Andrew Bird recently spoke with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour about his new holiday album Hark! that he began writing back in April during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. He also performed a stripped down version of the album’s lead single, “Christmas in April” by playing his violin like a ukulele.
Bird said that when he began writing the album, he wasn’t inspired to make a regular Andrew Bird album, so he decided to try to write a comforting holiday album. In April, he was already starting to get the feeling that the U.S. would still be in a critical condition by the time the holidays came around. While some of the songs are lighter, more cheerful pieces, some are about people living alone during lockdown and being pushed over the edge by the pandemic.
“Christmas in April,” which he released in October shortly before the album came out, is one of those COVID-inspired tunes that ponders what the future will look like amid the pandemic. In the interview, Bird performed the song by strumming his violin like a ukulele and singing and whistling along. Amanpour asked him about his whistling, calling him a “virtuoso whistler.” Bird said he started incorporating whistling into his songs after realizing it’s a good way to get the audience’s attention.
They also played part of his music video for the song “Night’s Falling” from Hark!. The animated video shows a man holding a lantern, walking through a dark forest. His mother, Beth Bird, created the art for the video. Bird talked a bit about how his mother was key to his development as an artist.
During the interview, they played a clip of Bird performing John Prine’s “Souvenirs,” which is also on Hark!. Bird said he’s been covering the song for years, but he chose to put it on the album to honor Prine, who died in April due to the coronavirus. The song is about the nostalgia and memory of Christmas and how that can be difficult for some people.
Bird first announced Hark! in September, and it was released Oct. 30 via Loma Vista Recordings.When he announced the album, he also released an animated video for the song “Andalucia,” the first song on the album. He released an EP of the same name last year.
In August, Bird joined Glen Hansard, Julien Baker, Grace Potter and many more artists to perform a cover of Burt Bacharach’s “What the World Needs Now is Love” for the Newport Folk Festival live stream, Folk on Revival Weekend. That same month, he also reunited with his former band Squirrel Nut Zippers after two decades to release the song “Train on Fire.” Bird first joined the band in 1996 but eventually left to focus on his solo career.
Several other artists have been celebrating the holidays with music lately, such as indie-pop band Crocodiles, who released a new music video this week to accompany their holiday song “Christmas in Hell.” English rock band Black Midi shared their renditions of some Christmas classics, “Jingle Bell Rock” and “What Christmas Means to Me,” and donated the proceeds from each to Windmill Brixton, a music venue in London.
Montréal indie outfit The Dears released a new song called “Christmas Love,” this week as well, along with a lyric video. Earlier this week, Colorado metal band Allegaeon shared a video for their death metal cover of Wham’s “Last Christmas,” featuring Cattle Decapitation’s Travis Ryan and The Black Dahlia Murder’s Trevor Strnad on vocals.
Featured image: Alyssa Fried