Natalie Merchant

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Words & Music
Climate Change & Sustainability

Natalie Merchant: Biography at a Glance

  • Singer-songwriter
  • Began her musical career as the lead vocalist and lyricist of 10,000 Maniacs, releasing two platinum and four gold records with the group
  • As a solo musician, produced six studio albums and two compilation albums
  • Collaborated both on stage and in the studio with a wide range of artists, including R.E.M., Wilco, Tracy Chapman and Ryan Adams
  • Works with the nonprofits Scenic Hudson, The Center for Constitutional Rights, Riverkeeper and Doctors Without Borders


Throughout her career, Natalie Merchant has earned a place among America’s most respected recording artists with a reputation for being a songwriter of quality and a captivating 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 began her solo career with a self-produced debut album, Tigerlily (1995) which astounded the music industry by selling 4 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 Daughter on her own label, Myth America Records. In 2005 she was persuaded to curate a collection of her own work for a double album she titled Retrospective.

She has collaborated both on stage and in the studio with a wide range of artists: 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.

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. Scenic Hudson, The Center for Constitutional Rights, Riverkeeper, Doctors Without Borders, Greenpeace, The Association to Benefit Children, Planned Parenthood and The Southern Center for Human Rights are among the social justice groups to which she has been devoted. She was recently appointed by the governor of New York to serve a five-year term as a member of the prestigious New York State Council on the Arts.

After the birth of her daughter in 2003 Merchant took an extended break from recording and touring.  For six years Merchant has been researching, writing and recording a collection of songs adapted from the works of various classic and contemporary poets.  This project, entitled Leave Your Sleep, is her first studio album in seven years was released in April 2010 on Nonesuch Records. She released her sixth album, Natalie Merchant, in Spring 2014.

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