Andrew Bird may have begun his career as an old-time jazz violinist, but his musical stylings are no longer quite so easily pinned down. He sings, whistles, writes lyrics, composes film scores and creates songs that can sometimes hover between pop and ethereal music. His latest album is called Break It Yourself.
"Since I first picked up the violin, I've been very interested in tone and texture: I would have very visceral reactions to the texture of a snare drum or a pedal steel guitar or a violin," Bird tells NPR's Linda Wertheimer. "To this day, I'm still very interested in the range, palette and colors that I have to work with."
Break It Yourself continues the balancing act that Bird has carried on for much of his career: celebratory, upbeat music paired with lyrics that drip with heavy subject matter.
"I've been playing around with that before I started making records — the lightness and the dark," Bird says. "I think that dark on dark is kind of boring, but the juxtaposition is what we call melancholy. That's the basis of most music, really. I've always liked that contrast."
Bird was 4 when he picked up his first instrument, a crude violin made from a Cracker Jack box and a ruler. He says the freedom to explore such alternative methods as a child has greatly influenced how he makes music today.
"The fact that I wasn't expected to read music at all and was absorbing everything by ear ... it had a huge affect on the kind of musician that I became," says Bird. "That's given me enormous flexibility stylistically. I wasn't so penned in by the classical tradition."