Sixpence None the Richer
Sixpence None the Richer
Sixpence None the Richer was already on its third full-length album by the time the catchy single “Kiss Me” began climbing the charts in 1999, a fact that surely surprised many mainstream pop listeners. The group— which includes lead singer Leigh Nash (formerly Leigh Bingham), drummer Dale Baker, bassist Justin Cary, and guitarist Matt Slocum—had already gained popularity as a Christian pop-alternative act when “Kiss Me” landed on episodes of popular youth shows Dawson’s Creek and Party of Five, and the high school film She’s All That
Sixpence None the Richer got its start in 1991 after Nash and Slocum met at a church the two attended in New Braunfels, Texas. Nash grew up listening to Patsy Cline and other older country music, and started singing in church as a youth. Slocum likewise got an early introduction to music, starting with piano lessons as a child. It wasn’t until he got a guitar for Christmas, though, shortly before his 15th birthday, that his interest in music gelled into something serious. When en route to a church retreat, Slocum (four years Nash’s senior) gave Nash a tape of a song he wrote. As a 17-year-old Nash (then Bingham) recalled in a 1994 interview with The Light-house, “We were on the way to a church retreat, on this church bus, and he came back and asked me to listen to ‘Trust, ’ which was on this little demo tape, with this other person singing on it, and just wanted to know what I thought of it. And, of course, I loved it.”
Taking their name from the C.S. Lewis story Mere Christianity, the band connected with drummer Dale Baker near Austin, Texas, when Slocum was a college music student and Nash was still in high school. A self-recorded demo drew attention to the band (whose wispy pop is most often compared to influences like 10,000 Maniacs and the Innocence Mission), and led to its first record contract.
The band learned some hard lessons about the music business early in its career. Sixpence None the Richer inked a deal with Nashville independent label R.E.X. Records in 1992 and started out promisingly enough, playing clubs and opening for acts such as 10, 000 Maniacs and the Smithereens. While on R.E.X., the band released three albums—the acclaimed The Fatherless and the Widow in 1993, Dove award winner This Beautiful Mess in 1995, and Tickets fora Prayer Wheel in 1995—before watching their career stall when the financially-troubled label shuttered its doors. The band reportedly spent a year wrangling with the label’s corporate parent before it was freed to sign in 1997 with a new independent label, Nashville-based Squint Entertainment. The band, which moved its base from Texas to Nashville in 1996, became the flagship act for the label, run by producer and filmmaker Steve Taylor.
Members include Dale Baker (born in Branson, MO), drums; Justin Cary (joined band c. 1998), bass; Sean Kelly (joined band c. 1998), rhythm guitar; Leigh Nash (born Leigh Bingham, June 27, 1976, New Braunfels, TX), vocals; Matt Slocum (born December 27, 1972, Providence, RI), guitars, cello.
Group formed in Austin, TX area, 1991; signed deal with R.E.X. Records of Nashville, 1992; released debut album The Fatherless and the Widow, 1993; signed with Squint Entertainment of Nashville, 1997; released self-titled debut on Squint, 1997; single “Kiss Me” from Sixpence None the Richer certified gold, March 1999.
Awards: Gospel Music Association Dove Award for Alternative/Modern Rock Album for This Beautiful Mess, 1995.
Addresses: Record company —Squint Entertainment, P.O. Box 1137, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. Management— Proper Management Productions, P.O. Box 23069, Nashville, TN 37204. Band— Sixpence None the Richer, P.O. Box 125, Brentwood, TN 37024. Website— http://www.sixpence-ntr.com.
In November of 1997, Sixpence None the Richer released its self-titled Squint debut, an album that featured the work of legendary producer Bob Clearmountain. The album slowly but steadily attracted interest and praise from both critics and audiences. In a 1999 Request review, Jim Meyer wrote of Slocum, the group’s songwriter, that the “classically trained rocker skillfully adds a symphonic grace to his gently moving pop songs,” while Lou Carlozo called the album “breathtaking” in a 1998 Chicago Tribune review. Doug Brumley of Nashville Scene had equally high praise for what he dubbed the band’s “literate art-pop,” and wrote that “Slocum’s pensive lyrics reference works by W.H. Auden and Pablo Neruda, while layered instrumentation mixes string arrangements, pedal steel, and hurdy gurdy with catchy guitar riffs and Leigh Nash’s bold yet coyly appealing vocals.” Sixpence None the Richerwas nominated for a Grammy award, and the band was selected to play on the Lillith Fair tour in 1998, an event which helped introduce the act to more listeners.
