Singer and songwriter Carrie Newcomer has been a mainstay on the contemporary folk scene since the 1980s, known for emotionally intimate songs that explore the personal, the political, and the spiritual with compassion, insight, and wit. Carrie Newcomer was born in Dowagiac, Michigan on May 25, 1958; her father was an educator, and when Carrie was five, he landed a job as a high-school principal and the family relocated to Elkhart, Indiana. Elkhart was known for its strong school band programs, and Newcomer took up the flute, discovering she enjoyed making music. In her early teens, Newcomer became a major fan of folk-leaning singer/songwriters such as Joni Mitchell, Bruce Cockburn, and Leonard Cohen, and she took up the guitar and began writing tunes of her own.
By the time Newcomer enrolled at Ball State, she was already playing professional gigs at local clubs, and she continued to play bars and coffeehouses to help pay her way through school, performing a mix of covers and original material. Newcomer transferred to Goshen College and completed her studies at Purdue University after spending several months teaching in Costa Rica. Once Newcomer received her degree in art education in 1981, she decided to make music her career, and in 1982, she met guitarist Larry Smeyak and percussionist Dennis Leas, and they formed a pop/folk trio called Stone Soup. Newcomer became Stone Soup's principal songwriter and founded Windchime Records to release the band's recordings, issuing three albums before the group broke up in 1988 (Newcomer and Leas had married in 1986, and the group's breakup coincided with their decision to divorce). Newcomer also worked with Fran Berman and Susan Denton Staley in the trio the Aluminum Singers from 1984 to 1986.
After leaving Stone Soup, Newcomer returned to performing as a solo act, and in 1991, she reactivated Windchime Records to release her first solo album, Visions and Dreams. Thanks to positive reviews and strong word of mouth driven by Newcomer's short, strategically scheduled tours, Visions and Dreams sold nearly ten thousand copies, and its success attracted the attention of Ken Irwin, founder of the successful folk and roots label Rounder Records. Irwin signed Newcomer to Rounder's Philo subsidiary, and issued her second solo set, An Angel at My Shoulder, in 1994. The Bird or the Wing followed in 1995, the same year Philo reissued Visions and Dreams with two bonus tracks, and Newcomer would release 11 albums through the Rounder organization between 1994 and 2010, including the 1999 live set Bare to the Bone. Newcomer has also released two anthologies of her best-known songs -- 2004's Betty's Diner: The Best of Carrie Newcomer and 2012's Kindred Spirits: A Collection -- as well as a collaboration with Indian musicians Amjad Ali Khan, Amaan Ali Khan, and Ayaan Ali Khan, 2011's Everything Is Everywhere. Newcomer also participated in a 2007 album of songs inspired by Scott Russell Sanders' short story collection Wilderness Plots, which featured a handful of other Indiana-based songwriters.
Offstage, Newcomer is a practicing Quaker, and devotes her energies to a variety of charitable and progressive causes. The first edition of the Bare to the Bone album was released as a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood, she performed and taught in India as a cultural ambassador of the American Center in 2009 and 2011, and she donates a portion of the proceeds from her album sales to the Interfaith Hunger Initiative, Literacy Volunteers of America, and the American Friends Service Committee, among others. Newcomer is also an educator who teaches workshops on writing, creativity, and art as an extension of spiritual practice. Newcomer is married to lawyer and musician Robert Meitus, a former member of the Dorkestra. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi