Bird’s sound is one that is so distinctive that it resists any one category. His unique songs range from riveting one-man-band electronic looping to collaborations with esteemed musicians like Fiona Apple and Blake Mills. His sound can best be described as one that bridges the divide between the deep swelling sounds of the orchestra and the humble tunes of homegrown Americana. Bird mixes the sound of his violin with the guitar, glockenspeil, vocals and whistling.
Bird is a virtuoso of the violin—he picked up his first violin at the young age of four and spent his adolescent years learning about classical repertoire by ear. He began his recording career in 1997, has released 13 albums and performed all across the globe. He has recorded alongside Preservation Hall Jazz Band, appeared as Dr. Stringz on Jack’s Big Music Show and headlined concerts at the famous Carnegie Hall, Sydney Opera House and festivals worldwide.
“I never walk onstage knowing what I’m doing,” says Bird. “It’s a shrug-of-the-shoulders approach and people like it, it seems human to them. On his recent album Are You Serious, he explains, “I began playing with the idea of reinvention, so that onstage a wild untamed thing can happen. I wanted to make a record that lets me subvert or expand my onstage personality.”
He has taken experimental leaps with Are You Serious. Alongside the contributions and guidance of Fiona Apple and Blake Mills, Bird was able to make the album a visceral and personal experience start to finish.
“I set out to make a record that’s different than any I’ve made before,” Bird explains. “I wanted to make an album musically crafted like a Wrecking Crew session, where you have to be good. There’s less wordplay and more intention to process some brutal times that I went through. What happens when real ordeals befall someone who has always been happy writing from their imagination and the distance of the third person? Who has time for poetics while grappling with birth and death? What’s the role of sincerity for a songwriter who doesn’t really go in for the confessional thing? This is what I struggled with for this record. I suppose the title could be poking fun at my own foray into the confessional realm.”
In recent years, Bird has taken his talents to other realms of artistic expression. He’s performed as the Whistling Caruso in Disney’s The Muppets movie, scored the FX series Baskets, performed at The New Yorker Festival and collaborated with ingenious inventor Ian Schneller on Sonic Arboretum, an installation exhibited at New York’s Guggenheim Museum, Boston’s ICA and the MCA Chicago. His eclectic resume does not end there, he has also been a featured TED Talk presenter, a New York Times op-ed contributor, advocates for Everytown for Gun Safety and has a series of Facebook Live performances called Live from the Great Room which puts his creative process on display for curious fans.
Currently, Bird is working on a new series of site-specific improvisational short films and recordings called Echolocations. The series is contingent upon recording music in remote and acoustically odd spaces. The next installment, Echolocations: River (recorded under Los Angeles’s Hyperion Bridge), is projected for release in October.
For more information, visit artsandlectures.ucsb.edu or call 805/893-3535.