Jo Hale, Getty Former Smiths lead singer Morrissey is a curmudgeon of…
- Posted on Jun 28th 2010 12:00PM by Mike Ayers
"Everybody thought I was out of my mind," Merchant tells Spinner. "Now, I think I'm vindicated. I think they understand. I kept telling people 'well, wait 'til you hear it.' When you hear it and say '19th century poetry,' people get a particular impression. They don't think of reggae sounds or Cajun sounds. They don't see Natalie dancing around their living room. They think candlelight, pensive and morose."
Indeed, Merchant's idea in approaching this concept can be heard in the many different moods reflected throughout the album: There's a noticeable Klezmer vibe on 'The Dancing Bear,' a bit of country and western on 'The Man in the Wilderness' and a jazz slant on 'It Makes a Change,' where she's backed by Medeski, Martin and Wood. Essentially, she's diversifying the sounds which give this album a grownup feel; lyrically, this may be child-driven but no one would feel childish listening to it.
"I looked at the subject matter, I looked at the emotional content and the historical context of the poet," Merchant explains, regarding the arrangements. "I took all those things into account. I tend to choose songs that have strong central characters, so I'm giving them a place to inhabit in the time that they inhabited."
While some songs are very recognizable at this point -- E.E. Cummings' 'Maggie and Milly and Molly and May' and 'Calico 'ie" have a long history as popular children's tales -- Merchant says that in her research, she learned that a handful were originally intended as satirical ballads originally intended for an adult audience but eventually were reduced to rhymes for children.
Merchant is also primarily concerned with the aging process in the first seven years, which is illuminated by the song 'Land of Nod.' "Childhood is a small region of our life, but it shapes who we are, that personality we present that to the world for the rest of our lives," she says. "Sometimes we struggle against it, sometimes we embrace it. The authentic individual is created in the first seven years. It's important to acknowledge all those different sides. It's filled with joy and wonderment, but it's also filled with terror and fear and desperation."
'Leave Your Sleep' is out now on Nonesuch Records.