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tv   Talk to Al Jazeera  Al Jazeera  February 20, 2016 4:30am-5:01am EST

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mocking board was more understanding when it was told through the eyes of a girl who admired her father a great deal. >> reporter: her enduring classic will live on in lit rehistory, a story teller who shone a light into some of the dark corners of american history you can get more on that story as well as all the others we're following here at aljazeera.com of life. i had no intention of being in a band or a singer. it happened to me by accident she has rerecorded her break through solo album tigerlily, but this time with a twist.
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the essence of the songs remains unchanged >> i think tigerlily, a song like carnival is not political. >> but it is taking the critical look at the way that we leave the former lead singer of 10,000 maniacs have recorded almost a dozen albums, including one for children. are you crying my little one the parent of a teenager, she says mother hood changed her >> i became human, fully human when i became a mother. i felt connected to other people in ways that i never have. living and past the singer is also committed to causes, including domestic violence >> 17 women who were homicide
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women's of domestic violence in my county she is a champion for the anti fracking movement >> water is sacred to me and new york, it is a crucial resources, clean air and water. it got involved i sat down with natalie merchant in new york city. thank you so much for doing this. it has been 21 years since tigerlily. when you look back at that time, did you know it was going to be a huge hit and sell millions of copies >> of course not. no why do you think it was so says unanimity >>-- resonant. >> it it was honest and heart felt album. people responded to that. it was the first album that i produced myself, but at the time it was kind of my brave step forward. i had been in a band for 12 years and this was my first solo
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effort. i didn't want to hand it off to a producer. i wanted to do it myself you actually had a lot of control over the tracks in the original tigerlily >> yeah. i funded the album myself and gave it to them when it was finished did they make any changes? >> no it was the album that you wanted to create. so 21 years later you've rerecorded a lot of these tracks. they're very different. what is new? >> well, the main reason that i wanted to rerecord was i have gravitated towards performing with string instruments. some have full arrangements and other just have string quartet. the more i played them live the more would ask would ask for a recording of this
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it was part of performing these lives, but classical music was part of the music you heard growing up >> yeah. it was. my mother. we were not a wealthy family. we were just a working class family, single mother with four children. she was from a pretty poor background herself, but for some reason she had this passion for classical music. i remember no matter how little money she had in her checking account, when there was a pledge drive on the local radio station she always pledged where did that album come from. was there a driving inspiration? >> after being in a group for 12 years, i just had this strong desire to speak for myself i reread all the litrics
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from-- lyrics from tigerlily. they're not overly political. are you at a time where songs carry themes from your activism? is that something that has recently? >> the last one was a song called "the end" that i wrote about people who have been - about the refugee crisis. it has gotten much worse in the last two years. i had - i think my most political album was "motherland" which had the miss fortune of coming out a month after september 2001. it wasn't a time when people wanted to be taking critical look
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at the u.s. i talked about race relations in that album, rampant consumerism, corporate misconduct. of course, i didn't sing this is a sing about corporate misconduct. it wasn't so overt, but those were the underlying themes. it is threaded through all my work. i think tigerlily, a song like carnival it is not political, but it definitely is taking the critical look at the way that we live. [ ♪ ] i have always wondered what carnival is about >> about manhattan, walking through the streets of new york and just questioning, if your environment is insane, which i
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find new york to be, if it's illogical, if it just doesn't - it's not logical, this. people say that new york is like the bumblebee, there is no reason why the bumblebee should be able to fly i was listening to that, have i been blind, et cetera. >> i've walked these streets in the wealth and poverty, in the diamond market, they just rolled out for me. there's so of wealth in this city and there's-- so much wealth and poverty, they co-exist right next to each other. you can see people sitting down to a $400 bottle of wine and lookout the window and see an old woman eating out of the
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garage can. the disparity and the income gap is like this in the world, but in new york everybody is right up against each other living together. you have to do a lot of convincing of yourself that you're - you know, somehow justify your lifestyle to be able to live as accessively-- excessively as you do and taking advantage of all the material pleasures that are here and not give assistance - basically stepping over bodies to get into prada you talk about women in the 90s. there was really a celebration, i think, of female singer song chapman, jewel, joan osborne, victoria williams. i could go on and on. >> tori amos
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i had them all on my play list. when you look at that genre today, do you think it is in today? >> i think there are still great singer song writers. laura marling is my greatest artist. she is in her late 20s. great singer and musician, arranger. i think also the internet has given so much independence to artists and although they may not be super stars, i think so many people have been able to capture a real loyal following some she joined the band 10,000 mainians as their-- maniacs as their lead singer when she was only 17 years old.
