Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Non-Maniacal Merchant Her Shift in Style Came with Age, She Says

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Non-Maniacal Merchant Her Shift in Style Came with Age, She Says

Article excerpt

Natalie Merchant was PC when PC was cool. Political correctness is not so cool anymore, and Merchant is not the hyper-correct girl she used to be. But she has not forsaken the core ideals that made her the de facto spokeswoman for numerous fashionable causes as the leader of 10,000 Maniacs.

"I believe that everyone is born completely innocent and that's the thing that makes me feel hopeful," she said, speaking by phone from a hotel in Boston.

"But there are so many opportunities for corruption that the innocent have to meet, so many situations that are corrupting, whether within their families, patriarchal institutions, lending establishments, religious institutions, greed, the streets."

Yes, baby, it's a wild world, but Merchant is adapting to it successfully as a solo act.

"Tigerlily," her first work without the angular, mid-tempo pop backing of her longtime partners, 10,000 Maniacs, is thriving.

"10,000 Maniacs had become so stale to me," she said. "I joined the band when I was 17 and as I neared 30 I knew it was time to break away.

"It was a collaboration that allowed everyone in the band to fully explore each other's capabilities, but it got to the point where I didn't inspire them and they weren't inspiring me."

Her hit song "Carnival" has been in dizzying rotation on VH-1 and modern rock radio stations for weeks.

"The song reflects the moral dilemma in walking a block in New York City," Merchant said.

"I live in Manhattan, and there's so much there that I celebrate. Participating in street life in the city makes you feel a part of the world like no place else. But there's a lot of brutality, insensitivity, and pain on the streets of New York too."

A little of Merchant's life colors all of her songs, from the beautiful, but bitter strains of "Jealousy" (a "You Oughta Know" for the thinking crowd) to "Beloved Wife," about a widower dreading life alone after 50 years of marriage, a fate that befell one of the singer's relatives ("I don't know for certain/How I'll live my life/Now alone without my beloved wife"). …

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