St. Vincent (musician)

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St. Vincent
St. Vincent performing at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles in October 2018
St. Vincent performing at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles in October 2018
Background information
Birth nameAnnie Erin Clark
Born (1982-09-28) September 28, 1982 (age 38)
Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.
OriginDallas, Texas, U.S.
Genres
Occupation(s)
  • Musician
  • singer-songwriter
  • record producer
Instruments
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • bass guitar
  • keyboards
  • percussion
Years active2003–present
Labels
Associated actsThe Polyphonic Spree
Websiteilovestvincent.com

Annie Erin Clark (born September 28, 1982), known professionally as St. Vincent, is an American musician, singer, songwriter and producer. She began her music career as a member of the Polyphonic Spree. She was also a member of Sufjan Stevens's touring band before forming her own band in 2006. Her debut album is Marry Me (2007), followed by Actor (2009), Strange Mercy (2011), St. Vincent (2014), Masseduction (2017) and Daddy's Home (2021).

Her fourth solo album, St. Vincent, was released in 2014 and was named album of the year by The Guardian, Entertainment Weekly, NME, and Slant, as well as second best album of the year by Time. The album won her a Grammy for Best Alternative Album, her first Grammy Award. She was the first solo female performer in 20 years to win a Grammy in that category. In 2018, St. Vincent was included twice in NPR's "200 Greatest songs by 21st Century Women":[1] at number 181 with "Digital Witness" and at number 38 with "Cruel". Strange Mercy was among Pitchfork's 200 Best Albums of the 2010s, ranking at number 55.[2] St. Vincent ranked number 65 on Rolling Stone's 100 Best Albums of the 2010s.[3]

Masseduction, Clark's fifth studio album, released in 2017, earned her Best Rock Song and Best Recordings Package at the Grammys, where she also performed alongside Dua Lipa for a mashup performance of their respective Grammy-nominated songs 'Masseduction' and 'One Kiss.'

Life and career[edit]

1982–2002: Early life[edit]

Clark was born on September 28, 1982, in Tulsa, Oklahoma.[4][5][6][7] Her mother is a social worker and administrator for a non-profit organization, while her stepfather works in corporate tax administration. Her parents divorced when she was three, and when she was seven she moved with her mother and two older sisters to Dallas, Texas. Clark is of Irish, and a small amount of Jewish, ancestry.[8] She was raised Catholic[9] and Unitarian Universalist.[10] From her parents' blended families, she has four brothers and four sisters.[11][12]

Clark was fond of the movie La Bamba and Ritchie Valens herself at a very early age, and received a plastic red guitar at age five that her mother got her at a Target store for Christmas. She began playing her first real guitar at age 12 and worked some of her teenage years as a roadie for her aunt and uncle, the guitar-vocal jazz duo Tuck & Patti.[13][14] In 2001, she graduated from Lake Highlands High School, where she participated in theater and the school's jazz band, and was a classmate of actor Mark Salling.[15][16]

Clark attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts for three years before dropping out, studying with Professor Lauren Passarelli. She felt that art institutions such as Berklee can be more directed towards the athleticism of art rather than the product.[17] In retrospect, Clark said, "I think that with music school and art school, or school in any form, there has to be some system of grading and measurement. The things they can teach you are quantifiable. While all that is good and has its place, at some point you have to learn all you can and then forget everything that you learned in order to actually start making music."[18]

2003–2007: Career beginnings and Marry Me[edit]

In 2003, she released an EP with fellow Berklee students entitled Ratsliveonnoevilstar.[19] She also worked with Heavy Rotation Records, where "she revealed a much more private and intimate rendering of 'Count' for Dorm Sessions Vol. 1",[20] and studied with Professor of Guitar Lauren Passarelli. Shortly after leaving Berklee, Clark returned home to Texas where she joined the Polyphonic Spree just before they embarked on a European tour.[13] In 2004 she joined Glenn Branca's 100-guitar orchestra for the Queens performance,[21] and was also briefly in a noise-rock band called the Skull Fuckers.[22][23][24] Clark left the Polyphonic Spree and joined Sufjan Stevens' touring band in 2006, bringing with her a tour EP entitled Paris is Burning.

Clark on stage in 2007

In 2006, Clark began recording a studio album under the stage name St. Vincent. In an interview on The Colbert Report, she said that she "took [her] moniker from a Nick Cave song", which refers to the hospital in which Dylan Thomas died. The reference is to the line "And Dylan Thomas died drunk in / St. Vincent's hospital" from Cave's song "There She Goes my Beautiful World" from the album Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus. The name is also a reference to her great-grandmother, whose middle name was St. Vincent.[25]

Clark released her debut album, Marry Me, on July 10, 2007, on Beggars Banquet Records. Named after a line from the television show Arrested Development,[26] the album features appearances from drummer Brian Teasley (Man or Astro-man?, the Polyphonic Spree), Mike Garson (David Bowie's longtime pianist), and horn player Louis Schwadron (the Polyphonic Spree).

