Natalie Merchant "Leave Your Sleep" Album Preview

Mark Selinger
Natalie Merchant

Natalie Merchant, "Leave Your Sleep" (Nonesuch)

Release Date: March 30, 2010

Former 10,000 Maniacs singer Natalie Merchant hasn't released a proper solo album since "Motherland" in 2001. But the artist is planning an ambitious return in 2010. Her Nonesuch Records debut, "Leave Your Sleep," is a two-disc album of original music with lyrics adapted from various poems, including works by Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Graves, Ogden Nash and Christina Rossetti.

"I've also been really intrigued about setting other people's words to music, rather than my own," says Merchant, who recruited 130 musicians to back her, ranging from the Wynton Marsalis Quintet to the Chinese Music Ensemble of New York. The 26-song "Leave Your Sleep"-co-produced with Merchant by Andres Levin-began as a "lullaby record" and slowly transitioned into a project about childhood in general. "At that point my kid was already 5 years old and was asking questions like, 'What happens when we die?' " she says. "I wanted to be able to answer those questions musically."

The artist originally planned to release the album in two volumes, but her label felt it would be strategically better to release it as one set. Nonesuch "said that you'd basically get one chance to talk about this project and have people listen, so you might as well put it all out at once," she says, adding that her second album for Nonesuch is already written, and she plans to record the songs with the backing of an orchestra.