Joanna Newsom: Wikis


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Joanna Newsom

Joanna Newsom in 2007
Background information
Born Joanna Caroline Newsom

January 18, 1982 (1982-01-18) (age 28) in Nevada City, California

Origin United States
Genres Indie folk
Instruments Harp
Labels Drag City

Joanna Newsom (born January 18, 1982) is an American harpist, pianist, and singer-songwriter from Nevada City, California.


Early life

Newsom grew up in the small town of Nevada City, California. She was exposed to music from a young age. Her father plays guitar, and her mother is a classically trained pianist who also plays hammered dulcimer, autoharp, and conga drums.[1][2] She attended a Waldorf school, where she studied theater and learned to memorize and recite long poems, a skill that she has said helps her to remember lyrics to her long songs while on tour.[3]

Newsom had known since age two or three that she wanted to play the harp. Her parents eventually agreed to sign her up for harp lessons, but the local harp teacher did not want to take on such a young student and suggested that she learn to play the piano first. After two years of "detestable" piano lessons, she began playing the harp, which she "loved from the first lesson onward."[4]

Her harp teacher taught her about composition and improvisation. Newsom learned to play on progressively larger Celtic harps, until her parents bought her a full-size pedal harp in the seventh grade.[5]

Newsom studied composition and creative writing at Mills College, Oakland, California. While at Mills, she played keyboards in The Pleased.


In 2002 and 2003, respectively, Newsom recorded two EPs, Walnut Whales and Yarn and Glue. These homemade recordings were intended to serve as a document of her songs, which she had previously been recording on a Fisher-Price tape recorder.[6] These EPs were not originally intended for public distribution, but at the suggestion of Noah Georgeson (who had helped her record the songs, and who was her boyfriend at the time), she burned several copies to sell at her early shows.[7]

A friend of Newsom's passed one of these CDs on to Will Oldham at a show in Nevada City. Oldham was impressed with Newsom's music and asked her to tour with him. He also gave a copy of the CD to the owner of Drag City, his record label. Drag City signed Newsom and released her debut album The Milk-Eyed Mender in 2004.[8] Shortly thereafter, Newsom toured with Devendra Banhart and Vetiver and made an early UK appearance at the Green Man Festival in Wales, returning to headline in 2005 and 2007, respectively.

Newsom's work has become prominent on the indie scene, and her profile has risen, in part due to a number of live shows and appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live on ABC.

Her second album Ys was released in November 2006. The album features orchestrations and arrangements by Van Dyke Parks, engineering from Steve Albini, and mixing by Drag City label-mate Jim O'Rourke. On a road trip, Bill Callahan recommended she listen to the album Song Cycle by Parks, which led to his being chosen to arrange her work on Ys.

Joanna Newsom at the Sasquatch Music Festival, Washington. May 2005

Having sporadically debuted new songs at her concerts since the fall of 2007, on March 28, 2009, Newsom performed over two hours of new material at a "secret" concert in Big Sur, California with fellow Nevada City singer-songwriter Mariee Sioux, under the pseudonym The Beatles's. Those in attendance reported that about one-third of her new material was played primarily on piano, with a backing arrangement of banjo, violin, guitar and drums.[9]

Since early 2007 she has also been known to perform a solo harp version of the Robert Burns poem Ca the yowes tae the knowes.[10]

Several of the songs on The Milk-Eyed Mender have been covered by her peers: "Bridges and Balloons" was covered by the Decemberists on their 2005 EP Picaresqueties. "Sprout and the Bean" has been covered by The Moscow Coup Attempt and Sholi. "Peach Plum Pear" has been covered by Final Fantasy (Owen Pallett) on the 2006 EP Young Canadian Mothers, as well as by Straylight Run. M Ward has played "Sadie" on his live shows.[11]

In 2009, she appeared in the music video for the song "Kids" by the group MGMT.[12].

Also in 2009, she was reportedly working on her new album in Tokyo,[13] and had since completed the album by December of that year.[14]

On January 12, 2010, an entry cryptically entitled "@!?*(%$#!!" was posted on the Drag City website. It contained a link which led to a short comic strip titled "Joanna Newsom 'Have One On Me'" with a date of February 23, 2010.[15] Later that day, it was confirmed by Spunk, Newsom's Australian label, that the title and date represented the title of Newsom's upcoming album and its release date.[16] P-Vine Records in Japan announced that Have One On Me, which was recorded in Tokyo in 2009, would be released in Japan on March 3, 2010, as a 3-disc CD set, with a total of approximately three hours of new recordings. [17] It was recently announced that Newsom has been chosen by Matt Groening to perform at the edition of the All Tomorrow's Parties festival he is curating in May 2010 in Minehead, England.

On February 11, 2010, Pitchfork reported that Newsom would be the subject of a tribute book titled Visions of Joanna Newsom. The book will be published by Roan Press.[18] The book is now available via Roan Press's website [19]


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Newsom's earlier work was strongly influenced by polyrhythms.[20] Her harp teacher, Diana Stork, taught her the basic pattern of four beats against three, which creates an interlocking, shifting pattern that can be heard on Ys, particularly in the middle section of "Sawdust & Diamonds." Since the release of Ys, Newsom has said that she has lost interest in polyrhythms, that they "stopped being fascinating to me and started feeling wanky."[21]

The media have sometimes labeled her as one of the most prominent members of the modern psych folk movement, although she does not acknowledge ties to any particular musical scene.[22] Her songwriting incorporates elements of Appalachian music, and avant-garde modernism.

