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Natalie Merchant

Sixty seconds with Natalie Merchant

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Indy: Your new album [the two-disc Leave Your Sleep] is an epic for which you adapted poems, mostly for children, into songs. What kind of research was involved in finding and choosing poems for the album?

NM: I've always had a latent archivist/librarian living inside of me, so that was a really fun part of the project, discovering these extremely obscure people and then tracking down information about them. I had four research assistants working with me.

Indy: You've been known over the years for your lyrics, which are articulate, poetic and have sometimes had some astute social commentary. I read, though, that until Leave Your Sleep you almost always wrote music before lyrics. That surprised me.

NM: Since finishing this project, I've written a couple of songs in that fashion, with that [lyrics first] method. I'd like to do more of that, because it's such a relief to have the structuring or the skeleton of the song existing before the music.

Indy: Musically, Leave Your Sleep is also a departure in that in the past you've worked in pretty much a standard pop band format. Here you don't use drums, and instead employ strings, horns and all sorts of instruments and explore folk, pop, Celtic, Chinese, Cajun and Klezmer music. What took you down that path?

NM: I love pop music, but I'm bored with the standard five-piece pop band instrumentation, when there are so many other instruments available. I wanted to write for them.

At Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver, August 3.

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