St. Vincent (musician)

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St. Vincent
St. Vincent 10 29 2018 -42 (46003066152) (cropped).jpg
St. Vincent in 2018
Background information
Birth nameAnne Erin Clark
Born (1982-09-28) September 28, 1982 (age 36)
Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.
OriginDallas, Texas, U.S.
  • Singer-songwriter
  • record producer
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • bass guitar
  • keyboards
  • percussion
Years active2003–present
Associated acts

Anne Erin "Annie" Clark (born September 28, 1982), known professionally as St. Vincent, is an American singer-songwriter and record producer.

St. Vincent began her music career as a member of The Polyphonic Spree, she was also a member of Sufjan Stevens's touring band, before forming her own band in 2006. Her debut album was Marry Me (2007), followed by Actor (2009), Strange Mercy (2011), St. Vincent (2014) and Masseduction (2017). She released a collaborative album with David Byrne in 2012 titled Love This Giant.

St. Vincent contributed backing vocals for Swans on their 2014 album To Be Kind, her fourth solo album, St. Vincent, was released that same year and was named album of the year by The Guardian, Entertainment Weekly, NME and Slant, as well as second best album of the year by Time. The album won her a Grammy for Best Alternative Album, her first Grammy Award, she was the first solo female performer in 20 years to win a Grammy in that category. In 2018, St. Vincent was included twice in NPR's "200 Greatest songs by 21st Century Women"[1] at number 181 with "Digital Witness" and number 38 with "Cruel".

Life and career[edit]

1982–2002: Early life[edit]

Clark was born on September 28, 1982, in Tulsa, Oklahoma,[2][3][4][5] her mother is a social worker and administrator for a non-profit organization, while her stepfather works in corporate tax administration. Her parents divorced when she was three years old, and when she was seven years old, she moved with her mother and two older sisters to Dallas, Texas, her father continues to live in Tulsa. Clark is of Irish, and a small amount of Ashkenazi Jewish, ancestry,[6] she was raised Roman Catholic[7] and Unitarian Universalist.[8] From her parents' blended families, she has four brothers and four sisters.[9][10]

Annie Clark was fond of the movie La Bamba and Ritchie Valens himself at a very early age and had received a plastic red guitar at the age of five that her mother had gotten her from a local Target store for Christmas, she began playing her first real guitar at the age of 12 and worked some of her teenage years as a roadie for her aunt and uncle, the guitar-vocal jazz duo Tuck & Patti.[11][12] In 2001, she graduated from Lake Highlands High School, where she participated in theater and the school's jazz band, and was a classmate of actor Mark Salling.[13][14]

Clark attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts for three years before dropping out, studying with Professor Lauren Passarelli, she felt that art institutions such as Berklee can be more directed towards the athleticism of art rather than the product.[15] 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."[16]

2003–2007: Career beginnings and Marry Me[edit]

In 2003, she released an EP with fellow Berklee students entitled Ratsliveonnoevilstar,[17] she also worked with Heavy Rotation Records, where "she revealed a much more private and intimate rendering of 'Count' for Dorm Sessions Vol. 1",[18] and studied with Professor of Guitar Lauren Passarelli. Shortly after leaving Berklee, Clark returned home to Texas where she joined The Polyphonic Spree just before they embarked on a European tour.[11] In 2004, she joined Glenn Branca's 100 guitar orchestra for the Queens performance,[19] and she was also briefly in a noise-rock band called The Skull Fuckers.[20][21][22] Clark left The Polyphonic Spree and joined Sufjan Stevens' touring band in 2006, bringing with her a tour EP entitled Paris is Burning.

Clark on stage in 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" from the album Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus. The name is also a reference to her great-grandmother, whose middle name was St. Vincent.[23]

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,[24] 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.[25] 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".[26] 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."[25]

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."[16] The album featured its one single, "Paris Is Burning", as well as a music video for "Jesus Saves, I Spend".

2008–2010: Actor and soundtracks[edit]

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.[27]

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."[28]

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;[29] 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,[29] including scenes from Snow White (1937) and The Wizard of Oz (1939).

St. Vincent performing in 2009

The second album, entitled Actor, was released by 4AD Records on May 5, 2009;[30] the album was also well received and gained more commercial attention than its predecessor.[16] 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".[31] 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".[32]

Actor charted well for an independent release, peaking at #9 on Billboard's Independent Albums Chart, and #5 on the Tastemaker Albums Chart,[33] 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.

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.

