Singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant began her pop career in 1981 at the age of 17 as the singer for the New York-based, top-selling alternative rock band 10,000 Maniacs. Born on October 26, 1963, in Jamestown, New York, she recorded seven albums with the group and established herself as a leading figure within the alternative rock scene. The singer has always been politically active and is credited by her ex-boyfriend Michael Stipe as the reason his work with R.E.M. became politicized in the late 1980s. After significant chart success with 10,000 Maniacs, Natalie Merchant quit the band to pursue a solo career and released her first solo album Tigerlily on Elektra in 1995. In order to retain artistic control of the album, she funded the recording and production of the album herself, leaving only promotion and marketing to the record label. It proved to be a wise decision and the album was met with acclaim, both from critics and fans alike, and a single from the album "Carnival" became her first Top 10 hit. The album eventually went on to sell over 5 million copies. Over the following decades, she continued to experiment with different genres such as symphonic pop (1998's Ophelia), reggae (2001's Motherland), and folk (2003's The House Carpenter's Daughter) before taking a break from her music career to raise her daughter. She returned in 2010 with the concept album Leave Your Sleep, inspired by 19th and 20th century British and American poetry. Her first collection of original songs since Motherland, her eponymous studio album arrived in 2014 and was followed by Paradise Is There: The New Tigerlily Recordings (2015) and Butterfly (2017), both of which included orchestral versions of her most popular singles. In 2023, Natalie Merchant dropped her eighth studio effort, Keep Your Courage, via Nonesuch Records.