Natalie Merchant enjoying a slower pace — and bartering

Natalie Merchant wants to clarify that she’s not repeating herself. The former 10,000 Maniacs frontwoman had great artistic reasons to release last year’s “Paradise Is There: The New Tigerlily Recordings,” an orchestral reimagining of her classic 1995 solo bow “Tigerlily.” She says, “The record’s 20th anniversary was coming up, and I’d been building this repertoire of orchestral material, which I played with the San Francisco Symphony a couple of years ago. I just kept returning to ‘Tigerlily’ because the songs lend themselves so well to those kinds of arrangements.”

For your self-titled 2014 album before this, you never made it to the Bay Area.

We were supposed to play two nights in Washington, and I’d been sick, on and off, for two months. So I played the first show on painkillers, and then the next day, at showtime, I was on a gurney in the emergency room of a Washington hospital, and I spent the rest of the summer and part of the fall, confined to bed, recovering because I’d ended up with a kidney infection. So everything got canceled, and that record kind of disappeared.

So you had a lot of time to sit and think?

It was just a frustrating summer, because I had worked so hard on that album, and I’d been holding on to some of those songs for years. And I had the band, all rehearsed, so the machinery was all in gear. And then I had to do piecemeal makeup shows, because I didn’t have cancellation insurance and the loss would have been devastating. So basically, I had to make up the shows that I canceled, and it went on for months.

What did you learn that summer?

I made a decision to slow down. I know from the outside, it might not look like I’m a prolific factory here. But I’m very involved in community activism, and I’m a full-time single mom — that’s my main job. And my involvement in the anti-fracking movement was all consuming for a couple of years, but it was really rewarding because we banned fracking in New York state. Then I made a film about domestic violence. So I had to slow down.

How did you manage that?

I don’t have speeds. I have on and off, that’s it. So I started doing yoga three times a week, and I started swimming. There’s a resort near where I live, and I’ve found this great deal, wherein I give free concerts, and in exchange they give me access to their lovely spa and pool. That’s been the most significant change in my life – I barter. I believe in bartering, and so do they!


Natalie Merchant
Where: Warfield, 982 Market St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. March 8
Tickets: $39.50 to $65 (sold out)
Contact: (415) 345-0900,

Tom Lanham
Published by
Tom Lanham

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