Driving through wintry cornfields in Iowa, Andrew Bird sounds tired. But it’s a good tired. A proud tired. The kind of tired that results from consistently crossing continents, playing sold-out gigs in front of devoted, adoring audiences. The kind of tired that stems from releasing one of the best records of the year, The Mysterious Production of Eggs, and then doing everything that a single musician can do to make sure that as many people hear it as possible.
"I think I’ve played around 220 shows this year," Bird said. "I don’t know, maybe more. It’s been a lot, but it seems like the record is still clicking with people, so I’m just going to push to the end of this year and keep playing. There’s some good momentum now and I guess it’s a good time to try and build on it."
Bird, who will be returning to Portland on Dec. 6 and 7 to open for Nickel Creek at the Roseland, has been building momentum for a long time. He has been releasing records since 1997, either as a solo artist or with his backup band Bowl of Fire. His unquestionably unique sound is one that doesn’t fit into simple genres. His lead instrument is the violin and he adds whistling, soft vocals, glockenspiel and electric guitar loops to the mix before it’s all said and done.
"Maybe it just took people a while to find me," Bird said. "Maybe it’s just being in the right place at the right time. Who knows? The same thing’s been happening for some other good bands, too. My Morning Jacket for instance. And M. Ward. We’ve all been putting out records for years and now we’re finally getting some notice. The best thing about it is that it just gives me more freedom."
On The Mysterious Production of Eggs, Bird often explores the world through the eyes of a child. Dense, Dylan-like lyrics tackle serious world issues, but they do so in a gentle, wide-eyed manner that is more centered on observation than action.
"Once I got everything together lyrically, certain themes started to pop up. And whenever those themes do arise, I really try and grab hold of them, because I’m usually so all over the place in terms of my writing. And the main recurring image was that of a child, simply looking up at everything. Whether it be a building or people or some sort of social construct. And I just remember being that age and being suspicious and thinking, ‘They don’t really care about us. They really don’t care what we say or do or think’ and it transferred itself onto the record," Bird said.
As for his musical future, Bird is uncertain.
"There’s some pressure – good pressure, mind you – for me to just ride this thing out," he said. "Usually, I write while I’m on the road. I won’t listen to the radio or the CD player and I will just concentrate on melodies and hum certain things to myself. And if they keep showing up and stick around, then I figure that they’re good enough to record. But lately, I’ve just been playing all of these shows and taking everything in. It’s like, I have more freedom but less free time. So I’ve just been reading a lot of Saul Bellow and trying to make it from town to town. And maybe this year will just go down as my touring year."