Andrew Bird’s latest album, Hark!, is full of holiday music — but when the Grammy-nominated musician was asked if he’d ever attended an office Christmas party, his immediate answer was, “I’m glad to say, I haven’t been to any.”
NPR’s Ophira Eisenberg spoke to Bird as part of Ask Me Another‘s “Mandatory Fun Virtual Office Holiday Party” episode. Bird eventually did recall an early gig performing at an architects’ office: “I don’t miss those days of getting those sideways glances like, ‘Oh look at that chair. Oh, it’s a musician.'”
Bird has been performing his signature whistle and violin loops for nearly a quarter of a century. His first big gig was working at a Renaissance fair. Self-styled in a puffy shirt, drawstring pants, and a pair of Vans sneakers he spray painted black, “I had free reign, I’d go and play with the hurdy-gurdy guy and the dulcimer guy and they thought this guy’s enjoying his job too much.” His eagerness landed him at the “privy line,” entertaining people waiting in line for the bathroom.
He’s come a long way since his Ren Fair days: His 2019 album My Finest Work Yet was nominated for a Best Folk Album Grammy. And this year, inspired by his love of the Vince Guaraldi soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas, he created his own holiday album called, Hark!
Andrew Bird put his famous whistling talents to the test in his Ask Me Another challenge. He whistled the melodies of classic and contemporary holiday songs for the Oscar Award-winning composers Robert and Kristen Anderson Lopez.
On why he decided to incorporate whistling into his act
It took me a minute to accept that something so easy and casual as whistling would be worthy of anyone’s attention. And then I started realizing that it really did get people’s attention, especially when I was playing solo and people were talking in bars. I would just fill my lungs and hold a note until people stopped talking. And it was very effective.
Why he decided to do a holiday album
I just kind of stumbled into it. I started doing some Vince Guaraldi Trio covers, which I love. You know, the Peanuts Christmas songs. And I was just wearing out that record. And I thought I’m going to record a few of these. And then I said, oh I’m going to write some lyrics to some of these songs that are just instrumentals… but then Vince Guaraldi’s estate wouldn’t let me do that. So, I started writing some originals.
On the inspiration behind his original song Christmas in April
I wrote this last March. But “March” is not a very lyrical word. I was thinking what probably millions of us were thinking, “How long is this going to go on? Are we going to be able to see our loved ones at Christmas?” And just thinking about how messed up all that is.