Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...
TO SAVE HER VOICE, SHE'S SINGING OPERA
POLLY JEAN HARVEY, WHO GREW UP in the small village of Yeovil in Dorset, England, and still lives near her parents, says she's been "bombarded by music" since childhood. "My mother, who's a sculptress, felt that we were cut off in the countryside, so she organized concerts and brought bands from London—mostly blues bands," says the 23-year-old. "We housed and fed these musicians, and they felt they owed something, so to pay us back, they would give me lessons on the saxophone, drums and guitar. My mom liked Bob Dylan records too"—that's the most important reason P.J. plays "Highway 61" on the new album—"and my dad, a quarryman, liked the Rolling Stones."
After Dry, Harvey's first record, made her an underground star in England in 1991, "I was still living in the country, just one of the girls here in the villages. I thought I was handling it, but I finally got quite run-down, through the end of touring last year. After the tour, my voice was damaged, and the quality was changing as I got older. I don't want to destroy it by the time I'm 27, so I'm studying voice with a retired opera singer, singing Italian opera and learning to sing properly and make a pure sound. In any case, this summer will be our last tour as a three-piece band. I want to involve other people, other instruments. I believe in moving along and following our instincts. I've tried to avoid being lumped in with feminism because I don't feel qualified to label myself. I don't need it—I like to do things my way. All I'm doing as a musician is trying to find a way to make things less confusing."