From her early days with that dog. to her later collaborations with artists including the Decemberists, Foo Fighters, Sunn O))), and Bill Frisell, Petra Haden has made a name for herself as a versatile and distinctive artist. Born in 1971 to jazz bassist Charlie Haden, she demonstrated not only an extraordinary ear for music, but the ability to re-create the sounds of musical instruments with her own voice — in pop, classical, jazz, blues, or any other idiom or genre one cares to name. She began studying the violin when she was seven years old, and by her teens she was on her way to becoming a virtuoso and displayed proficiency on the trumpet, mandolin, and various keyboard instruments, making her a true multi-instrumentalist.
It was Haden's voice, however, with its extraordinary range, that most caught people's ears. In high school, she taught herself to overdub vocal tracks on a four-track recorder her father gave her. In 1992, she and her sister Rachel, along with Anna Waronker (the daughter of renowned producer Lenny Waronker) and drummer Tony Maxwell, formed the group that dog. The Los Angeles-based band released three albums: 1994's self-titled release, 1995's Totally Crushed Out!, and 1997's Retreat from the Sun. In 1996, Haden recorded her first solo album, Imaginaryland, consisting of a cappella versions of cover songs.
While recovering from injuries she suffered after being hit by a car in 2000, Haden began work on an a cappella version of The Who Sell Out, which she recorded on an eight-track recorder given to her by Mike Watt. The result was a 39-minute recording that sounded like the Roches crossed with the Swingle Singers. She released the album in 2005, and performed it live with a ten-woman choir dubbed Petra Haden & the Sellouts. She built on the album's success with an a cappella version of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" that appeared on the 2007 compilation Guilt by Association, Vol. 1, and scored three commercials for the Toyota Prius in 2010.