Chicago-based multi-instrumentalist and lyricist Andrew Bird picked up his first violin at the age of 4. Actually, it was a Cracker Jack box with a ruler taped to it, and the first of his many music lessons involved simply bowing to the teacher and going home. He spent his formative years soaking up classical repertoire completely by ear and as a restless teenager made the jump to Hungarian Gypsy music, early jazz, and country blues. It's fitting that now, though classically trained, he has instead opted to play his violin in a most unconventional manner, accompanying himself on glockenspiel and guitar, adding singing and whistling to the equation, and becoming a pop songwriter in the process. Noble Beast, Andrew Bird's new album, will be released on January 27, 2009.