The album was well received by critics, with Clark being compared to the likes of Kate Bush and David Bowie.[27] Clark was lauded for the album's musical arrangements as well as themes and style. In their review of the album, The AV Club said: "There's a point where too much happiness turns into madness, and St. Vincent's multi-instrumentalist Annie Clark knows this place well".[28] Pitchfork said "at every turn Marry Me takes the more challenging route of twisting already twisted structures and unusual instrumentation to make them sound perfectly natural and, most importantly, easy to listen to as she overdubs her thrillingly sui generis vision into vibrant life."[27]

The songs on Marry Me were written largely when Clark was 18 and 19 years old, and, according to Clark, "represented a more idealized version of what life was or what love was or anything in the eyes of someone who hadn't really experienced anything."[18] The album featured its one single, "Paris Is Burning", and a music video for "Jesus Saves, I Spend".

2008–2010: Actor and soundtracks[edit]

In 2008, Clark was nominated for three PLUG Independent Music Awards: New Artist of the Year, Female Artist of the Year, and Music Video of the Year. On March 6, 2008, she won the PLUG Female Artist of the Year award.[29]

In 2008, after returning to New York from a lengthy tour, Clark began working on her second album. Her inspiration reportedly came from several films, including Disney movies: "Well, the truth is that I had come back from a pretty long — you know, about a year-and-a-half of touring, and so my brain was sort of all circuit boards that were a little bit fried", Clark said. "So I started watching films as sort of a way to get back into being human. And then it started to just really inform the entire record."[30]

Clark, who did not have a studio at the time, began writing the album in her apartment on her computer using GarageBand and MIDI, because she had gotten noise complaints from neighbors.[31] The songs were inspired largely by scenes from various children's films. Clark said she imagined soundtracks for certain scenes in films when writing the music and lyrics,[31] including scenes in Snow White (1937) and The Wizard of Oz (1939).

St. Vincent performing in 2009

Her second album, Actor, was released by 4AD Records on May 5, 2009.[32] It was also well received and gained more commercial attention than its predecessor.[18] Spin gave the album eight out of ten stars, noting its "[juxtaposition of] the cruel and the kind, and here, the baroque arrangements are even more complex and her voice even prettier, with both only underlining the dark currents running through her songs".[33] Entertainment Weekly said the album "plays up the contrasts, [with Clark] letting her church-choir voice linger on lyrics that hint darkly at themes of violence, sex, and general chaos", and branded it "a uniquely potent cocktail of sounds and moods".[34]

Actor charted well for an independent release, peaking at No. 9 on Billboard's Independent Albums Chart, No. 5 on the Tastemaker Albums Chart,[35] and No. 90 on the Billboard 200. Although it spawned no singles (except in the UK, where "Actor Out Of Work" was issued as a 7" vinyl single), music videos for "Marrow" and "Actor Out of Work" were released, and aired on several music channels. A promotional music video for "Laughing With a Mouth of Blood", featuring Portlandia's Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein (then of ThunderAnt), was also filmed.

Two soundtracks for The Twilight Saga have featured Clark's songs. "Roslyn", in collaboration with Bon Iver, appeared on the 2009 soundtrack of New Moon; and "The Antidote" was written for and appeared on 2012's Breaking Dawn – Part 2.

In November 2010, Clark appeared with American rappers Kid Cudi and Cage on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. They performed "Maniac" from Cudi's Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager, which prominently samples "The Strangers", the opening song on Actor.[36]

2011–2012: Strange Mercy and collaborations[edit]

St. Vincent performing at The Button Factory, Dublin in November 2011

Clark spent much of her time in Seattle writing her third album, Strange Mercy, in October 2010. In an interview with Julie Klausner for Spin Magazine, she recalled: "[Death Cab for Cutie drummer] Jason McGerr had an office that was closing. He offered me the space for a month, for all of October. I was alone. I stayed at the Ace Hotel downtown, in one of the rooms with a shared bathroom. I would just get up in the morning and caffeinate, and run, and go to the studio for 12 hours, come back, eat dinner alone with a book, have a glass of wine, and go to bed. And do it all over again."[37]

