Anne Erin "Annie" Clark (born September 28, 1982), better known by her stage name St. Vincent, is an American musician, singer-songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. She began her music career as a member of The Polyphonic Spree and was also part of Sufjan Stevens's touring band before forming her own band in 2006. Clark currently resides in downtown Manhattan.
St. Vincent's work has received consistent praise for its distinct musical style, which blends soft rock, experimental rock, electropop, and jazz influences. Her debut album was Marry Me (2007), followed by Actor (2009) and Strange Mercy (2011). She released a collaborative album with David Byrne in 2012 titled Love This Giant. Clark also contributed backing vocals for Swans on their 2014 album, To Be Kind. Her fourth solo album, self-titled St. Vincent, was released on February 2014 to wide acclaim; a year later, the album won her a Grammy for Best Alternative Album, her first Grammy award.
St. Vincent has opened shows for such acts as The Black Keys, Arcade Fire, Andrew Bird, The National, Jolie Holland, John Vanderslice, Xiu Xiu, Death Cab for Cutie, Cristina Donà, and Grizzly Bear. Two soundtracks for The Twilight Saga have featured songs from her. The first, "Roslyn," was in collaboration with Bon Iver and appeared on the 2009 soundtrack for New Moon; her second, "The Antidote," was written for and appeared on 2012's Breaking Dawn – Part 2. Additionally, her track "The Strangers" was sampled by Kid Cudi on the song "MANIAC" for his 2010 album Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager.Early life
Annie Clark was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She began playing the guitar at the age of 12 and, as a teenager, worked as a roadie for her uncle and aunt, Tuck Andress and Patti Cathcart, of the guitar-vocal jazz duo Tuck & Patti. She grew up in Dallas, Texas, and attended Lake Highlands High School, where she participated in theater and the school's jazz band, and was a classmate of Mark Salling (who later went on to star in the series Glee). Clark graduated from Lake Highlands in 2001.
Clark attended the Berklee College of Music for three years before dropping out. 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." In 2003, during her time at Berklee, she released an EP with fellow students entitled Ratsliveonnoevilstar. While in Berklee, she worked with Heavy Rotation Records where "she revealed a much more private and intimate rendering of 'Count' for Dorm Sessions Vol. 1." Shortly after leaving Berklee, Clark returned home to Texas where she joined The Polyphonic Spree just before their embarking on a European tour. In 2004, she joined Glenn Branca's 100 guitar orchestra for the Queens performance.
Clark left The Polyphonic Spree and joined Sufjan Stevens' touring band in 2006, bringing with her a tour EP entitled Paris is Burning. It contains three tracks, including a cover version of Jackson Browne's "These Days".Career St. Vincent and Marry Me (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" off the album Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus. The name is also a reference to her great-grandmother, whose middle name was St. Vincent.
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, 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. Clark was lauded for the album's musical arrangements as well as themes and style; in their review of the album, The AV Club noted: "There's a point where too much happiness turns into madness, and St. Vincent's multi-instrumentalist Annie Clark knows this place well". 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."
The songs featured on Marry Me were largely written when Clark was eighteen and nineteen 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." The album featured its one single, "Paris Is Burning", as well as a music video for "Jesus Saves, I Spend".
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.Actor (2009)
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."
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 been getting noise complaints from neighbors. The songs were largely inspired by scenes from various children's films; Clark has stated that she would imagine a soundtrack for certain scenes from films when constructing the music and lyrics, including scenes from Snow White (1937) and The Wizard of Oz (1939).
The second album, entitled Actor, was released by 4AD Records on May 5, 2009. The album was also well received and gained more commercial attention than its predecessor. 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". 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 the album "a uniquely potent cocktail of sounds and moods."
Actor charted well for an independent release, peaking at #9 on Billboard's Independent Albums Chart, and #5 on the Tastemaker Albums Chart. It peaked at #90 on the Billboard 200. Although the album 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.Strange Mercy (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, Clark 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."
On January 12, 2011, Clark took to Twitter to announce that she was working on Strange Mercy, which was a follow up to Actor. In early March 2011, producer John Congleton, who also worked with Clark on Actor, commented that he and Clark were nearly a third of the way through recording the new release.
