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Joanna Newsom

Although Joanna Newsom's Appalachian-meets-avant-garde take on folk music is her most celebrated work, her range is even more inclusive than her solo career suggests: the classically trained harpist adds a decidedly different, textural sound to Nervous Cop, the noise rock trio that also features Deerhoof's Greg Saunier and Hella's Zach Hill, and she also plays keyboards for the Pleased, another San Francisco-area band more akin to Blondie or Television than her other projects. Like her resumé, Newsom's family and hometown of Nevada City, California, were musically rich: her mother trained to be a concert pianist, her father was a guitarist, and her brother and sister played the drums and cello, respectively. Meanwhile, the Newsoms also counted composer/pianist Terry Riley as a neighbor, along with Howard Hersh and W. Jay Sydeman.

Newsom herself started on piano lessons at a very early age and played for several years before switching to the harp at seven. Her approach to the Celtic harp -- from the percussive aspects of her playing to her chord changes -- was also influenced by West African and Venezuelan harp music, which she began studying at a folk music camp she attended in her early teens. At the same time, she also listened to more vocal-based folk, punk, and jazz like Karen Dalton, Texas Gladden, Patti Smith, and Billie Holiday. By the time she reached high school age, Newsom decided she wanted to become a composer, and while that became the focus of her studies, in her free time she began writing and recording instrumental songs. Eventually, Newsom's passion for songwriting won out, and she began studying creative writing to work with words in the same way she was accustomed to working with music.

Despite her extensive musical background, she hadn't sung until she began concentrating on her songs, but her voice -- which had a pure, untrained sound somewhere between a child and a crone -- was the perfect complement to her music. Newsom recorded some collections of songs that she gave to her friends, but eventually her music made its way to likeminded musicians like Will Oldham and Cat Power, both of whom invited her to play opening slots for their shows in 2002. That year also saw the release of the Walnut Whales EP, which she followed up with more appearances and another EP, Yarn and Glue, in 2003. After signing to Drag City, Newsom released her full-length debut, The Milk-Eyed Mender, in spring 2004; later that year, she toured the U.S. with Devendra Banhart and played European venues with Smog. She also appeared on Smog's 2005 album A River Ain't Too Much to Love and began work on her second album that year, drafting collaborators such as Bill Callahan, Steve Albini, Jim O'Rourke, and Van Dyke Parks for the sessions.

The ambitious, intricately lovely Ys arrived in late 2006. The album became one of the year's most critically acclaimed releases, and Newsom spent the rest of that year and early 2007 touring in support of it. That spring, she returned with the wittily named EP Joanna Newsom & the Ys Street Band and continued to tour, all the while collecting material for a new studio project. That project ultimately arrived in the form a triple-disc album, Have One on Me, in early 2010. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi
full bio

Comments

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A few years ago I randomly came across Joanna Newsom's live performance at the Unitarian place in Philadelphia on YouTube, and I was absolutely captivated, mesmerized! And now is one of my forever favorite artists, she embodies what it means to be an artist, and so much more! Every note strummed and/or sung...magic a l ! <3 :)
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I just heard Only Skin from beginning to end. I'm awestruck.
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rgeequeneau6
absolute poetry. beautiful and so unique.
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sekasman
What a beautiful human
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Don't read this because you won't make extra cash.
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Don't read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest Friday by the love of your life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. However if you don't post this you will die in 2 days. Now you started reading this so don't stop. This is so scary put this on 5 songs in the next 143 minutes. When done press f6 and your lovers name will appear on the screen in big letter this is so scary because it actually works.
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claricentp91 7
If you'd like to make extra cash using your computer check out BLUDOS.COM you can make money by filling out surveys. It's free to start.
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shawnnavuz71 1
Guys if you want to make a few extra bucks per day using your computer go to BLUDOS.COM You can take surveys for cash there. You can just try it. It's FREE.
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the sprout and the bean
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The book of right on omfg love it
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Her voice was a shock the first time I heard it but you get used to it the more you listen. Her words are what get me. She creates such images with her poetry in such a unique way. Joanna and others like her in the music world inspire me much more than some of the famous poets out there. Musicians are keeping poetry alive.
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Beautiful :)
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katiexoyl
Kate bush.
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oserlegal
it is time that the harp gets the center stage it richly deserves- signed a harp lover
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The lyrics and music make me cry. Shes a great writer. That goddamned voice of hers though
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I can't believe this only has 300 likes! She is amazing! Her music always gives me chills, her lyrics are so sincere, I just want her to write the soundtrack to my life
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Joanna Newsom is my most favorite singer of all time. I am infinitely inspired by the worlds she creates through sound.
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Joanna Newsome is reminiscent of the very earliest of Kate Bush - timeless, haunting, and as fresh today as Kate was then.
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m.a.hepburn
There's nothing like Joanna Newsom's music. Gives me chills every single time.
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nancy_hunzik e r
What a beautiful unique sound. I love it
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Best music ever...
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One of the most talented musicians I listen to. She knows how to resurrect nostalgia and longing in the soul in a graceful style.
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shes soooo yummy. feeds my soul. I agree, the phone sex would be really creepily sexy. kind of want that right now.
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Her fluctuating mind, pitch and visual imagery she seems to paint in my mind is unsurpassabl e :) Vivid imagery to a t.
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raeofmusic
Phone sex with her would be really creepy.
In a really sexy way.
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syrups9907
Phone sex with her would be really creepy.
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courtneysli
genius
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my girl friend introduced me to your music and you have really easy mellow music which i like
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sara carroll makin' me xDDD
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Firey and delicate all at once. Wonderful wonderful wonderful.
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dalewebber
big fan of yours...love what you do..keep mendering
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fap, fap, fap...JIZZ!
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her voice complements her unique style so perfectly :) love it
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In a funny way she perfectly combines a love of all things ancient and mysterious/a l l those old stories that define our culture with the edgier experimentin g of new folk traditions, except that she plays like a virtuoso and sings like a immaginative and playful innocent. Love it
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Oh, I have been listening to her latest, Have One on Me. I especially love its 2nd CD; all of those songs are now pleasantly haunting me, as did (and does) Ys after the first few times! :-)
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canntaylor
she's as witty as her music is beautiful
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Her excentric voice is tantalizing! ! !
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I love her. She's fantastic.
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sarabilandz
love the melodies
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Silence,mere mortals, your highest musings are drivel, putrid.
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DITTO!!! LOVES!!!
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psychedelic
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Her harp is almost haunting, it engages you in a way you wouldn't imagine! I love it! I have loved her from the first second I heard her! Then her voice is so unusual it just fits, amazing there is no other word for her!
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bwaltz82
She is freak folk period. And Bonnie Prince Billy.
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hairgelburri t o
It's impossible for me not to smile while I listen to her.
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Joanna Newsom is my life.
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we love you joanna!!
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"Sawdust and Diamonds"... M a s t e r p i e c e !
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I don't really like her voice
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yeah! I like punk and metal...and joanna newsome. she defy's simple categorizati o n - a true original--so m e t i m e s she's just what I need --you may also like mariee sioux, she's lovely too
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