In November 2010, Clark appeared alongside American rappers Kid Cudi and Cage, on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, to perform "Maniac", from Cudi's Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager.[34]

2011–2012: Strange Mercy and collaborations[edit]

St. Vincent performing at The Button Factory, Dublin in November 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."[35]

On January 12, 2011, Clark announced via Twitter that she was working on Strange Mercy, which was a follow up to Actor.[36] 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.[37]

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.[38]

In 2011, Clark composed "Proven Badlands", an instrumental piece based on "The Sequel" from her sophomore release Actor, for ensemble Music's album Beautiful Mechanical.[39]

In August 2011, Clark was interviewed and featured on the cover of SPIN magazine.[40] 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.[41] 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,[42] introducing Toko Yasuda (ex-Enon), Matt Johnson, and Daniel Mintseris as members of her live band; the album was released on September 13, 2011.[43]

Strange Mercy received widespread acclaim from music critics; the album achieved an overall rating of 8.1/10 at[44] AnyDecentMusic? based on 36 reviews. The album was St. Vincent's highest-charting album yet, peaking at #19 on the US Billboard 200.[45] 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."[46] Clark began touring the US and Europe in support of the record in the fall of 2011 and continued a worldwide tour throughout 2012.

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.[47][48] 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.[49] 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.

2013–2015: St. Vincent[edit]

St. Vincent performing in concert during her "Digital Witness" tour in 2014

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.[50]

In November 2013 Clark received the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award for Performing Arts,[51] and signed to Loma Vista Recordings;[52] the new label released "Birth in Reverse" the following month, the first single from Clark's fourth album, St. Vincent,[53] The second single, "Digital Witness", was released in January 2014,[54] and the album was released the next month to critical acclaim.[55] A number of publications, including The Guardian, Entertainment Weekly, NME, Gigwise, and MusicOMH, ranked it as the #1 album of 2014, while Time put it at #2 and Rolling Stone ranked it #4. Clark received her first Grammy, as St Vincent won "Best Alternative Music Album" in February 2015.[56]

On April 10, 2014, Clark fronted Nirvana performing lead vocals on "Lithium" at the 29th Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony,[57] she also provided vocals on the Swans' album To Be Kind.[58]

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.[59]

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,[60] and performed alongside the Pixies and Beck at Boston Calling in May 2015.[61]

A demo of "Teenage Talk", a track she had previously recorded but that was not included on her eponymous album,[62] premiered on the HBO series Girls on March 10, 2015;[63] the song was released as a single on April 6.[64]

On May 17, 2015, Clark performed with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra for the inaugural Soluna: International Music & Arts Festival.[65]

2016–present: Masseduction and MassEducation[edit]

St. Vincent performing with her Ernie Ball Music Man signature guitar (2018)

On April 12, 2016, it was announced that Clark would be making her film directorial debut helming one of the segments of the all-female-directed horror anthology film XX.[66]

In June 2017, St. Vincent released "New York", the lead single from her fifth album; the Fear the Future tour was announced in June 2017, with dates in November and December; the tour schedule was subsequently extended with performances through July 2018.[67] Masseduction, Clark's fifth studio album, was released in October 2017 through Loma Vista Recordings,[68] it was met with "universal acclaim" with an average score of 88 on Metacritic.[69] In the United States, Masseduction debuted at number 10 on the Billboard 200, becoming St. Vincent's first album to peak in the top ten of the chart, selling 29,000 units in its first week.[70]

Clark was Record Store Day's ambassador for 2017, making her its first female ambassador.[71]

In 2018, St. Vincent performed at Coachella. One of her performances "Slow Disco" inspired the release of a new rendition of the track titled "Fast Slow Disco" in June.[72]

On October 12, 2018, St. Vincent released MassEducation an acoustic rendition of her previous album;[73] the album was given a 80 on Metacritic and praised by Entertainment Weekly for her versatile lyrics and strong vocals.[74]

In 2018, St. Vincent collaborated with the American rock band Sleater-Kinney to produce their ninth studio album, The Center Won't Hold, which was released the following year.[75]

In 2019, St. Vincent co-wrote "Cruel Summer" with Taylor Swift and Jack Antonoff for Swift's seventh studio album Lover (2019).[76]

Musical style and influences[edit]

David Bowie
Kate Bush
David Bowie (left) and Kate Bush (right) have influenced Clark.

