Joanna Newsom

Joanna Newsom

Infobox musical artist
Name = Joanna Newsom

Img_capt = Joanna Newsom at the Sasquatch Music Festival, Washington. May 2005. 2005. Photo Shawn Anderson.
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Background = solo_singer
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Born = birth date and age|1982|1|18 in Nevada City, California
Died =
Origin = United States
Instrument = harp, piano, harpsichord
Genre = Experimental
New folkcite news
url =
title = What Is New Folk? A Genre Profile
author = Michael Keefe
work =
date =
accessdate =
Occupation =
Years_active =
Label = Drag City
Associated_acts =
Current_members =
Past_members =
Notable_instruments =

Joanna Newsom (born January 18, 1982) is an American harpist, pianist, harpsichordist, and singer-songwriter from Nevada City, California.


Newsom was first taught to play the Celtic harp by a local teacher in Nevada City. Later on she moved on to the pedal harp and started composing.

Newsom studied composition and creative writing at Mills College, Oakland, California.

After touring with Will Oldham, she was quickly signed to Drag City and released her debut album "The Milk-Eyed Mender" in 2004. Shortly thereafter, Newsom toured with Devendra Banhart and Vetiver and made an early UK appearance at the Green Man Festival in Wales, returning to headline in 2005.

Newsom's work has become prominent on the indie rock scene, and her profile has risen, in part due to a number of live shows and appearances on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on ABC.

Her second album "Ys" was released in November 2006. The album features orchestrations and arrangements by Van Dyke Parks, engineering from Steve Albini, and mixing by Drag City label-mate Jim O'Rourke. On a road trip, Bill Callahan recommended she listen to the album "Song Cycle" by Parks, which led to his being chosen to arrange her work on "Ys".

During her 2007 fall tour, Newsom began performing a new as yet untitled seven-and-a-half-minute song. In January 2008, Newsom debuted another new composition in Sydney, Australia. Then in July 2008 she debuted her third new song, a 7-minute piano piece at Latitude Festival in Suffolk, England, and later the same day debuted a fourth new piano composition in London.

Several of the songs on "The Milk-Eyed Mender" have been covered by her peers: "Bridges and Balloons" was covered by the Decemberists on their 2005 EP "Picaresqueties". "Sprout and the Bean" has been covered by The Moscow Coup Attempt and Sholi. "Peach Plum Pear" has been covered by Final Fantasy (Owen Pallett) on the 2006 EP "Young Canadian Mothers".


Although her harp playing is not completely divorced from conventional harp techniques, she considers her style distinct from that of classically focused harpists. She has been strongly influenced by the polymetric style of playing used by West African kora players. [ [ NEARER THE HEART OF THINGS: Erik Davis on Joanna Newsom (Arthur Magazine)] ] Her harp teacher, Diana Stork, taught her the basic pattern of four beats against three, which creates an interlocking, shifting pattern that can be heard on "Ys", particularly in the middle section of "Sawdust & Diamonds."

The media have sometimes labeled her as one of the most prominent members of the modern psych folk movement, although she does not acknowledge ties to any particular musical scene. [ [ as quoted in New York Magazine] ] Her songwriting incorporates elements of Appalachian music, avant-garde modernism, and African kora rhythms.

Newsom's vocal style (in the November 2006 issue of "The Wire" she described her voice as "untrainable") has shadings of folk and Appalachian shaped-note timbres. Newsom has, however, expressed disappointment at comments that her singing is "child-like." [ [ Q&A With Joanna Newsom ] ]


Alongside her solo material she has played on records by Smog, Vetiver, Nervous Cop, The Year Zero, Vashti Bunyan, Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Golden Shoulders and played keyboards for The Pleased.

Personal life

Newsom's family includes her brother Pete, a fellow musician, and sister Emily, an astrophysicist who inspired her song "Emily" (and contributed backing vocals). [ [ as quoted in the New Yorker] ]


*"The Milk-Eyed Mender" (Drag City, 2004)
*"Ys" (Drag City, 2006)

;Early unofficial recordings
*"Walnut Whales" (self-released, 2002)
*"Yarn and Glue" (self-released, 2003)

*"Joanna Newsom and the Ys Street Band" (Drag City, 2007);Singles
*"Sprout and the Bean" (Drag City, 2004)

;Contributions on compilations
*"The Golden Apples of the Sun" ("Bastet", 2004) With the song "Bridges and Balloons" (Originally released on "The Milk-Eyed Mender")

;Bands, Collaborations and Guest Appearances
*Golden Shoulders - "Let My Burden Be" (Doppler, 2002)
*The Pleased - "One Piece From The Middle" (self-released, 2002)
*The Pleased - "Don't Make Things" (Big Wheel Recreation, 2003)
*Nervous Cop - "Nervous Cop" (5 Rue Christine, 2003)
*Vetiver - "Vetiver" (Dicristina Stair, 2004)
*Smog - "A River Ain't Too Much To Love" (Drag City, 2005)
*Vashti Bunyan - "Lookaftering" (Fat Cat Records, 2005)
*RF & Lili De La Mora - 'Eleven Continents' (Rowing At Sea / Time Release Records, 2007)

Licensing of songs

* In 2004, her song "This Side of the Blue" was used on a British television commercial for Orange SA.
* In 2006, Newsom's song "Sprout and the Bean" was featured in a Melbourne tourism commercial.
* In 2007, "Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie" was sung by an aspiring musician in the film "Great World of Sound".
* In 2008, "Sprout and the Bean" was featured in the film "The Strangers".



* [ SFburning (May 2003)]
* [ Tiny Mix Tapes (September 2004)]
* [ The Wire (January 2005)]
* [ KCRW (February 2005)]
* [ Under The Radar (October 2006)]
* [,,1929503,00.html The Guardian (October 15, 2006)]
* [ The Wire (November 2006)]
* [ Pitchfork (November 20, 2006)]
* [ Arthur Magazine (Winter 2006)]

External links

* [ Official page at Drag City Records]
* [ Drag City Records]
* [ Press information from Drag City]

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