AbOUT NATALIE MerCHANT
Over her 30-year career Natalie Merchant has earned a place among America’s most respected recording artists. She has earned a reputation for being a songwriter of quality and a captivating stage performer.
Merchant began her musical career as the lead vocalist and lyricist of the pop music band 10,000 Maniacs and released two platinum and four gold records with the group between 1981 and 1993 (The Wishing Chair, In My Tribe, Blind Man's Zoo, Hope Chest, Our Time in Eden & MTV Unplugged). In 1994 Merchant embarked upon a solo career with a self-produced debut album, Tigerlily (1995) which astounded the music industry by selling over 5 million copies. In the years following, she released Ophelia (1998), Natalie Merchant Live(1999) and Motherland(2001). In 2003 after 18 years she left Elektra Records and independently released an album of traditional and contemporary folk music, The House Carpenter’s Daughteron her own label, Myth America Records. In 2005,Merchant offereda collection of her most rare and best-known material for a double album, Retrospective. In 2010,she released a double album through Nonesuch Records entitled, Leave Your Sleep. This thematic work included 26 musical adaptations of classic and contemporary poems that touched upon various aspects of childhood. Merchant drew from the works of such poets as Robert Louis Stevenson, e.e. cummings, Robert Graves, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Edward Lear, Rachel Field, Charles Causley, and Mother Goose. Merchant published an 80-page book including biographical sketches and portraits of each poet included in the anthology. She was awarded the prestigious Library Lion Award from the New York Public Library for this work in 2010. An eponymous album of original material followed in 2014 and in 2015 Merchant celebrated the 20thanniversary of her first solo album by releasing Paradise is There, reinterpretations of the songs from Tigerlily with an string quartet. A documentary film memoir was also included. Most recently, Nonesuch released a 10-CD box set of the complete solo work with the addition of a new album entitled Butterfly (2017).
Merchant has collaborated both on stage and in the studio with a wide range of artists including Philip Glass, Wynton Marsalis, David Byrne, The Chieftains, Medeski,Martin & Wood, Mavis Staples, REM, Daniel Lanois, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Tracy Chapman, Lokua Kanza, The Klezmatics, Lúnasa, Yungchen Lhamo, Chris Botti, Dan Zanes, Billy Bragg and Wilco.
Through-out her entire career Merchant has been dedicated to supporting a variety of non-profit organizations by lending both financial support and raising public awareness. Scenic Hudson, Riverkeeper. The Center for Constitutional Rights, Doctors Without Borders, Tibet House, Greenpeace, The Southern Center for Human Rights and Planned Parenthood are among the social justice groups to which she has been devoted.
In 2007, Merchant was appointed by the governor Elliot Spitzer to serve a five-year term on the prestigious New York State Councilon the Arts (NYSCA). In 2013 Merchant spearheaded an effort to stop the advance of hydraulic fracturing in New York State with a concert film, Dear Governor Cuomo. With this film, a group of New York artists, scientists and activists (including Mark Ruffalo, Melissa Leo & Sandra Steingraber) exposed the potential dangers of the controversial fuel extraction process. Again in 2013 Merchant used the same format of concert film to address the domestic violence crisis in the Hudson Valley with Shelter.
Merchant is currently an artist in residence with Commission on Economic Opportunity in Troy, NY. During her four-year residency, she will be developing a music, poetry and dance curriculum for CEO's Head Start program. As part of this effort, she has written, rehearsed and produced a musical theater piece with 160 low-income pre-school children called, Happy Birthday Mother Goose.