He’s a talented violinist, singer, songwriter – and whistler. Chicago-area native Andrew Bird has long been celebrated for blending styles and for his unique approach to songwriting and performing. He’s applied those talents to his new Christmas album, “Hark.”
“You have to admit that a Christmas album is a nostalgic exercise if there ever was one, but I really wanted to try to refresh the canon,” Bird said. “We’ve got the same 10 songs or so kicking around every year and that reminds us what time of year it is, but now and then it could use some new entries.”
In addition to trying his hand at holiday music, Bird is also acting for the first time in the new season of “Fargo” on FX, which was filmed in Chicago. Bird says the experience of being a rookie actor was “terrifying,” but that being back in Chicago offered some comfort.
“I’ve been watching (‘Fargo’) weekly like everybody else,” Bird said. “I’ve never seen myself on screen before, so I want to know if I pulled it off or not. I had no idea when I was doing it whether I was measuring up to the other actors. I really hadn’t given acting a thought before this came up, so the whole thing was a big adventure.”
Bird was in Chicago shooting “Fargo” when the coronavirus pandemic forced the production to shut down and he returned to his home in California.
“At first I — like a lot of my creative friends — (was) having a little trouble being creative because (the pandemic) was so all-consuming and not necessarily something you feel like writing about,” Bird said. Eventually he decided to complete the “Hark” album, including a contemplative and timely song called “Christmas in April.”
“I actually wrote (it) in March, but March is not a very lyrical word,” Bird said. “I was thinking the same thing that probably millions of people were thinking – which, how often can you say something like that? – but I was wondering where we’re going to be when the holidays come around.”
One sign it’s the holiday season for Bird’s Chicago fans is his annual December run of concerts at the Fourth Presbyterian Church, known as Gezelligheid. This year, it’s going virtual with a Dec. 13 livestream.
More with Andrew Bird on WTTW
In this 2001 story from Artbeat, Andrew Bird talks about pop music, his songwriting process, and his omnivorous appetite for music. The 28-year-old Lake Forest native also played violin, sang and gave us a sample of his impeccable whistling style. He performed early versions of “Banking on a Myth” and “The Happy Birthday Song” with his Bowl of Fire bandmates – a who’s who of sought-after Chicago musicians, including bassist Jimmy Sutton, drummer Kevin O’Donnell, guitarist Andy Hopkins and vocalist Nora O’Connor.