Newsom's vocal style (in the November 2006 issue of The Wire she described her voice as "untrainable") has shadings of folk and Appalachian shaped-note timbres. Newsom has, however, expressed disappointment at comments that her singing is "child-like."[22]

Critics noticed a change in Newsom's voice on her latest album[23][24]. In the spring of 2009, Newsom developed vocal chord nodules and couldn't speak, sing or cry for two months. The recovery from the nodules and further "vocal modifications" changed her voice.[25][26][27]


In addition to her solo work, Newsom has played on records by Smog, Vetiver, Nervous Cop, The Year Zero, Vashti Bunyan, Moore Brothers, Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Golden Shoulders and played keyboards for The Pleased.

Personal life

Newsom's family includes her brother Pete, a fellow musician, and sister Emily, an astrophysicist who inspired her song "Emily" (and contributed backing vocals). She is the second cousin, twice removed, of San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom.[28]

Newsom dated Noah Georgeson[29], who recorded and produced her first album. She also dated Smog frontman Bill Callahan for a number of years in the mid-2000s.[30]

In late 2007, she began dating Andy Samberg, a cast member of Saturday Night Live.[13][31] The couple was reportedly still dating as of February 2010.[31]


Early unofficial recordings

Licensing of songs


  1. ^ SFBurning interview, May 2003
  2. ^ The Wire interview, January 2005
  3. ^ Venus Zine interview, December 2006
  4. ^ Chickfactor interview, circa 2005
  5. ^ Joanna Newsom: Don’t Call Her A Prodigy. Or Maybe Do., West Coast Performer, September 2003
  6. ^ Under the Radar
  7. ^ Under the Radar
  8. ^ The Wire, 2004
  9. ^ Woolf, Devin (March 31, 2009), "Joanna Newsom Debuts New Record at Surprise Fernwood Show in Big Sur", Naturalismo, 
  10. ^ "Joanna Newsom, Barbican, London <!- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar -> - Reviews, Music". The Independent. 2007-01-23. Retrieved 2009-10-09. 
  11. ^ YouTube - M. Ward - "Sadie" live
  12. ^ Daniel Kreps. "MGMT Cast Joanna Newsom, Kid, Monsters in “Kids” Video : Rolling Stone : Rock and Roll Daily". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2009-10-09. 
  13. ^ a b Vogue
  14. ^ W Magazine
  15. ^ @!?*(%$#!!
  16. ^ Joanna Newsom Have One On Me Out February 19
  17. ^ "Joanna Newsom: Feb 8, 2010, Scott Hall, Waseda". Metropolis Magazine. February 9, 2010. Retrieved 2010-02-09. 
  18. ^ [1]
  19. ^ [2]
  20. ^ NEARER THE HEART OF THINGS: Erik Davis on Joanna Newsom (Arthur Magazine)
  21. ^ Mending the Gap (LA Weekly)
  22. ^ a b Rebecca Milzoff (May 2005). "Q&A With Joanna Newsom". New York Magazine. 
  23. ^ [3]
  24. ^ [4]
  25. ^ [5]
  26. ^ [6]
  27. ^
  28. ^ San Francisco Bay Guardian article, 2003
  29. ^ The Times UK
  30. ^ SPIN article: "Bill Callahan Returns to NYC".
  31. ^ a b
  32. ^ Zobbel (2007-06-16). "Chart Log UK". Zobbel. Retrieved 2008-09-24. 
  33. ^
  34. ^ Zobbel (2008-01-25). "Chart Log UK 2007". Zobbel. Retrieved 2008-09-24. 
  35. ^


External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Joanna Newsom (born 1982) is an American singer-songwriter. She plays the harp, as well as the piano and the harpischord.



The Milk-Eyed Mender (2004)

  • We sailed away on a winter's day
    With fate as malleable as clay
    But ships are fallible, I say
    And the nautical, as all things, fades.
    • Bridges & Balloons
  • And a thimble's worth of milky moon
    Can touch hearts larger than a thimble.
    • Bridges & Balloons
  • And all that we built, and all that we breathed
    And all that we spilled or pulled up like weeds
    Is piled up in back and it burns irrevocably
    And we spoke up in turns 'til the silence crept over me.
    • Sadie
  • Go to sleep, you stunning sky, gently creep, cunning by
    A quiet hum is amplified by your thumb that you suck dry
    A hundred raging waters snare the lonely sigh
    Hold your breath and clasp at Cassiopiea.
    • Cassiopiea
  • I killed my dinner
    with karate
    kicked him in the face,taste the body, shallow work is the work that I do.
    • The Book of Right-On

Ys (2006)

  • Emily, I saw you last night by the river
    I dreamed you were skipping little stones across the surface of the water
    Frowning at the angle where they were lost, and slipped under forever
    In a mud cloud, mica-spangled, like the sky'd been breathing on a mirror.
    • Emily
  • Then the slow lip of fire moves across the prairie with precision
    While, somewhere, with your pliers and glue, you make your first incision
    And, in a moment of almost-unbearable vision, doubled over with the hunger of lions
    'Hold me close', cooed the dove, who was stuffed now with sawdust and diamonds.
    • Sawdust & Diamonds

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

Milky Moon fansite
Pitchfork Media record review of "Ys"
Pitchfork Media interview

Simple English

Joanna Newsom is an indie singer and a harpist. She was born in Nevada City, California in 1982.


  • The Milk-Eyed Mender (Drag City, 2004)
  • Ys (Drag City, 2006) US #134, UK #41
  • Have One on Me (Drag City, 2010)[1] US #75, UK #28
Early unofficial recordings
  • Walnut Whales (self-released, 2002)
  • Yarn and Glue (self-released, 2003)
  • Joanna Newsom and the Ys Street Band (Drag City, 2007) UK #135[2]
  • "Sprout and the Bean" (Drag City, 2004)


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