Possessing a mezzo-soprano voice,[77][78][79] 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".[26] 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."[16] 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.[80] Her musical style has been characterised as rock,[81][82] pop,[83][84] art rock[85][83] and indie rock,[86][87] incorporating a wide range of influences including experimental rock, chamber rock, electropop, soft rock and cabaret jazz.[29][88]

Clark mentioned that singers such as David Bowie and Kate Bush had inspired her,[89] as had Jimi Hendrix and Siouxsie and the Banshees,[90] she said in a 2015 lecture she listens to a Bowie track every day, and that "It's No Game (Part One)" was her favorite.[91] Talking Heads, Patti Smith and Pink Floyd are also influences,[92] as well as guitarists Robert Fripp and Adrian Belew (both from King Crimson),[93] Marc Ribot and Adam Jones from Tool.[94]


In March 2016, Ernie Ball announced that Clark had designed a signature Music Man guitar.[95] Unique to the guitar was the design, which Welsh singer Cate Le Bon claimed in The Guardian as being made for women's bodies and providing pleasing aesthetic form in support of the guitar's function.[96] However, Clark has since stated that the guitar being specifically for women was not a consideration during the design process.[97][98] In 2017, four additional colors were added to the guitar line.[99] A second signature was released in 2018 featuring two Humbuckers in place of the three mini-Humbuckers on the original.[100] Notable users of the guitar include Jack White, who used the three pickup version during every performance of his Boarding House Reach tour in 2018.

Personal life[edit]

Clark resides in New York City.[101] A 2014 Village Voice profile of Clark describes her as a private person. David Byrne, with whom Clark collaborated and toured, said of Clark, "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."[102]

When asked during a 2014 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."[103] Later that year, in an interview with the UK's Sunday Times, she elaborated, "I'm not one for gender or sexual absolutism in the main; I fully support and engage in the spectrum."[104] She was in a relationship with Cara Delevingne[105] from late 2014 until summer of 2016.


Live band[edit]

Current members

  • Toko Yasuda – guitar, bass guitar, keyboards (2011–2012, 2014–2015, 2018–present)
  • Daniel Mintseris – keyboards, sequencing (2011–2015, 2018–present)
  • Matt Johnson – drums (2011–2012, 2014–2015, 2018–present)

Past members

  • Daniel Hart – violin, guitar, vocals (2007–2010)
  • William Flynn – bass guitar, clarinet, vocals (2007–2010)
  • Anthony LaMarca – drums, sampler (2009–2010)
  • Evan Smith – saxophone, clarinet, flute, keyboards, vocals (2009–2010)


Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated Work Result
2008 PLUG Independent Music Awards Female Artist of the Year Herself Won
New Artist of the Year Nominated
Music Video of the Year "Jesus Saves, I Spend" Nominated
2009 Rober Awards Music Poll Best Songwriter Herself Nominated
Best Female Artist Nominated
2011 Nominated
Best Pop Artist Nominated
Best Promo Video "Cruel" Nominated
2012 UK Music Video Awards Best Alternative Video - International "Cheerleader" Nominated
Antville Music Video Awards Best Visual Effects Nominated
MVPA Awards Best Direction of a Female Artist Nominated
2013 Smithsonian American Ingenuity Awards Performing Arts The Totally Original Sound of St. Vincent Won
2014 Q Awards Best Solo Artist Herself Nominated
Q Maverick Won
UK Music Video Awards Best Art Direction "Digital Witness" Nominated
Best Styling Nominated
Antville Music Video Awards Best Art Direction Won
Rober Awards Music Poll Best Promo Video Won
Album of the Year St. Vincent Won
Best Female Artist Herself Won
Best Songwriter Won
2015 International Dance Music Awards Best Alternative/Rock Dance Track "Digital Witness" Nominated
Grammy Awards Best Alternative Music Album St. Vincent Won
NME Awards Best Album Nominated
Best Solo Artist Herself Nominated
Brit Awards International Female Solo Artist Nominated
ASCAP Pop Music Awards Vanguard Award Won
2017 Rober Awards Music Poll Best Female Artist Won
Best Promo Video "Los Ageless" Won
Q Awards Best Solo Artist Herself Nominated
2018 Best Act in the World Today Nominated
GLAAD Media Awards Outstanding Music Artist Nominated
NME Awards Best International Solo Artist Nominated
Best Video "Los Ageless" Nominated
Webby Awards Online Film & Video - Best Art Direction Nominated
2019 Grammy Awards[107] Best Alternative Music Album MASSEDUCTION Nominated
Best Rock Song "Masseduction" Won


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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]