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you're watching jazeera ". i'm stephanie sy you started out as a teenager with 10,000 maniacs. how did that come about? >> we came from a small town in western new york and we had to make our own fun because there was none. i just went to party one night
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and there were a group of people playing instruments and it just turned out to be the people who were in 10,000 maniacs was it a launching pad for your solo career after that? >> i didn't think of career at that time. it was a way to get out of found town? >> yeah. to see some of the world. i literally stumbled into this as a way of life. i had no intention of being in a band. i had no intention of being a singer. it happened to me by accident. then every step of the way the question of do i go back to college or stay in the band that's surprising to hear that it was an accident that you became a singer because you seem so blessed with that gift and beyond that your song writing, did that start as writing poetry? >> no.
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i didn't write poetry. the first lyrics were for the first album which sold a couple of hundred thousand copies which is embarrassing. i ask everyone, would you like your journal broadcast was it your journal? . i was going to advance placement in college and my english professor asked if we would keep a journal. he said i won't reaped it but i will count the-- read it but i will count the number of pages. so i would write about everything. when i joined the band and we started playing shows and we did covers with them, they said, well you've got - you are always writing things in that little books. why don't you write litrics-- lyrics it twaept a school-- it was a school activity >> yeah at the age of 17 >> yeah
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is that your still-- still your process that you write in a journal? >> no. i approach it from i can compose something on the piano it's you compose while you're also thinking of what you want to say in the song >> then i also did this seven-year long project of adapting other people's words to music. it was leave your sleep project. it was a double album in 2010 it was poetry. >> obscure. a lot of what i think would be considered classic children's poems when you read poetry does a melody come to your head? >> yeah. it was interesting because i wanted to
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illustrate, take these poems and illustrate them with music. so i took one and i went into the studio with chinese music on with various instruments ancient chinese instruments? >> yeah. there was a poem called the adventures of isobel and it is spunky i know the poem well because that is my daughter's name. >> i almost imagined her with pigtails and bare feet. covered in mud and bruises
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did your daughter inspire all these ideas of collaboration and putting poetry to music? >> the first poem that i adopted was when i brought her home from the hospital. when she was only three days old. i adopted a poem and it was an lullaby. i thought i was going to do poems. are you crying my little one, foot sore and weary. i must try through the night. pay me. here on my shoulder. while the windfalls upon me, colder and colder. the only problem with her was
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she was a victorian poetist and they were for dead children. it got dark really fast. i did a few of hoer poems and thought maybe others. so i did this project. edward offered a lot of great poems. i wanted to bring it more towards the present and then i got into others is everything you write auto biographyical? >> no. i used first-person pronounces all-- proceednoun-- pronouns all the time. it is easy to convey to other people rather than saying there was a wachlt. you say i'm the woman and people
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pay attention. tell me your story there is a terrific song on one of your recent albums called "ladybird ". this resonated with me as a mother because i think it really speaks to how bitter sweet that period is for a lot of women. what does that song mean to you? >> well, i think this is common among a lot of my freendz who are art-- friends who are mothers. we love our children and we put creativity into raising them, but there's a part of you that gets lost. [ ♪ ] and you don't know what you feel, but you know it's not satisfied. the more wise parts of us say, well, this is 18 years and it will be over. the grand scheme of thing is
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going by really fast, but the most to moment endurns test makes you question will i ever find myself against did you access creative parts of you when you became a mother, when you talk about how your daughter inspired certain types of musical arrangements, but did you find that you could access something that wasn't there before emotionally? >> yeah. i became fully human known for her music career she is committed to social causes. up next she tells me how and why she got involved in the anti fracking movement. v