Though Sixpence None the Richergamered much critical success, it was “Kiss Me” that got a spotlight trained on the band. Atop five hit on a number of different charts, the song found its way into the animated MTV show Daria, the NBC show Providence, the soap opera The Young and the Restless, and the NBC movie Vanished Without a Trace. Certified gold in March of 1999, the song also landed the band performance spots on The Tonight Show, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, and the Late Show with David Letterman, among others. Having played with performers ranging from The Wallflowers to Smash Mouth and Brian Setzer to Cher, the band was slated to play several dates on the 1999 Lillith Fair tour.
Even in the midst of their success, some band members have found time to participate in other projects. Slocum, who studied cello in college, played the instrument on Natalie Imbruglia’s Left of the Middle album, and Nash was the celebrity host of an episode of cable music network VH1 ’s Women First that aired in March of 1999.
Sixpence None the Richer has also benefited from the solid working relationship between Nash and Slocum. In interviews, Slocum has consistently praised Nash’s singing, a favor Nash has returned. As she told Deborah Evans Price in a 1998 Billboard interview, “I’m his biggest fan. I love singing his songs.”
In spite of their fan base in the Christian community and the spiritual nature of many of their songs, Sixpence has been somewhat resistant to the “Christian rock” tag. As Slocum noted in a 1998 interview in the Kane County Chronicle, “We don’t really want the label ’Christian band, ’ because it is a label that has become meaningless. It is more of a marketing thing; it doesn’t really have to do with your faith. We don’t want to exclude anyone. We want to make music for everyone, not just for a subculture.”
Though still a young band, Sixpence None the Richer has made a powerful impression on some music industry veterans. “Their songs immediately jumped out as something refreshingly different and quite appealing to me,” Clearmountain told Price in 1998. “I found myself totally mesmerized by Leigh Nash’s dreamy yet provocative vocals.… Having come up with a fantastic album, I believe they’ve embarked on a potentially long and extremely successful career.”
The Fatherless and the Widow, R.E.X. Records, 1993.
This Beautiful Mess, R.E.X. Records, 1995.
Tickets fora Prayer Wheel, R.E.X. Records, 1995.
Sixpence None the Richer, Squint Entertainment, 1997.
Album Network, May 22, 1998.
Austin American Statesman, December 17, 1998.
Austin Chronicle, May 22, 1998.
Billboard, April 4, 1998; July 4, 1998; August 22, 1998; December 12, 1998; April 3, 1999.
Chicago Tribune, August 2, 1998.
CMJ New Music Report, February 23, 1998; April 20, 1998.
Detroit Free Press, August 28, 1998.
Detroit News, August 27, 1998.
Entertainment Today, September 17, 1998; February 19, 1999.
Gavin, September 18, 1998; December 18, 1998.
HITS, September 25, 1998.
Kane County Chronicle (llllinois), November 27, 1998.
Los Angeles Times, May 1, 1999.
Nashville Scene, December 17, 1998.
Performing Songwriter, November 1998.
Request, March 1999.
Spin, June 1999.
Spot Magazine (Ohio), December 24, 1998.
Tennessean, February 2, 1999; February 3, 1999.
“Sixpence None the Richer,” http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/christian_music/4056.
“Sixpence None the Richer” (originally from The Lighthouse, January 1994), http://tlem.netcentral.net/old/sixpence_ntr_9401.html.
Additional information was provided by Squint Entertainment publicity materials, 1999.
—K. Michelle Moran
"Sixpence None the Richer." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 13, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/sixpence-none-richer
"Sixpence None the Richer." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved November 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/sixpence-none-richer
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