Jonathan Meiburg

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Jonathan Meiburg
Background information
Born (1976-03-01) March 1, 1976 (age 44)
GenresRock, folk rock, indie rock
Occupation(s)Singer-songwriter, author
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, piano, organ, synthesizer
Years active1998–present
LabelsGraveface, Sub Pop (as Shearwater)
Associated actsShearwater
Okkervil River
Bill Callahan
Blue Water White Death
Sharon van Etten
Wye Oak
Thor Harris
Hospital Ships
Whu Gnu

Jonathan Meiburg is an American musician and writer, best known as the lead singer and songwriter for Shearwater.


Meiburg was born in Baltimore, Maryland on March 1, 1976. His father, Stan Meiburg, was an influential environmental policy professional who served as Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Jonathan grew up in the southeastern United States, spending years in Raleigh, North Carolina. Meiburg earned his bachelor's degree in English with a minor in Religion from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, and received a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to study daily life in remote human communities. After a year spent in such diverse places as the Falkland Islands, Tierra del Fuego, the Aboriginal settlement of Kowanyama in Australia, the Chatham Islands of New Zealand, and the Inuit settlement of Kimmirut in Baffin Island, Canada, he enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a master's degree in geography with a thesis titled "The Biogeography of Striated Caracaras (Phalcoboenus australis)".[1]

He is an avid birder,[2] and the Shearwater name and various song and album titles reference birds.

Musical career[edit]

Meiburg first started his public musical career with Whu Gnu in 1993 in Austin, Texas. He first came to national prominence collaborating with Will Sheff on multiple projects: Meiburg played keyboards in a band led by Sheff called Okkervil River, and both men wrote songs for a new project Meiburg named Shearwater.[3] Due to the increased popularity of Shearwater and touring conflicts between the two acts, however, Meiburg left Okkervil River in May 2008.

Meiburg has performed and recorded as a solo artist. Buteo Buteo is a collection of early acoustic guitar and bass songs, self-published through Shearwater's Bandcamp site.[4] Why I Love My Home (Songs for Charles Burchfield) was initially a collaboration with Andy Stack of Wye Oak for the Whitney Museum of Art, but was recorded solo in the studio and self-released in 2011.[5]

In 2010, he collaborated with Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu on a recording project named Blue Water White Death. Their debut album was released in October 2010 on Graveface Records.[6]

Since 2017, Meiburg has been collaborating with Cross Record's Emily Cross and Dan Duszynski as the group Loma. Their self-titled debut album came out in February 2018 on the Sub Pop label, which is also home to Shearwater. Their second album, Don't Shy Away, released in October of 2020, features a mix by Brian Eno on the song "Homing."

He has also played live and recorded with Bill Callahan, Sharon Van Etten, Wye Oak, and others.


In November 2014, Meiburg announced via the Shearwater Facebook page that he had signed a contract to write his first book, which describes the evolutionary history of South America through the eyes of a family of falcons known as caracaras, for US publisher Knopf and UK publisher Bodley Head.[7] The book, entitled A Most Remarkable Creature: The Hidden Life and Epic Journey of the World's Smartest Birds of Prey, draws upon his longtime research into the subject and his travels in South America. It is scheduled to be released in March of 2021.

He has published articles in various national and international publications on a wide range of topics: interviews with producer and musician Brian Reitzell for Tape Op,[8] with author and human rights activist Zainab Salbi in The Believer;[9] a history of dioramas of the Whitney Wing of the American Museum of Natural History for The Appendix;[10] and numerous articles for online music magazine The Talkhouse, including a personal perspective on touring,[11] an account of a presentation by Brian Eno,[12] and a review of David Bowie's The Next Day.[13] His interview with author Peter Matthiessen, also for The Believer, was one of the last before Matthiessen's death in 2014.


  • 2004: Buteo Buteo by Jonathan Meiburg (self-released)
  • 2010: Blue Water White Death by Blue Water White Death (a collaboration between Jonathan Meiburg and Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu) (Graveface)
  • 2011: Why I Love My Home by Jonathan Meiburg (self-released)


  1. ^ Butler, Buck (Summer 2009). "Johnny Rook" (PDF). Sewanee Magazine: 18–27. Retrieved 21 October 2017.
  2. ^ Lund, Nick (2008). "Interview with Jonathan Meiburg of Shearwater". The Birdist. Retrieved 2015-06-07.
  3. ^ Bookey, Mike. "Boyd's Boyz | Music | The Pacific Northwest Inlander | News, Politics, Music, Calendar, Events in Spokane, Coeur d'Alene and the Inland Northwest". Retrieved 2015-06-18.
  4. ^ "Buteo Buteo | Shearwater". Retrieved 2015-06-18.
  5. ^ "Why I Love My Home (songs for Charles Burchfield) | Shearwater". Retrieved 2015-06-18.
  6. ^ Breihan, Tom (2010). "Shearwater's Meiburg + Xiu Xiu's Stewart = Blue Water White Death". Retrieved 2010-07-21.
  7. ^ "Shearwater - Timeline Photos". Facebook. Retrieved 2015-06-18.
  8. ^ "You Need the Right Kind of Melon: Brian Reitzell & His World of Film Music | Tape Op - the Creative Music Recording Magazine". Tape Op. Retrieved 2015-06-18.
  9. ^ "The Believer - Interview with Zainab Salbi". 2015-01-01. Retrieved 2015-06-18.
  10. ^ Meiburg, Jonathan (2013-08-22). "Inside the American Museum of Natural History's Hidden Masterpiece—Vol. 1, No. 3—The Appendix". Retrieved 2015-06-18.
  11. ^ "Jonathan Meiburg (Shearwater) Talks the Hidden Joys of Touring Life | The Talkhouse Music". 2014-07-12. Retrieved 2015-06-18.
  12. ^ "Jonathan Meiburg (Shearwater) Talks Brian Eno, the Man Who Fell to Earth | The Talkhouse". 2013-05-25. Archived from the original on 2015-06-18. Retrieved 2015-06-18.
  13. ^ "Jonathan Meiburg (Shearwater) Talks David Bowie's The Next Day | The Talkhouse Music". 2013-03-13. Retrieved 2015-06-18.

External links[edit]