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Natalie Merchant: Hearts and Minds

The multiplatinum-selling singer/songwriter turned environmental activist reflects on the freedom of nonattachment, the fight against fracking, and changing the world through music.

Photo credit: Dan Winters

After a decade-plus run as vocalist for the alternative rock band 10,000 Maniacs, Natalie Merchant reintroduced herself to the public as a solo artist in 1995 with the release of her five-times-platinum album Tigerlily. Since then, she has repeatedly used her music as a force for positive change: Among other things, she has given free concerts for inner city children, worked with homeless musicians on a benefit album and documentary film, and served as the director/producer of a concert film to benefit victims of domestic violence. Merchant’s new, self-titled album is her first collection of all-original songs since 2001’s Motherland.What was going on in your life while you were writing your new album?A lot of life passed under my little bridge in the 13, 14 years that I was writing these songs. Having my child, becoming a more devoted community member and activist, getting to an age where my friends are beginning to become sick, my mother passing away, getting married, getting divorced—there were so many experiences that I had. I would call it wisdom. I think at age 50, I can start calling it not just …

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