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- Posted on Jul 14th 2010 2:00PM by Mike Ayers
"The band was limited and I was limited in the band," Merchant tells Spinner. "But it was a great education, a great way to emancipate myself from my hometown and see the world. I was 19, living in London making an album. That wouldn't have happened if I hadn't joined the 10,000 Maniacs. I probably would've been in some state college as an art student, quietly going about my way."
Indeed, since Merchant's split with the 10,000 Maniacs, she's seen mainstream, Top 40 success with 1995's 'Tigerlilly,' but shifted into more orchestrated arrangements with 1998's 'Ophelia.' She also managed to lay down vocals on 'Mermaid Avenue Volume 2,' the second installment of the Billy Bragg and Wilco collaboration, where they took Woody Guthrie lyrics and put their own musical arrangements to them.
She's also become a mother since then, a new role that ended up working itself into her new album, 'Leave Your Sleep.' While the 10,000 Maniacs always had a pop sentimentality to their sound, here Merchant takes 19th and 20th century poetry and put it to music with her vocals, creating 26 tracks that place this work into a context outside of traditional pop sounds.
"I wanted to look at poetry that addressed the loss of innocence," she says. "I was making and album for [my daughter] and her childhood in several ways, but I was also making a piece of work about childhood. It would appeal to everyone, because everyone's been a child. And you navigate the waters of childhood with whatever boat we have."
As Merchant gears up for a coast-to-coast summer tour, she's quite content about where she is at this moment, not really dwelling on the old 'Hey Jack Kerouac' days. "I'd like to have that body back," she says. "I'd like to have that endurance I had back then, but I'm quite happy at this point. I don't harbor regrets."