On January 12, 2011, Clark announced via Twitter that she was working on Strange Mercy, a follow-up to Actor.[38] In early March 2011, producer John Congleton, who also worked with Clark on Actor, said that he and Clark were nearly a third of the way through recording it.[39]

On July 4, Clark stated via Twitter that if enough followers tweeted the hashtag "#strangemercy", she would release a track from the album. On July 22, after the threshold was met, she released "Surgeon" for download and streaming on her official website.[40]

In 2011, Clark composed "Proven Badlands", an instrumental piece based on "The Sequel" from her sophomore release Actor, for ensemble Music's album Beautiful Mechanical.[41]

In August 2011, Clark was interviewed and featured on the cover of SPIN magazine.[42] On August 24, 2011, a music video was released for the song "Cruel", and on September 5, the entire album was put up for streaming on NPR Music.[43] On August 25, 2011, she debuted Strange Mercy in the Temple of Dendur room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City,[44] introducing Toko Yasuda (ex-Enon), Matt Johnson, and Daniel Mintseris as members of her live band. The album was released September 13, 2011.[45]

Strange Mercy received widespread acclaim from music critics. It achieved an overall rating of 8.1/10 at[46] AnyDecentMusic? based on 36 reviews. It was St. Vincent's highest-charting album yet, peaking at No. 19 on the US Billboard 200.[47] Clark stated, "I don't think it's the best record I'll ever make, but I think it's a good record."[48] She began touring the US and Europe in support of the record in the fall of 2011 and continued a worldwide tour throughout 2012.

In 2012, Clark was featured on Andrew Bird's album Break It Yourself singing on "Lusitania". On June 14, 2012, "Who", the first single from her collaboration with David Byrne, formerly of Talking Heads, was released. The single came from their album Love This Giant, which was released September 11, 2012.[49][50] On September 18, 2012, Clark participated in the "30 Songs / 30 Days" campaign to support Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, a multi-platform media project inspired by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's best-selling book.[51] Clark also provided guest vocals for the song "What's the Use of Won'drin'" on the album Who Killed Amanda Palmer from Amanda Palmer, formerly of The Dresden Dolls.[52]

2013–2015: St. Vincent[edit]

St. Vincent performing in concert during her "Digital Witness" tour in 2014

On May 28, 2013, David Byrne and St. Vincent released Brass Tactics, which includes a previously unreleased Love This Giant bonus track, two remixes, and two live tracks.[53]

In November 2013 Clark received the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award for Performing Arts,[54] and signed to Loma Vista Recordings.[55] The new label released "Birth in Reverse" the following month, the first single from Clark's fourth album, St. Vincent,[56] The second single, "Digital Witness", was released in January 2014,[57] and the album was released the next month to critical acclaim.[58] A number of publications, including The Guardian, Entertainment Weekly, NME, Gigwise, and MusicOMH, ranked it as the No. 1 album of 2014, while Time put it at No. 2 and Rolling Stone ranked it No. 4. Clark received her first Grammy, as St Vincent won "Best Alternative Music Album" in February 2015.[59]

On April 10, 2014, Clark fronted Nirvana performing lead vocals on "Lithium" at the 29th Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.[60] She also provided vocals on the Swans' album To Be Kind.[61]

On August 12 and 13, 2014, Clark filled in for Fred Armisen, who was away filming the fifth season of Portlandia, as band leader for The 8G Band on Late Night With Seth Meyers.[62]

Clark toured the United States, Europe, Australia, and Asia throughout 2014, ending the year as the supporting act for The Black Keys. She extended her Digital Witness tour into the summer of 2015,[63] and performed alongside the Pixies and Beck at Boston Calling in May 2015.[64]

A demo of "Teenage Talk", a track she had previously recorded but that was not included on her eponymous album,[65] premiered on the HBO series Girls on March 10, 2015.[66] The song was released as a single on April 6.[67]

On May 17, 2015, Clark performed with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra for the inaugural Soluna: International Music & Arts Festival.[68]

2016–2019: Masseduction[edit]

St. Vincent performing with her Ernie Ball Music Man signature guitar (2018)

On April 12, 2016, it was announced that Clark would make her film directorial debut helming one of the segments of the all-female-directed horror anthology film XX.[69]

In June 2017, St. Vincent released "New York", the lead single from her fifth album. The Fear the Future tour was announced in June 2017, with dates in November and December; the tour schedule was subsequently extended with performances through July 2018.[70] Masseduction, Clark's fifth studio album, was released in October 2017 through Loma Vista Recordings.[71] It was met with "universal acclaim" with an average score of 88 on Metacritic.[72] In the United States, Masseduction debuted at number 10 on the Billboard 200, becoming St. Vincent's first album to peak in the top ten of the chart, selling 29,000 units in its first week.[73]

