Motherland is the third solo album by Natalie Merchant, released in 2001. It was her last mainstream record to be released via her label Elektra Records. Though Merchant is still signed to Elektra Records, she has yet to release another mainstream album.
The album is musically eclectic, varying from Middle Eastern violin–reggae beat fusion "This House Is on Fire" to 10,000 Maniacs-sounding "Tell Yourself". Folky "Motherland" precedes stylistically Merchant's next album, The House Carpenter's Daughter.
Originally, "The End" was supposed to appear on the album instead of "Not In This Life." Merchant noted that:
I'd take out one song, 'Not in This Life,' she said, referring to a midtempo meditation on love, because it seems frivolous to me now. And I'd put back a song called 'The End,' which probably would have gotten me in trouble. Part of the lyric goes: 'That'll be the end of war/ the end of the law of Bible, of Koran, Torah.' I really wanted to put it on the record, but I felt there was so much serious material already that I chose something lighter, for balance.
The album is dedicated to the victims of September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks upon the United States. However, the recording was finished two days before the event, so the songs are not influenced by it. The event has still affected people's interpretations of the lyrics. Additionally, the cover was changed at the last minute to accommodate the post-9/11 world. Her original concept for the photograph on the album cover was a picture of children in a field wearing oxygen masks. We shot these kids in upstate New York on Sept 10, she recalled. And then we were going to reshoot on the 11th. Of course we canceled the session. The day I brought the pictures into the city, there were articles on the run here for Cipro and gas masks. I was getting pressure, anyway, from the record label, friends even, that the image was too controversial. So finally I gave in. A photograph of a demure-looking Ms. Merchant was used instead.