Birthplace: Nevada City, CA
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: The Milk-Eyed Mender
One of the more peculiar solo performers to emerge from the independent music scene during the early 2000s, Joanna Newsom made her entrance into the world in the musically-heady atmosphere of Nevada City, California -- a town populated by reknown sonic explorers such as minimalist composer Terry Riley. Given this environment, and the fact that her parents and siblings played one or several instruments, her own venture into music was more or less inevitable. Newsom's training initially took the common form of piano lessons, but at the age of seven she began a study of the Celtic harp; by her teens she had moved beyond classical harp technique into an exploration of styles from West Africa and Venezuela. While attending high school she decided to make composition her primary concern, writing and recording instrumental pieces influenced the Appalachian folk music and early blues close to her heart. Several more years would pass before she considered taking the step of adding her voice and lyrics to the mix.
After graduating from high school, Joanna Newsom relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area and enrolled at Mills College; it was here that she was introduced to Noah Georgeson, a guitarist hailing from the same region of the Sierras and a former student of Terry Riley's. In 1999, along with three non-Californian musicians, they formed The Pleased, a band that had little to do with the folk traditions Newsom had been studying, and instead focused on what is usually referred to as a "post-punk" style of rock music. The Pleased managed to build a strong reputation for themselves through live performances in the States and the UK, but, outside of a handmade and self-released double EP put together in 2002 (One Piece From The Middle), it wasn't until late 2003's Don't Make Things (a revised version of One Piece) that the band had released a properly distributed album.
In 2002 Newsom began to establish herself as a solo performer, releasing the EP Walnut Whales and performing as an opening act for unconventional musicians such as Will Oldham, Cat Power and Faun Fables. The following year her harp playing was introduced to the noise/improv audience through its inclusion on the eponymous release by Nervous Cop, a side-project created by members of Hella and Deerhoof. By the release of her second EP Yarn and Glue (2003), her unique blend of classically-trained harp playing and naive, obviously untrained singing had attracted considerable interest -- the timing apparently being just right for such "outsider-ish" stylings to achieve reasonable commercial success. Not long afterwards a record deal was arranged with Chicago-based label Drag City, and in 2004 the debut full-length album The Milk-Eyed Mender was issued under its auspices. Support tours with friend Devendra Banhart and Smog helped to broaden her popularity (although supporters and detractors in both audiences and the press were ever to be found in more-or-less equal proportions).
Boyfriend: Andy Samberg (according to NY Post, 2 May 2008)
University: Mills College, Oakland
The Pleased Keyboards/Vocalist (1999-)
Nervous Cop Harpist (2003)
Obama for America
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
The Family Jams (2009) · Herself
Do you know something we don't?
Submit a correction or make a comment about this profile
Copyright ©2012 Soylent Communications