Clark was Record Store Day's ambassador for 2017, making her its first female ambassador.[74] In 2018, St. Vincent performed at Coachella. One of her performances, "Slow Disco", inspired the release of a new rendition of the track titled "Fast Slow Disco" in June.[75] She released MassEducation, an acoustic rendition of her previous album.[76] The album was given an 80 on Metacritic and praised by Entertainment Weekly for her versatile lyrics and strong vocals.[77] That same year, St. Vincent collaborated with the American rock band Sleater-Kinney to produce their ninth studio album, The Center Won't Hold, which was released the following year.[78]

In 2019, St. Vincent performed at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards, where she joined Dua Lipa for a medley of her own "Masseduction," the late Aretha Franklin's "Respect," and Dua Lipa's Calvin Harris collaboration "One Kiss." The same night, "Masseduction" was awarded the Grammy for Best Rock Song.[79] That summer, St. Vincent was credited as a co-writer on "Cruel Summer" with Taylor Swift and Jack Antonoff for Swift's seventh studio album Lover (2019).[80] In December, she released Masseduction Rewired, a collection of remixes curated by Russian techno DJ Nina Kraviz.[81]

2020–present: Daddy's Home[edit]

In 2020, St. Vincent was credited as a guitarist on "Texas Man" and a co-writer on "Young Man" with the Chicks, Antonoff, and Justin Tranter for the Chicks' eighth studio album Gaslighter.[82] In August 2020, St. Vincent collaborated with Japanese musician Yoshiki to release a classical arrangement of "New York".[83] In October 2020, St. Vincent's online instruction class on Creativity and Songwriting was added to the MasterClass series.[84] In late 2020, St. Vincent was featured on the track "Chalk Tablet Towers" from the first season of the Song Machine project by Gorillaz.[85]

On December 15, 2020, St. Vincent announced she would be releasing her seventh studio album in 2021.[86] On February 25, 2021, street posters revealed the Daddy's Home album would be released on May 14, 2021.[87]

The album's first single "Pay Your Way in Pain" was released March 4, 2021, along with a music video.[88] In a profile with The Forty-Five in March 2021, St. Vincent revealed the theme of Daddy's Home was her father's release from prison:[89]

"People have grown up. I would rather be the one to tell my story," she says. "My father’s release from prison is a great starting point, right?"

The album's second single "The Melting of the Sun" was released April 1, 2021, alongside a lyric video. Two days later St. Vincent was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live,[90] performing both "Pay Your Way in Pain" and "The Melting of the Sun".[91]

Musical style and influences[edit]

David Bowie
Kate Bush
David Bowie (left) and Kate Bush (right) have influenced Clark.

Possessing a mezzo-soprano voice,[92][93][94] Clark's music has been noted for its wide array of instruments and complex arrangements, as well as its polysemous lyrics, which have been described as teetering between "happiness and madness".[28] In response, Clark has said, "I like when things come out of nowhere and blindside you a little bit. I think any person who gets panic attacks or has an anxiety disorder can understand how things can all of a sudden turn very quickly. I think I'm sublimating that into the music."[18] In addition to guitar, Clark also plays bass, piano, organ, and theremin. Her music also often features violins, cellos, flutes, trumpets, clarinets, and other instruments.[95] Her musical style has been characterised as rock,[96][97] pop,[98][99] art rock[100][98] and indie rock,[101][102] incorporating a wide range of influences including experimental rock, chamber rock, electropop, soft rock, and cabaret jazz.[31][103]

Clark mentioned that singers such as David Bowie and Kate Bush had inspired her,[104] as had Jimi Hendrix and Siouxsie and the Banshees.[105] She said in a 2015 lecture she listens to a Bowie track every day, and that "It's No Game (Part One)" was her favorite.[106] Talking Heads, Patti Smith and Pink Floyd are also influences,[107] as well as guitarists Robert Fripp and Adrian Belew (both from King Crimson),[108] Marc Ribot and Adam Jones from Tool.[109]

Equipment[edit]

In March 2016, Ernie Ball announced that Clark had designed a signature Music Man guitar.[110] Unique to the guitar was the design, which Welsh singer Cate Le Bon claimed in The Guardian as being made for women's bodies and providing pleasing aesthetic form in support of the guitar's function.[111] However, Clark has since stated that the guitar being specifically for women was not a consideration during the design process.[112][113] In 2017, four additional colors were added to the guitar line.[114] A second signature was released in 2018 featuring two Humbuckers in place of the three mini-Humbuckers on the original.[115] Notable users of the guitar include Jack White, who used the three pickup version during every performance of his Boarding House Reach tour in 2018.

