PJ Harvey (born Polly Jean Harvey, 9.10.1969)
PJ Harvey is an English singer-songwriter who rose to fame in the 1990s, gaining adulation from the alternative music press for her caustic and emotive performances.
PJ Harvey: Childhood
PJ Harvey was born and raised in Dorset, where she grew up on a small farm. She is daughter to a stonemason and a sculptor. It was her parents that introduced her to music, listening to blues and jazz, such as Robert Johnson and John Lee Hooker, as well as rock music such as Captain Beefheart and Jimi Hendrix.
As she grew up, Harvey would listen to bands such as Soft Cell and Spandau Ballet, moving on to US guitar bands such as Television and The Pixies. PJ Harvey has been frequently compared to Patti Smith, though she has never claimed her as an influence.
When she was growing up, PJ Harvey learned to play saxophone and guitar, frequently contributing to bands such as The Stoned Weaklings, the Polekats and one of John Parish's early bands, Automatic Dlamini.
PJ Harvey: Musical Career
In 1991, PJ Harvey formed an eponymous 3-piece band. The other two members of the band were Rob Ellis on drums and Ian Olliver on bass (later, Olliver was replaced by Steve Vaughan), while Harvey sang and played guitar. Their debut gig resulted in them being asked to stop, as all the customers at the Antelope Hotel in Sherborne had left.
PJ Harvey's debut single, 'Dress' was released on the Too Pure label. John Peel was the guest reviewer of Melody Maker that week and made it Single of the Week.
Harvey's second single was 'Sheela Na Gig.' It was quickly followed by her debut album, Dry, in 1992. Kurt Cobain once claimed that Dry was one of his favourite albums. Rolling Stone magazine named Harvey as Best Songwriter and Best New Female Singer that year - she was still only 22 years old.
In April 1992, PJ Harvey created a stir when she appeared topless on the cover of NME.
PJ Harvey went on to sign to Island Records and quickly released another two albums. Rid Of Me was engineered by Steve Albini and was followed by some of the demo tapes made for the songs on Rid of Me, entitled simply 4-Track Demos.
When Rob Ellis, Steve Vaughan and PJ Harvey parted ways in August 1993, PJ Harvey embarked on a solo career. Her first solo album was To Bring You My Love, Released in 1995, it was produced by John Parish and Flood and sold over 1 million units. The track 'Down By the Water' became a surprise radio hit, as Harvey's previous music had never really had a radio-friendly sound to it. Harvey's performance at Glastonbury, in a pink catsuit, remains one of the most iconic performances in the festival's history.
PJ Harvey's next studio album was entitled Is This Desire? The album was a departure from her trademark guitar sound, relying more heavily on keyboards, piano and bass guitar. The album was released in 1996, to a mixed response.
In 2000, PJ Harvey released the Mercury Music Prize winning Stories From the City, Stories From The Sea. Rob Ellis was back on board for the album, which also featured Mick Harvey, a highly respected multi-instrumentalist. The album was written in Paris, Dorset and New York. The album also featured vocals from Thom Yorke, of Radiohead.
In 2004, PJ Harvey released Uh-Huh Her. Harvey produced the album herself, and played almost all of the instruments (except for the drums). Two years later, Harvey's first live performance DVD was released, entitled Please Leave Quietly. The DVD also featured behind-the-scenes footage. In October 2006, PJ Harvey's sessions on John Peel's radio program were collected together and released as The Peel Sessions 1991-2004.
Harvey's eighth studio album, White Chalk, was released in November 2006. Eric Drew Feldman, John Parish and Flood all worked on the album with her. The album was comprised mainly of piano ballads.
Early in 2009, Harvey contributed some original incidental music to a Broadway production of Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, starring Mary Louise Parker.
In March 2009, PJ Harvey and John Parish released a collaborative album entitled A Woman A Man Walked By. In 1996, the pair had released Dance Hall at Louse Point together.
PJ Harvey: Side Projects and Collaborations
PJ Harvey has contributed to Josh Homme's Desert Sessions series. She also appeared on Nick Cave's Murder Ballads album, as well as Tricky's Angels With Dirty Faces.