February 15, 2023—“Come On, Aphrodite,” the new single from Natalie Merchant featuring singer Abena Koomson-Davis (Resistance Revival Chorus), is out now; listen/share here. It is the first track released from Merchant’s forthcoming album, Keep Your Courage, and establishes the record’s themes of love and passion as essential to the human experience. Merchant’s ninth solo studio album, and the latest new material since 2014’s self-titled record, Keep Your Courage is set for release on April 14 on Nonesuch Records; pre-save/pre-order here. “‘Come On, Aphrodite’ is an invocation to the goddess of love and passion,” says Merchant. “In the lyrics, I list all the clichés we use to describe falling in love: being drunk and blind, over the moon, weak in the knees, and half out of our minds. For the Greeks, when the spirit of love descended, it was seen as a kind of assault; you would become powerless against an all-consuming, sweet madness. Amazingly, humans still crave it, in spite of the perils.” Produced by Merchant, Keep Your Courage is an eclectic album that features additional contributions from Celtic folk group Lúnasa, Syrian virtuoso clarinetist Kinan Azmeh and jazz trombonist Steve Davis. There are lush orchestrations throughout by seven composers including: Gabriel Kahane, Stephen Barber, Colin Jacobsen, and Megan Gould. The new record comprises nine original songs by Merchant as well as an interpretation of “Hunting the Wren” by Ian Lynch of the Irish band Lankum. The vinyl LP edition includes four bonus tracks from earlier albums, previously unreleased on vinyl. Natalie Merchant and Nonesuch Store pre-orders include access to an exclusive virtual pre-release listening event on April 6 via FlyMachine, featuring songs from the new album and a conversation between Natalie Merchant and Carmel Holt. Further details will be sent prior to the event. A link and unique access code will be sent on April 5. Re-stream access will be available for 72 hours. In celebration of the new music, Merchant will embark upon a U.S. tour this spring, going into the fall with European dates to be announced shortly—see below for full tour routing. Merchant writes in her album’s liner notes, “The songs contained within this album were written and recorded during the pandemic ... a period of great flux and fear on every level ... but this is not an album about the coronavirus or the chaos it caused. For the most part, this is an album about the human heart.” She continues, “The word ‘courage’ has its root in the Latin word for heart, cor, and we see it over and over in many languages: le coeur, il cuore, o coração, el corazón. This is a song cycle that maps the journey of a courageous heart.” Over her forty-year career, Natalie Merchant has attained a place among America’s most respected recording artists. She has earned a reputation for being a songwriter of quality and a captivating stage performer and has distinguished herself as a social justice and environmental activist. Merchant began her musical career as the lead vocalist and lyricist of the pop music band 10,000 Maniacs and released six albums—including one platinum, two double-platinum, and one triple-platinum records—with the group: The Wishing Chair (1985), In My Tribe (1987), Blind Man's Zoo (1989), Hope Chest (1990), Our Time in Eden (1992), and 10,000 Maniacs MTV Unplugged (1993). Merchant left the band in 1994 and has subsequently released nine albums as a solo artist with combined sales of seven million copies: Tigerlily (1995), Ophelia (1998), Natalie Merchant Live (1999), Motherland (2001), The House Carpenter’s Daughter (2003), Leave Your Sleep (2010), Natalie Merchant (2014), Paradise Is There (2015), and Butterfly (2017). Merchant has collaborated with a wide range of artists, including Billy Bragg, Gavin Bryars, David Byrne, The Chieftains, Cowboy Junkies, Philip Glass, Kronos Quartet, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Mavis Staples, REM, and Wilco. She served on the New York State Council on the Arts from 2007–2011 at the appointment of Governor Elliot Spitzer and was recently appointed to the Board of Trustees of the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center by New York State Senator and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Merchant’s awards include: The Library Lion Award from the New York Public Library (2011), The American Society of Authors Composers & Publishers (ASCAP) Champion Award (2019), and The John Lennon Real Love Award (2019). More information about Merchant’s career and philanthropic work may be found here.
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