pages contributor, played Celtic songs in pubs with friends as a teenager, but it wasn’t until she met up with Dexter Wolfe in 2014 that she got serious about music. The two formed Undlin and Wolfe, an alternative folk duo that allowed Undlin to stretch her writing muscles. But like a pair of shoes you eventually outgrow, the duo soon evolved out of their project. Wolfe opened a recording studio; Undlin became Humbird.
A grant to study fairy tales and music in northern Europe started Undlin on a journey through 20 countries and five continents in the span of a year. Her travels in Ireland provided the primary inspiration for the paired EPs she released last summer, Where Else and Elsewhere. “I studied mostly by listening when I was there,” she says. “I ended up playing a lot and spending time in pubs. I interviewed a lot of folks and learned how their songs connected to their family history.”
Undlin’s peripatetic aesthetic makes for rewarding experiences, but also challenging ones. This past January, during an East Coast tour, Undlin soldiered through multiple blizzards. “I was in this Jetta with a trunk that didn’t shut and the windshield wipers didn’t work,” she recalls. “At the time, it was the stupidest idea; I was on the verge of tears every time it snowed, but it was a great tour in the end.”
The stories Undlin has collected during her travels allow her to create songs that creep with a nimble lightness. And with their sentiments of love, loss, and dusty happiness, her tunes affirm the simple truth that every moment is worth savoring. “My favorite place depends on the day and my mood,” she says. “I crave different things on different days. My favorite place is always where I am.”