Natalie MerchantOn Our Show: August 21, 2010
Birth Year: 1963
Origin: Jamestown, NY
About Natalie Merchant:
Singer-songwriter and pianist Natalie Merchant was born in 1963, in Jamestown, New York. Her father was a jazz musician and her mother, a classical music devotee, was a secretary. She studied the piano, spent free time in the library and dreamed of becoming an artist. Participating in an accelerated college program, Merchant skipped her senior year in high school student and enrolled in Jamestown Community College. At 17, she befriended the college’s radio station hosts who asked Merchant to join their band, Still Life, which later became known as 10,000 Maniacs.
The 10,000 Maniacs with Natalie as the lead vocalist released two platinum and four gold records between 1981 and 1993. In 1993, after 12 years with 10,000 Maniacs, Natalie Merchant left the band. Her solo debut, Tigerlily, entered the Billboard album chart at number thirteen. With producer Paul Fox, Merchant wrote and recorded the 11 tracks on Tigerlily in only five months. In May of 1998, Merchant released Ophelia and it immediately went to number 8 on Billboard album charts. Ophelia, a nod to Shakespeare’s tragic heroine in Hamlet, offered lush orchestral arrangements, guest performances by more than 30 musicians and signaled, perhaps, Merchant’s penchant for expanding the sound and vocabulary of popular music.
She has collaborated both on stage and in the studio with a wide range of artists, including REM, Wynton Marsalis, The Chieftains, Mavis Staples, Daniel Lanois, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, David Byrne, Philip Glass, Billy Bragg, Wilco, Tracy Chapman, Cowboy Junkies, Ryan Adams, Lokua Kanza, Yungchen Lhamo, The Fairfield Four, Gavin Bryars, Jakob Dylan, Susan McKeown, Chris Botti, Lúnasa, The Klezmatics, Katell Keineg, Dan Zanes, and Medeski, Martin & Wood.
Among her albums, she released a collection of traditional and contemporary folk music in 2003 called The House Carpenter’s Daughter. Her 2010 release Leave Your Sleep is a project about childhood, and is a collection of music adapted from 19th and 20th century British and American poetry about childhood.
Throughout her entire career, Merchant has also been dedicated to supporting a wide array of non-profit organizations lending both financial support and raising public awareness.