Howard Fishman infuses his music with a wide variety of influences, from New Orleans-style swing to underground pop. He grew up in Hartford, Connecticut, and began a career as an actor, director, and playwright. During his studies at Vassar College, he pursued a scholarly interest in the works of Eugene O'Neill. Turning his attention toward music, however, he taught himself guitar. His growing love of popular and folk musics led him to move to New Orleans in 1994, where he developed his unique sound and played with the likes of Kermit Ruffins and Corey Harris. Returning to New York in 1997, Fishman launched the Howard Fishman Quartet, in which he sang and played guitar, and was often backed by Jonathan Flaugher on upright bass, Russell Farhang on violin, and Erik Jekabson on trumpet. The category-defying group grew steadily in popularity and acclaim, touring Europe in summer 2000 and continuing to perform at some of New York's hippest venues.
A sophomore effort, I Like You a Lot, was issued in early 2001. In 2002, Fishman released Do What I Want, which found him moving away from his early jazz inclinations and toward a more rock-oriented sound. Fishman would stick with this direction for several more albums, including 2005's Look at All This! and 2006's Howard Fishman Quartet, Vol. 2. In 2007, he released The Basement Tapes, which featured his ensemble performing Bob Dylan and the Band's classic material at Joe's Pub in New York City. In 2010, Fishman released several albums, including the spare, string quartet-driven World Will Be Different and the more robust New Orleans brass band-inflected Better Get Right. In 2011, following a trip to Romania, Fishman released No Further Instructions, which featured a song cycle inspired by his trip.