PJ Harvey : biography
Polly Jean Harvey MBE (born 9 October 1969) is an English musician, singer-songwriter, composer and occasional artist. Primarily known as a vocalist and guitarist, she is also proficient with a wide range of instruments including piano, organ, bass, saxophone, harmonica, and most recently, the autoharp.
Harvey began her career in 1988 when she joined local band Automatic Dlamini as a vocalist and saxophone player. The band’s frontman, John Parish, would become her long-term collaborator. In 1991, she formed an eponymous trio and subsequently began her professional career. The trio released two studio albums, Dry (1992) and Rid of Me (1993) before disbanding, after which Harvey continued as a solo artist. Since 1995, she has released a further six studio albums with collaborations from various musicians including John Parish, former bandmate Rob Ellis, Mick Harvey, and Eric Drew Feldman and has also worked extensively with record producer Flood.
Among the accolades she has received are the 2001 and 2011 Mercury Prize for Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea (2000) and Let England Shake (2011) respectively—the only artist to have been awarded the prize twice—eight BRIT Award nominations, six Grammy Award nominations and two further Mercury Prize nominations. Rolling Stone awarded her 1992’s Best New Artist and Best Singer Songwriter and 1995’s Artist of the Year, and listed Rid of Me, To Bring You My Love (1995) and Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea on its 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list. In 2011, she was awarded for Outstanding Contribution To Music at the NME Awards. In June 2013, she was awarded an MBE for services to music.
Outside her better-known music career, Harvey is also an occasional artist and actress. In 1998, she appeared in Hal Hartley’s film The Book of Life as Magdalena—a modern-day character based on the Biblical Mary Magdalene— and had a cameo role as a Playboy Bunny in A Bunny Girl’s Tale, a short film directed by Sarah Miles, in which she also performs "Nina in Ecstasy," an outtake from Is This Desire? (1998). Harvey also collaborated with Miles on another film, Amaeru Fallout 1972, which includes Harvey performing a cover of "When Will I See You Again." Harvey is also an accomplished sculptor who has had several pieces exhibited at the Lamont Gallery and the Bridport Arts Centre. In 2010, she was invited to be the guest designer for the summer issue of Francis Ford Coppola’s literary magazine Zoetrope: All-Story. The issue featured Harvey’s paintings and drawings alongside short stories by Woody Allen. Speaking of her artistic contributions to the magazine in 2011, Harvey said: "the first opportunity I ever had to show any work was in this magazine. They were drawn while I was writing and recording the record (Let England Shake). It does relate to the record in the way the cycle keeps happening."Harvey, PJ. "The first opportunity I ever had to show any work was in this magazine. They were drawn while I was writing and recording the record (Let England Shake). It does relate to the record in the way the cycle keeps happening." Extracts from a transcription of an interview with PJ Harvey on The Culture Show. Broadcast on BBC Two on 12 February 2011.
Harvey describes herself as "an extremely quiet person, who doesn’t go out much, doesn’t talk to people" and has also acquired a reputation for eccentricity to match her music; for example, Steve Albini claimed she ate nothing but potatoes while making Rid of Me. She also rejects the notion that her song lyrics are autobiographical. In 1998, she told The Times: "the tortured artist myth is rampant. People paint me as some kind of black witchcraft-practising devil from hell, that I have to be twisted and dark to do what I am doing. It’s a load of rubbish" and later told Spin: "some critics have taken my writing so literally to the point that they’ll listen to ‘Down by the Water’ and believe I have actually given birth to a child and drowned her."