Newsom Follows Orchestral Muse Underwater On 'Ys'

"The things I wanted to write about, the ideas I was interested in, demanded longer songs," Newsom tells

Indie chanteuse Joanna Newsom went to the depths of the ocean for her sophomore set, "Ys," due Nov. 14 via Drag City. The effort, which surrounds her harp-driven compositions with lavish orchestral arrangements, was named after a city in Breton mythology that sank under the sea. Four of the five tracks clock in at over nine minutes, with "Only Skin" lasting 17.

"The things I wanted to write about, the ideas I was interested in, demanded longer songs," Newsom tells "The particular form and structure these longer songs took demanded a denser musical texture, i.e. an orchestra. The things I wanted to be able to do with that orchestra demanded the presence of an 'outsider' to help with arrangement, because I didn't feel capable of creating the sounds I wanted to create, with my own limited orchestration abilities, hence Van Dyke Parks' participation."

Parks, the famed Beach Boys collaborator, was not the only big name that helped bring "Ys" to fruition: rock engineer Steve Albini and musician/producer Jim O'Rourke also laid down the groundwork. "Albini is, hands-down, the best recording engineer working today, when it comes to capturing the live sound of acoustic instruments. So, for this record, he did what he does best: he made the harp sound like itself and he made me sound like me," explains Newsom.

With exception to "Saw Dust & Diamonds," "Ys" is heavy with orchestration -- a major contrast to Newsom's debut, "The Milk-Eyed Mender," which only featured her voice and harp. The current setup, however, may prove difficult to take on tour.

"I hope to do some dates with an orchestra, but it will be financially difficult, so I'm not sure how many dates I'll succeed at being able to put together," Newsom says. "I'm also hopefully going to tour in the fall with a band, a group of friends. The instrumentation will be very different from the album. More like a string-band, I think."

So far, 11 dates are scheduled, beginning Thursday (Sept. 28) in Boston. "I don't dislike [touring], but it's definitely not the reason I make music, either," she admits. "I get real tired and emotionally drained from touring. I'm more of a homebody, I guess."

Here are Joanna Newsom's tour dates:

Sept. 28: Boston (Museum of Fine Arts)
Oct. 4: Toronto (Mod Club)
Oct. 5: Montreal (Ukrainian Federation)
Oct. 6: Bennington, Vt. (Bennington College)
Oct. 7: Brooklyn, NY (BargeMusic)
Oct. 8: Storrs, Conn. (Von Der Mehden Auditorium)
Nov. 8: Chicago (Logan Square Auditorium)
Nov. 10: Cleveland (Beachland Ballroom)
Nov. 14: Somerville, Mass. (Somerville Theatre)
Nov. 16: Philadelphia (First Unitarian Church)
Dec. 3: Portland, Ore. (Aladdin Theater)

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to

To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.