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>> this is "tk to al jazeera" with me, stephanie sy. i'm speaking this week with natalie merchant. you are also sort of really involved in community activism. i know that you've been involved in the new york state anti fracking movement. that? >> i was asked to come to binghamton to perform a benefit for an ithaca-based organization because the counties around ithaca, about 80% of four of
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those counties had been leased over a 20-year period to the gas industry. people woke up realising that if fracking is allowed in new york state we might be looking at 40 to 80,000 fracking wells. we were also waking up to the nightmare in pennsylvania of water contamination. i went to binghamton. i had been reading about fracking, didn't understand it, didn't understand the potential impacts at the time and my eyes were opened. i met this family from pennsylvania who had a jug of contaminated water from their well and between the methane migration and the introduction of the chemicals in the fracking process, they were saying the water in our town has been destroyed. water is sacred to me. new york, those are crucial resources, our fertile land, clean air and clean water and
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so, yeah, i got involved did those communities feel at all torn because they also know that, perhaps, it means jobs in a place like binghamton which has lost a lot of jobs >> yeah. the farmers stood to make a lot of money. many people who leased their land in pennsylvania sold and left. we were in danger of something like that happening. there wasn't full disclosure about the risk. also a lot of the people leased early and didn't really get adequate compensation. as time was moving on, and the moratorium, the governor paterson put in a more tom your so-- moratorium for an impact study. people were getting more - communities were getting more and more divided because the people who leased their land
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were waiting for their payments and other people were stepping back another issue that you've taken on locally, in your immediate community, is the domestic violence and in that case you actually sort of married music with your activism. can you talk about that? >> these are emotional issues. in preparation for that concert that i did in the hudson valley, i had been to a billion rising event. so we - i walked into the event and there were cardboard cut outs full size of women and there were 17 of them. these were 17 women who were homicide victims of domestic violence in my county this was just in your immediate? >> yeah. my little
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county, community. i was shocked and so i made contact with the women who ran the domestic violence - there was only one shelter with 17 beds for a county with tens of thousands of residents. then i met across the river in dutchess county, the people who ran the shelter there. there weren't many more beds there. then a special prosecutors and victims of domestic violence and survivors where there had been homicides all got together, and we were meeting over a regular basis and we wrote the script and gathered all the statistics because it had never been quantified before on a regional level. how many calls - how many
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domestic violence 911 calls are there, how many incident reports are filed, how many go to court, how many are convicted, how many people end up in emergency rooms it was staggering. >> 37 homicides in 15 years. 37. anywhere from a 3 month old child to a 78 year old woman are those moments those that you are glad you are natalie merchant, that your celebrity can be used to highlight these issues. is that almost the point these days? >> yeah. i've been involved in doing benefits from day one, so 35 years of doing benefits, but i feel in the last six or seven years i don't wait for people to call me. i sort of assess where there's a need and then i get really involved
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your albums have sold millions and millions of copies, so i assume you've done quite well >> that's why i feel the responsibility of those who are given much, it is expected of them. i always took that to heart. maybe taste catholic upbringing or whatever, but i feel like-- maybe it's - i feel like i have to give back natalie merchant thank you for talking to us. >> thank you. >> every monday night. >> i lived that character. >> go one on one with america's movers and shakers. >> we will be able to see change. >> gripping... inspiring... entertaining. no topic off limits. >> 'cause i'm like, "dad, there are hookers in this house". >> exclusive conversations you won't find anywhere else. >> these are very vivid, human stories. >> if you have an agenda with people, you sometimes don't see the truth. >> "talk to al jazeera". monday, 6:00 eastern. only on al jazeera america.
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