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.
In August 2011, Clark was interviewed and featured on the cover of SPIN magazine. 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. On August 25, 2011, she debuted Strange Mercy in the Temple of Dendur room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, New York, introducing Toko Yasuda (ex-Enon), Matt Johnson, and Daniel Mintseris as members of her live band. The album was released on September 13, 2011.
Strange Mercy received widespread acclaim from music critics. The album achieved an overall rating of 8.1/10 at AnyDecentMusic? based on 36 reviews. The album was St. Vincent's highest-charting album yet, peaking at #19 on the US Billboard 200. Regarding the album Annie Clark has stated "I don't think it's the best record I'll ever make, but I think it's a good record." Clark began touring the US and Europe in support of the record in the fall of 2011 and continued a worldwide tour throughout 2012.St. Vincent (2013–present)
On November 18, 2013, Clark announced, through her website, dates for a European tour in 2014. The following day, Republic Records announced that Clark had signed to their label.
On November 19, 2013, Clark received the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award for Performing Arts.
Details about Clark's fourth album, St. Vincent were released in December 2013, alongside the first single, "Birth in Reverse", which was available for digital streaming. The second single, "Digital Witness," was released for digital streaming on January 6, 2014. The album was released on February 25, 2014 to critical acclaim, with several publications putting St. Vincent at the top of their year-end best album lists. The Guardian, Entertainment Weekly, NME, Gigwise, and MusicOMH all ranked it as the #1 album of the year while Time Magazine put it at #2 and Rolling Stone Magazine ranked it #4. On December 5, 2014, Clark received her first Grammy nomination for "Best Alternative Music Album" for St. Vincent and in February 2015, subsequently won the award.
A deluxe edition of St. Vincent was released on February 9, 2015 in the U.K. with the album being available only for digital download in the U.S. It features a previously unreleased track, "Bad Believer", as well as "Del Rio", which was a b-side on the "Digital Witness" single as well as a bonus track on the Japanese edition of St. Vincent, "Digital Witness (DARKSIDE Remix)", previously released as a single, and finally, "Pietà" and "Sparrow", which were originally released together on a limited edition 10" pink vinyl on November 28, 2014 for Record Store Day.
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, adding dates on 9 January 2015 and additional U.S. dates on 13 January 2015. She performed alongside the Pixies and Beck at Boston Calling in May 2015.Other work
In 2011, Clark composed "Proven Badlands," an instrumental piece based on "The Sequel" from her sophomore release Actor, for ensemble yMusic's album Beautiful Mechanical.
In 2012, Clark 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 on September 11, 2012. 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. 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.
Clark appeared on the film soundtrack of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2.
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.
On April 10, 2014, Clark fronted Nirvana performing lead vocals on "Lithium" at the 29th Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. She also provided vocals on the Swans' album To Be Kind.
Clark performed on the season finale of Saturday Night Live on May 17, 2014.
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.
A demo of "Teenage Talk", a track she had previously recorded but that was not included on her eponymous album, premiered on the HBO series Girls on March 10, 2015. The song was released as a single on April 6.
On May 17, 2015, Clark performed with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra for the inaugural Soluna: International Music & Arts Festival.Musical style and influences
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". 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." 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. Her unorthodox musical style has been characterized by critics as a mixture of chamber rock, pop, indie rock, and cabaret jazz. Clark mentioned that singers such as David Bowie and Kate Bush had inspired her, as did Jimi Hendrix and Siouxsie and the Banshees. She also cited Talking Heads, Patti Smith and Pink Floyd as some of the artists that had influenced her.Personal life
A 2014 Village Voice profile of Clark describes her as a private person. Former Talking Heads member David Byrne, with whom Clark had collaborated and toured, says, "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."
When asked during an 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." In a 2014 interview with the UK's The Sunday Times, Clark further elaborated, "I'm not one for gender or sexual absolutism in the main; I fully support and engage in the spectrum."
Clark is in a relationship with British model Cara Delevingne.Discography Studio albums EPs
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