David Letterman, the National’s Matt Berninger Talk Music, Depression


The National superfan David Letterman got the chance to sit down with the band’s frontman Matt Berninger for a long conversation about music, songwriting, and their individual battles with depression. 

The conversation debuted Friday, and immediately got right to the heavy stuff. Berninger opened up about the deep phase of depression he was in during the pandemic and even shared the doubts he had about touring, or even playing in a band again. Letterman, in turn, spoke about some of his own bouts of depression, as well as cycles of feeling “moody or blue,” before noting the way the National’s music turned out to be “such a complimentary feeling” for him.

“These beautiful melodies and thoughtful, interesting, quizzical lyrics are pretty much how I feel all the time.,” he added.

Elsewhere, the pair discussed the joys and difficulties of being entertainers, while Letterman got the chance to geek out and ask Berninger about some of his favorite recent National songs, like “Space Invader” and “Smoke Detector.” Letterman was particularly intrigued by the latter song, and how Berninger settled on the image, “Sit in the backyard in my pharmacy slippers.”

“When you’re in a pharmacy under the fluorescent lights waiting for your antidepressant…” Berninger quipped, before adding: “I remember, when I was in the worst place, I had a really hard time even just going to a pharmacy like that… I’m always trying to show that there’s a silly side to everything that’s pathetic and heartbreaking. And there’s something comical about what a mess I was.” 


Letterman has been a longtime fan of the National and even hosted the band for their network television debut on The Late Show all the way back in 2007. Just last month, Letterman guested on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show, returning to the Ed Sullivan Theater for the first time since his hosting tenure ended in 2015, and the National made sure they were on-hand to perform.

Unsurprisingly, Letterman had recommended the National as musical guests for his big return, but there was a hitch when he learned they were on tour. The National, however, were still able to carve out time to return to New York City for the occasion. “Because for a band, TV money is really more interesting,” Letterman joked in his interview with Colbert. “I was really, really touched by that.” 

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