Personal life[edit]

St. Vincent playing at Live Out Festival, Monterrey (2018)
St. Vincent playing at Live Out Festival, Monterrey (2018).

Clark resides in New York City.[116] A 2014 Village Voice profile of Clark describes her as a private person. David Byrne, with whom Clark collaborated and toured, said of Clark:

"Despite having toured with her for almost a year, I don't think I know her much better, at least not on a personal level... mystery is not a bad thing for a beautiful, talented young woman (or man) to embrace. And she does it without seeming to be standoffish or distant."[117]

When asked during a 2014 interview with Rolling Stone whether she identified as gay or straight, Clark responded:

"I don't think about those words. I believe in gender fluidity and sexual fluidity. I don't really identify as anything. I think you can fall in love with anybody. I don't have anything to hide but I'd rather the emphasis be on music."[118]

Later that year, in an interview with the UK's Sunday Times, Clark elaborated:

"I'm not one for gender or sexual absolutism in the main; I fully support and engage in the spectrum."[119]

Clark was in a relationship with Cara Delevingne from late 2014 until mid-2016.[120]

Clark's father, Richard Clark, was convicted of one count of conspiracy, seven counts of wire fraud, five counts of securities fraud, and one count of money laundering on May 3, 2010.[121] According to the Department of Justice, Clark and co-conspirator, G. David Gordon, controlled and manipulated the stock of two Tulsa companies, Deep Rock Oil & Gas Inc., and Global Beverage Solutions Inc., and Glen Ellyn, Illinois-based National Storm Management Group Inc.  The Justice Department said: "According to evidence presented at trial, Gordon and Clark executed the scheme by obtaining a majority of the free-trading shares of stock they intended to manipulate, using fraudulent and deceptive means to acquire the stock and/or remove the trading restrictions on the shares they obtained." On October 29, 2010, he was sentenced to 15 years, 8 months in prison.[121] The album Daddy's Home was in part inspired by her father's eventual release from prison.[122]

Discography[edit]

Live band[edit]

St. Vincent performing in 2018

Current members

  • Toko Yasuda – guitar, bass guitar, keyboards (2011–2012, 2014–2015, 2018–present)
  • Daniel Mintseris – keyboards, sequencing (2011–2015, 2018–present)
  • Matt Johnson – drums (2011–2012, 2014–2015, 2018–present)

Past members

  • Daniel Hart – violin, guitar, vocals (2007–2010)
  • William Flynn – bass guitar, clarinet, vocals (2007–2010)
  • Anthony LaMarca – drums, sampler (2009–2010)
  • Evan Smith – saxophone, clarinet, flute, keyboards, vocals (2009–2010)

Tours[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated Work Result Ref.
2009 Rober Awards Music Prize Best Female Artist Herself Nominated [123]
Best Songwriter Nominated [124]
2011 Rober Award Music Prize Best Pop Artist Nominated [125]
Best Female Artist Nominated [126]
Best Promo Video "Cruel" Nominated [127]
2012 Rober Awards Music Prize "Who" Nominated [128]
UK Music Video Awards Best Alternative Video – International "Cheerleader" Nominated [129]
2013 AIM Independent Music Awards Independent Album of the Year Love This Giant Nominated [130]
Independent Video of the Year Nominated
Webby Awards Best Editing In Practice Won [131]
2014 Rober Awards Music Prize Best Female Artist Herself Won [132]
Best Songwriter Won
Album of the Year St. Vincent Won
Best Promo Video "Digital Witness" Won
UK Music Video Awards Best Alternative Video – International Nominated [133]
Best Art Direction & Design in a Video Nominated
Best Styling in a Video Nominated
Q Awards Best Solo Artist Herself Nominated [134]
Maverick Award Won [135]
2015 Grammy Awards Best Alternative Music Album St. Vincent Won [136]
NME Awards Best Album Nominated [137]
Best Solo Artist Herself Nominated
2016 A2IM Libera Awards Best Live Act Nominated [138]
2017 Rober Awards Music Prize Best Female Artist Won [139]
Best Promo Video "Los Ageless" Won
Q Awards Best Solo Artist Herself Nominated [140]
2018 Best Act in the World Today Nominated [141]
Queerty Awards Musician Nominated [142]
NME Awards Best International Solo Artist Nominated [143]
Best Video "Los Ageless" Nominated
Webby Awards Best Music Video Won [144]
Best Art Direction Won [145]
2019 Grammy Awards Best Alternative Music Album Masseduction Nominated [146]
Best Rock Song "Masseduction" Won

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]