Joanna Caroline Newsom (born January 18, 1982) is an American harpist, pianist, vocalist, and songwriter.
In 2002 and 2003, Newsom recorded two EPs, Walnut Whales and Yarn and Glue. These homemade recordings were intended to serve as a document of her early work; she recorded them on a Fisher-Price tape recorder. These EPs were not intended for public distribution. At the suggestion of Noah Georgeson, her then-boyfriend and recording engineer of the EP, she burned several copies to sell at her early shows. John Fellman, co-producer of Mission Creek Music and Arts Festival, claims to be the first to have booked a show for her.
A friend of Newsom's passed one of these CDs on to Will Oldham at a show in Nevada City. Oldham was impressed with Newsom's music and asked her to tour with him. He also gave a copy of the CD to the owner of Drag City, his record label. Drag City signed Newsom and released her debut album The Milk-Eyed Mender in 2004. Shortly thereafter, Newsom toured with Devendra Banhart and Vetiver and made an early UK appearance at the Green Man Festival in Wales, returning to headline in 2005, 2007 and 2010.
er second album Ys was released in November 2006. The album features orchestrations and arrangements by Van Dyke Parks, engineering from Steve Albini and mixing by Drag City label-mate Jim O'Rourke. On a road trip, Bill Callahan recommended she listen to the album Song Cycle by Parks, which led to his being chosen to arrange her work on Ys.
Newsom is known to debut songs impromptu at her concerts. On March 28, 2009, she performed over two hours of new material at a 'secret' concert in Big Sur, California with fellow Nevada City singer-songwriter Mariee Sioux under the pseudonym 'The Beatles's'. Those in attendance reported that about one-third of her new material was played primarily on piano, with a backing arrangement of banjo, violin, guitar and drums.
On July 19, 2011, Newsom's second single, What We Have Known, was released on 12" vinyl. The single was originally the b-side to her first single, Sprout and the Bean. In June 2011, she filmed her second music video (for the song "Good Intentions Paving Company") with directors Karni & Saul. Newsom was also chosen by Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel to perform at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival that he curated in March 2012 in Minehead, England.