Natalie Merchant, To See Or Not To See? (Part One)

I think I might want to go see Natalie Merchant in concert.  Thing is, I haven’t been to a 10,000 Maniacs show before or even seen one of her solo performances.  But I do love her songwriting and admire her commercial success, because it always seemed to me that she never compromised the integrity of her work to placate musical trends.  Plus, she has a lovely soothing voice, and she’s cute!  (She and I are the same age, so I can definitely appreciate how good she still looks today.)

A couple of incidents prompted me to think about this gifted singer and musician.  I went to downtown Los Angeles with some family members last June 9 to go see a screening of the 1973 film American Graffiti.  It was an event put on by the Los Angeles Conservancy to help preserve the city’s historic Orpheum Theatre, and the movie was preceded by a ten minute Q & A with two of the film’s actors, Candy Clark and Cindy Williams.  It was a fun night.  Anyway, as I was waiting outside in the line, I noticed an upcoming event at this theater.  Natalie Merchant is going to perform in August.  But I was wondering, “Is she going to do the songs I know?  She just did an album that is much different from her other material”.  I just realized that it has been 15 years since her first solo record Tigerlily came out.  Time does fly, and artists do evolve.  That’s what I noticed about her latest CD which was just released a few months back.  So, if she only performs songs from her new album, I wonder if I should wait to see her my first time — at least until she does the hits again.  Too much thought I suppose, but then again that’s me.

I recently posted some video showing how I do research for a songwriting job.  It isn’t normal for me to go through that kind of a process, but I wanted to share my experience in trying it out.  This struck an imaginative chord with me as I recalled a recent interview with Natalie on the radio.  I remember her counting off the people that were involved in creating her current album, Leave Your Sleep.  She said she hired a team of people to research the material for the album’s content, and it was an enormous undertaking.  If you aren’t aware of this latest labor of love from Ms. Merchant, let me share with you what I learned.

I am always intrigued when an artist I like puts together a concept or theme album.  It shows a broader reach in the creative process, not only forming and crafting an entire song three-dimensionally, but carrying out the vision of producing an entire package of material.  It takes a respectable effort of focus and thought to pull it off.  In Natalie’s case, she constructed the whole thing, with some essential help of course.  The end result was a timeless masterpiece, as evidenced by most of her critics.  So…what is this laudable composition of which I speak?  Okay, I will finally get to the point in the conclusion.  I ran out of room here!

Be your best, and write strong!

Dean