Natalie Merchant performs in Beaver Creek Saturday | VailDaily.com
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Natalie Merchant performs in Beaver Creek Saturday

Caramie Schnell
cschnell@vaildaily.com
Natalie Merchant is in the middle of a tour with eight stops. She says her show at the Vilar Center wil be "very intimate."
Marion Ettlinger | Special to the Daily |

If you go ...

Who: Natalie Merchant.

Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center, Beaver Creek.

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Cost: Tickets start at $98.

More information: Call 970-845-8497 or visit http://www.vilarpac.org.

Meet Merchant

Natalie Merchant fans have the chance to meet her after the concert at a special reception in the May Gallery Patron’s Lounge in Beaver Creek. Benefiting the Freedom Ranch Safehouse Project, which assists families fleeing abusive relationships in Eagle County, the reception will allow guest to meet Merchant in person while enjoying light dessert and beer and wine. Guests will also receive a copy of “Shelter.” The cost of the reception with Merchant is $250 per person and does not include concert tickets. For information or to RSVP for the reception, contact mel@mybrightfuture.org. Organizers will also be taking payment on the night of the event.

BEAVER CREEK — One testament to singer/songwriter Natalie Merchant’s affect on people became clear back in December when the Vail Daily interviewed 10,000 Maniacs bass guitarist and founding member Steven Gustafson before the groups Snow Daze appearance. It’s been more than two decades since Merchant was the lead singer and lyricist for the alt-rock group, but, according to Gustafson, people still don’t realize the group has a new lead singer.

“We’re fighting that still and it’s difficult,” Gustafson said. “Mary (Ramsey, our vocalist) is so kind about it. People will scream, ‘I love you, Natalie!’ and she will scream, ‘I love you too!’ We try to make fun out of it and keep working.”

After a dozen years, and two platinum and four gold records with 10,000 Maniacs during that time, Merchant left the group in 1993 to forge her own musical path. She released “Tigerlily,” which she also produced, in 1995. You’ll likely hear hit songs from that album, like “Carnival,” “Wonder,” and “Jealousy,” at Merchant’s show at the Vilar Performing Arts Center Saturday night. And if for some reason you don’t, you can always request them. While Merchant has performed her songs with a slew of orchestras, including the Boston Pops, the Bard Conservatory of Music Orchestra and, most recently, with the CU Symphony Orchestra in Boulder on Thursday, she’ll be performing with her core band in Beaver Creek tonight.

“Since it’s a smaller ensemble, we’ll be more deft and more flexible to take requests,” she said. “We usually don’t take requests when playing with an orchestra. I’ve written so many songs at this point — I’ve recorded something like 160 songs — and usually in a set we play 26 or 27 songs. It’s quite a challenge to gather a set that makes everyone happy; they want to hear things from all different records.”

Merchant said playing with her band versus an orchestra is “completely different,” which comes as no surprise.

“Every one has its own joys and challenges,” she said. “There’s a lot more flexibility in a live situation with my core band, and it’s usually fun. I have a configuration of a nine-piece band I go out with now and again, which is slightly more complicated. And I do the full orchestras. There’s lots of variety.”

SACRIFICES

In the years following “Tigerlily,” Merchant released “Ophelia” (1998), “Natalie Merchant Live” (1999) and “Motherland” (2001). In 2003, Merchant independently released an album of American and British folk music, “The House Carpenter’s Daughter,” on her own label, Myth America Records. In 2005, she curated a collection of her own work for a double album, “Retrospective,” and another for her former band, “Campfire Songs.”

Coming up on a year ago, Merchant released her sixth solo album “Natalie Merchant.” This self-titled and self-produced collection of 10 new and original songs was her first offering of new work in 13 years. The absence came after her daughter, Lucia, was born.

“When I had my daughter I decided if I was going to be an attentive, present parent, I had to make some sacrifices and give my time to her,” Merchant said.

While she didn’t stop writing entirely, she wasn’t nearly as prolific, she said.

“It took 13 years to come up with enough material to fill an album,” she said. “And now I’m making another record, too.”

Come September, Merchant will record an “orchestral record, to be released later,” she said.

“Now that’s she’s older, she doesn’t need as much of my attention and I’m a little more free to work,” Merchant said about her daughter, who is 11. “I’m lucky I have a job that I can choose when and where and how I can work. I felt privileged and lucky to be able to spend as much time as I did with her when she was really small.”

FILM FOCUS

Merchant is also known for her work as an activist. After attending an event for One Billion Rising, a global campaign calling for an end to violence against women, she directed a short 2013 documentary titled “SHELTER: A Concert Film to Benefit Victims of Domestic Violence,” which shone light on a group of women living in the Mid-Hudson region of New York State responding to the crisis of domestic violence in their community with compassion and creativity. Musicians, advocates, criminal prosecutors, victims and survivors all take to the stage, illuminating the darkness surrounding this public health epidemic.

Another film is in the works, one focused on the 20th anniversary of “Tigerlily.”

“It’s about ‘Tigerlily’ and everything that’s happened in the 20 years since it came out,” she said. “It’s about how it went out into the world and found a little life out there; how it affected people, with lots of interviews with people who love the record and then performances of the songs with string arrangements. That’s coming out in mid-September.”

The film will be in theaters for a short time before being made available on DVD, Merchant said.


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