With her spiky blunt cut and airy vocals, Leigh Nash was one of the enduring images of 1990s pop music. She and guitarist Matt Slocum formed the Christian alternative rock band Sixpence None the Richer in Texas before settling and making a name for themselves in Nashville, Tennessee.
Their hits were few but distinct and included the ’90s theme song “Kiss Me” and covers of “There She Goes” by The La’s, and “Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House. They continued to perform in the United States, but their popularity diminished in the early 2000s.
Two months ago, the band 10,000 Maniacs announced they had taken on Nash as their new lead vocalist and Slocum as guitarist after learning that vocalist Mary Ramsey and guitarist Jeff Erickson were leaving the band “to pursue other interests.” “After 30 years and five albums as 10,000 Maniacs lead singer and violist, Mary Ramsey will be taking a step back from her primary role in the band,” a statement released on their website maniacs.com read. “As we begin to usher in the new era, we will also say goodbye to Maniacs’ guitarist Jeff Erickson after 20 years of touring and recording with the band.”
Its other members include drummer Jerome Augustyniak, keyboardist Dennis Drew, bass guitarist Steven Gustafson and guitarist John Lombardo.
Nash and Slocum began playing with the band in mid-May, although no announcements had been made by then. It’s interesting to see how Nash will perform the songs in the band’s catalog, many of which were written and popularized by Natalie Merchant whose voice is inextricably linked with 10,000 Maniacs.
In 1981, at the age of 17, Merchant joined the Maniacs and stayed for 12 years before leaving to pursue a solo career. She cited “a lack of creative control” for leaving and went on to release “Tigerlily” in 1995, her first solo album that would go on to sell 5 million copies.
The songs she wrote for the band read like poetry and include “These Are Days,” “Like the Weather” and “Trouble Me.” One of the most evocative stanzas for this writer is from “Verdi Cries,” from the band’s 1987 album “In My Tribe,” where she writes: “I draw a jackal-headed woman in the sand/ Sing of a lover’s fate sealed by jealous hate/ Then wash my hand in the sea.”
Ramsey has been with the band the longest, playing the violin and viola, and doing backup vocals on the band’s 1993 “MTV Unplugged” album. She took over as lead vocalist and songwriter after Merchant left. The band had another vocalist, Oskar Saville, who performed with them from 2002 to 2007 until Ramsey eventually returned.
As 10,000 Maniacs starts its “new era” with its new vocalist and guitarist, they’re already busy planning shows for their 2024 Revival Tour.
“We’re very excited to be playing again and especially excited with two tremendous musicians, Leigh Nash and Matt Slocum from Sixpence None The Richer,” they announced on their website.
“We plan on playing all the old haunts and some new ones, and hope to see you there. Our first shows with Leigh and Matt sold out and we’re looking forward to more of those,” they added.