Stephin Merritt

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Stephin Merritt
Stephin Merritt at Cadogan Hall, London, July 2008.
Background information
Birth nameStephin Raymond Merritt
Born (1965-02-09) February 9, 1965 (age 54)
Yonkers, New York[1]
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, ukulele, piano, keyboards, synthesizers, autoharp, xylophone, percussion
Associated actsThe Magnetic Fields
The 6ths
The Gothic Archies
Future Bible Heroes

Stephin Raymond Merritt (born February 9, 1965)[3] is an American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, best known as the songwriter and principal singer of the bands The Magnetic Fields, The Gothic Archies, and Future Bible Heroes. He is known for his distinctive and untrained bass voice.[4][5]

Musical projects[edit]

Merritt created and plays principal roles in the bands The Magnetic Fields,[5] The 6ths, The Gothic Archies and Future Bible Heroes.[4] He briefly used the name The Baudelaire Memorial Orchestra as an attribution for a song written for Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, entitled "Scream and Run Away". Further music was recorded for the audiobook versions of the series and is attributed to The Gothic Archies. The Tragic Treasury was released by Nonesuch Records in October 2006 along with the 13th and final book of the series.[6]

Under his own name, he recorded and released the soundtracks to the films Eban and Charley and Pieces of April. The soundtrack to the Nickelodeon show The Adventures of Pete & Pete featured many of his songs.

He and director Chen Shi-Zheng have collaborated on three pieces of musical theatre; The Orphan of Zhao (2003), Peach Blossom Fan (2004) and My Life as a Fairy Tale (2005).[7] Selected tracks from these works have been released on Nonesuch Records under the title Showtunes.

Additionally, he is one-third of the infrequent, live-only ensemble the Three Terrors, whose other principal members include 69 Love Songs's Dudley Klute and LD Beghtol. Past themes of these performances have included French pop music, movie themes (including the title song from Deep Throat), intoxication and New York City. Kenny Mellman (of Kiki & Herb), James Jacobs, Daniel Handler, Jon DeRosa and others have performed with The Three Terrors at these sporadic gala events.

Merritt wrote and sang "I'm in a Lonely Way" in a television commercial for Volvo that aired in the summer and fall of 2007. He also performed "The Wheels on the Car".

Merritt penned the music and lyrics for a 2009 Off-Broadway stage musical adaptation of Coraline, a novel by Neil Gaiman. In the MCC Theater production, his music will be performed by a piano "orchestra" – complete with a traditional piano, a toy piano and a prepared piano (a piano that has had its sound altered by attaching objects – such as tin foil, rubber bands and playing cards – to the strings).[8]

He produced a score for the silent film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea that was performed at the Castro Theatre, San Francisco on May 4, 2010 as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival.[9]

Personal life[edit]

Growing up, Merritt used different spellings of his name for different purposes.[10] "Stephin" was one such pseudonym that he used to sort his junk mail,[11] and that became the spelling he used as a musician.[10]

Prior to 2013, Merritt had never met his biological father, folk singer Scott Fagan,[12] who had a brief affair with Merritt's mother, Alix Merritt. The three met at a screening of the film AKA Doc Pomus in 2013. Merritt's relationship with his father is described in the song "'99: Fathers in the Clouds", on the Magnetic Fields album 50 Song Memoir. Merritt attended Massachusetts high school The Cambridge School of Weston and briefly attended NYU before moving back to Boston. He has worked as an editor for Spin Magazine and Time Out New York.

Merritt is known for having a dry personality, embracing a persona and life that is very different from the traditional rock star image. In September 2005, an interviewer quoted an anonymous reviewer to Bob Mould that Mould was "the most depressed man in rock." Mould's response was "He's never met Stephin Merritt, obviously."[13]

Merritt suffers from a hearing condition known as hyperacusis, which he refers to in the songs "'79: Rock n' Roll Will Ruin Your Life" and "'92: Weird Diseases" on the Magnetic Fields album 50 Song Memoir. Any sound heard louder than normal begins to "feedback" in his left ear at increasingly louder volumes. This has largely influenced the reserved live setup of The Magnetic Fields, which usually consists of acoustic instruments and little to no percussion. Merritt also wears earplugs during performances, and typically covers his left ear when the audience applauds.[14]

Merritt is the subject of a documentary, Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields, which premiered in March 2010.[15]

Merritt is an atheist, wears only brown clothing,[16] is openly gay[17] and a vegan, saying, "I ain't eat an animal since 1983."[18]

Solo discography[edit]


  1. ^ Hunter, James (October 18, 1999). "Unsung East Village Songwriter And His 69 Love Songs". Observer. Retrieved September 11, 2018.
  2. ^ "Perfume Genius Put Your Back N 2 It". Pitchfork. Retrieved August 10, 2016.
  3. ^ United States Copyright Office, Copyright Catalog (1978 to present) [Search by: Name (Merritt, Stephin) – Merritt, Stephin, 1965-]
  4. ^ a b Grow, Kory. “Stephen Merritt: My Life in 15 Songs”. Rolling Stone. 30 October 2015.
  5. ^ a b Felicia Barr and Bill McKenna (Eds.). “Stephen Merritt: 50 Songs for 50 Years”. BBC News. 5 December 2016.
  6. ^ Merritt, Snicket and the 'Tragic Treasury', All Things Considered December 3, 2006
  7. ^ Brantley, Ben. Exploring the Shadows of a Sunny Writer's Nightmare New York Times. July 29, 2005.
  8. ^ ""Coraline" music". MCC Theater. Retrieved April 9, 2009.
  9. ^ Khanna, Vish (January 28, 2010). "Exclusive: Stephin Merritt Promises to Return to the Synth on Next Magnetic Fields Album, Scores 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea".
  10. ^ a b Khanna, Vish (January 22, 2010). "Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields: It's Only Time". Exclaim!.
  11. ^ Gallivan, Joseph (April 14, 2000). "The order of Merritt". The Independent.
  12. ^ "Conversations With Scott Fagan". Archived from the original on August 14, 2018.
  13. ^ Ryan, Kyle (September 21, 2005). "Interview: Bob Mould". The Onion. Retrieved December 22, 2013.
  14. ^ "The Magnetic Fields in Concert". Creators at Carnegie. National Public Radio. May 31, 2005. Retrieved August 27, 2005.
  15. ^ "Past Screenings | Strange Powers – Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields". Retrieved May 3, 2013.
  16. ^ "One Is the Loveliest Color Share: Stephin Merritt". New York. February 25, 2008.
  17. ^ Broverman, Neal (February 4, 2010). "Magnetic Fields Stephin Merritt". Retrieved May 3, 2013.
  18. ^ Bukszpan, David (October 11, 2014). "Well, La Ti Da: Stephin Merritt's Winning Little Words of Scrabble". The Daily Beast.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]