The past two years have been just shy of paranormal for Sixpence None
the Richer. Widely hailed as the artist development story of 1998, Sixpence's
climb to stardom is becoming the breakthrough story of 1999. What began
seven years ago as the brainchild of two teenagers from Texas is now an
After relying on a small but devoted fanbase for the last several years,
this once obscure rock band is on the verge of becoming a household name.
With their Grammy nominated self-titled album climbing The Billboard 200
sales chart, and the #1 smash hit "Kiss Me" leading the way at
several formats in the U.S., Canada and the U.K., Sixpence is cherishing
every moment of hard-won acceptance.
"It's all about timing," explains 22-year-old Leigh Nash, Sixpence's
endearing vocalist. "I think it was the right song, with the right
band, and the right record label-at the right time." With a reflective
pause she adds, "After seven years of lessons learned, I'm still just
very thankful for the opportunity to make music, and I'm trying to take
it in stride."
The formation of Sixpence was set in motion in 1989 when a 16-year-old
Matt Slocum heard 13-year-old Leigh sing in a small town just south of Austin,
TX. After signing with a small independent label three years later, they
debuted in 1993 with THE FATHERLESS AND THE WIDOW, an impressive introduction
which landed a Billboard Critic's Choice as one of the Ten Best Albums of
Sixpence began to evolve into a dedicated touring act, and even laid
tracks across the United Kingdom their freshman year. Early '95 found the
increasingly seasoned group releasing their sophomore effort, THIS BEAUTIFUL
MESS, and venturing further into the live circuit. The band relocated to
Nashville in 1996, but not before they had logged countless miles on the
road, and shared the stage with a wide range of artists including The Proclaimers,
10,000 Maniacs and The Smithereens.
Upon their arrival in Music City, Sixpence was greeted with two years
of sweating out contract hassles, the demise of their original record label
and a near breakup. As a result, the members grew more disciplined in taking
a grass-roots approach to promoting their music. "We started developing
this attitude that we'll do whatever it takes to make this work," recalls
The mood of Sixpence's next album would be directly influenced by the
turmoil the band experienced after transplanting in Nashville. Turning
to a trusted friend, they found an innovative ally in producer Steve Taylor.
This union proved to be the catalyst from which Squint Entertainment would
soon be launched. SIXPENCE NONE THE RICHER is the self-titled, flagship
release for the new record label / film company.
Entering the studio with Taylor, Sixpence began to creatively build upon
their guitar, bass and drum foundation. As they experimented with more
subtle and intricate texturing, the band added new elements such as acoustic
piano, muted trumpet, accordion, pedal steel guitar, cello and other string
arrangements. (In addition to performing the guitar parts, Matt arranged
the album's string section and played cello.)
Initial mixes of the new Sixpence material were sent to world-renowned
engineer Bob Clearmountain. After hearing the project Clearmountain immediately
called Taylor at home, anxious to mix the album's emphasis tracks. "My
assistant and I were skimming through a large stack of recently collected
tapes," recalls Clearmountain. "The minute the Sixpence album
started we just looked up and stared at each other. This band's work is
exceptional, and I'm really glad to be a part of it. I love Leigh Nash's
voice-she's become one of my favorite female singers."
SIXPENCE NONE THE RICHER opens with an interconnected trilogy of songs
that set the stage for the remainder of the album's 13 cuts. "I'm
a big fan of the SKYLARKING album by XTC-the way the songs run into each
other in a whole story," explains Matt. "After those first three
songs, 'Kiss Me' is just a nice breather." While "Kiss Me"
is a striking pop gem which celebrates the whimsical spirit of romance,
"Sister, Mother" is inspired by a passage in the book of Proverbs.
Indeed literature leaves its signature throughout much of the album. Matt's
songwriting references the work of authors like W.H. Auden, Dylan Thomas
and Pablo Neruda. "The lyrics to 'Puedo Escribir' are literally from
Neruda's poem, 'Puedo Escribir Los Versos Mas Tristes,'" explains Matt.
"I saw the film IL POSTINO a couple years ago, and really liked the
movie-especially the Neruda character. That was the catalyst to get to
know his poetry."
Meanwhile, "The Lines of My Earth" is an introspective response
to the often tense relationship between art and commerce. "This song
is definitely a favorite. Every chord seemed to fall into place after the
previous one," says Matt. "I like the way a lot of literature
compares the soul to a field or land. It can be dry or wet. It can produce,
or it can be barren. I think it's a good way to take stock of the condition
of your soul." A joyful curtain is drawn on SIXPENCE NONE THE RICHER
with a spirited rendering of the enigmatic "There She Goes."
A cult favorite originally recorded by The La's in 1990, "There She
Goes" is hailed by both Matt and Leigh as "the perfect pop song."
A live favorite for Sixpence and their fans, the cover has been a staple
in their set-list since early '98.
Immediate critical response to SIXPENCE NONE THE RICHER earned the band
a spot on last summer's Lilith Fair stop in Nashville. The group spent
the next several months on the road playing clubs and visiting radio stations
to build support of the "Kiss Me" single. November of '98 marked
a pivotal endorsement when VH1 invited Sixpence to debut nationally on their
new series, THE MIDNIGHT MINUTE. The band performed special acoustic versions
of "Kiss Me" and "The Lines of My Earth." "Everybody
at VH1 was really knocked out by them when they came in to perform,"
recalls executive producer, Bill Flanagan. "Sixpence is so advanced
musically and at the same time offers a youthful optimism. It's wonderful
to encounter a band who has the best of both worlds."
With the increased profile came increased sales and additional radio
airplay, enabling "Kiss Me" to crack Billboard's Hot 100 Singles
chart. A few weeks later VH1 added the original "Kiss Me" video
to their rotation, and MTV began airing the clip on 120 MINUTES. The stage
was set and immediately Miramax Films chose "Kiss Me" as the featured
song for their upcoming motion picture SHE'S ALL THAT. The film hit theaters
on January 29 and opened #1 at the box office. With television programs
like DAWSON'S CREEK, DARIA and THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS also electing
to spotlight "Kiss Me," the exposure was tremendous. In a matter
of weeks both VH1 and MTV had Miramax's new "Kiss Me" video in
heavy rotation, and the song was soaring up numerous charts. Sixpence made
guest appearances on LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN, THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH
JAY LENO and LIVE WITH REGIS & KATHIE LEE. As the month of April came
to a close, "Kiss Me" was certified GOLD and penetrated the Top
5 of ten different major charts. On May 16 Casey Kasem announced "Kiss
Me" as the #1 song in the country to his AMERICAN TOP 40 audience.
Sixpence, who continues touring, received an invitation to join the first
eight evenings of Lilith Fair '99.
"When we recorded our album, I think we were all at a point in our
lives where we ready to give up our dreams," Matt concludes, reflecting
on the past two years. "I know I was. So, hope was the message-don't
ever give up hope for yourself. And this has all been really great, because
the record was made, supported and then nominated for a Grammy. It's good
to see how far it's come."
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