Andrew Bird

Andrew Bird.
Photo: Cameron Wittig/andrewbird.net

Meet Andrew Bird. He’s a musician and songwriter who artfully combines his talents on multiple instruments — violin, guitar, glockenspiel, his own flute-like whistling — to create an eclectic, memorable sound that defies typical terms like “indie” and “folk.”

Over the last decade, Bird has been gaining momentum, releasing eight studio albums and performing at progressively larger venues — including Bonnaroo last summer and Coachella just last weekend. Now he’s on a U.S. tour in support of his latest album, Armchair Apocrypha (and hitting Seattle tomorrow for a show sponsored in part by Grist).

As Bird’s following grows, so does the size of his tours — and his footprint. “I was relieved and happy to be doing well enough to afford a bus,” Bird said when I caught up with him via phone this week. “But after that, I was depressed about just going down that prescribed path of bigger production and bigger waste. I wanted to do something proactive and not just accept that this is how it’s done.”

Disgusted with the disposable and temporary nature of life on tour — “touring promotes apathy,” he told me with a sigh — Bird decided to partner with Reverb to load up a biodiesel bus and let his fans know that he cares about green issues. Here are nine more things you should know about him:

  • He has a recording studio in a barn, and says he gets inspiration from working there. “Definitely when I moved out there … it had a dramatic effect on my music. It could kind of finally breathe and finally became fully honest — just relaxed enough to be what it is.”
  • He recruits fans to support alternative energy. During every show, Bird plays a song called “Dear Dirty,” from one of his live albums. Then he tells his fans about his partnership with Reverb, asking them to support alternative energy by buying a magnet that says “Dear Dirty, be carbon neutral.”
  • He keeps his backstage requests simple, asking for rice cakes, goat cheese, mixed greens, and LÄRABARs. Instead of consuming a dozen half-bottles of water and forgetting whose is whose, his crew requests several-gallon containers of water to refill their individual Nalgene bottles.
Armchair Apocrypha, by Andrew BirdArmchair Apocrypha, by Andrew Bird.
  • He’s an avid cyclist. Bird describes biking in his not-so-bike-friendly home of Elizabeth, Ill., as “an extreme sport trying to get across town.” But, he says, there’s still a strong bike culture and some good bike shops. “Every time I see people unnecessarily in their cars, I think, ‘Gosh, what a shame, what a waste.'”
  • His favorite summer drink is a Pimm’s Cup, made with Pimm’s liqueur, Reed’s Jamaican Ginger Brew, and fresh cucumbers (organic, of course).
  • He argues with global-warming skeptics. After one fan posted a comment to his MySpace page accusing him of “buying into this whole Al Gore propaganda,” Bird says he wondered how anyone could be arguing against sustainability. “It’s just very shortsighted, that argument.”
  • He loves Green & Black organic chocolate and Chicago’s Intelligentsia coffee. In fact, that’s all he’d want with him if he were stuck on a deserted island: “I really don’t have much need for material possessions.”
  • He reads Grist. “My manager, Andrea, turned me on to Grist, and I’ve been following it for a while.”
  • He hates lists.