the arkive

PJ Harvey

From the outset of her career, the work of PJ Harvey has commanded attention. A multi-instrumentalist, she is primarily a vocalist, guitarist and pianist, while also an accomplished player of the autoharp.

In 1991, Harvey formed the eponymous bass/drums/guitar trio in Dorset, England and by that autumn had released the debut single ‘Dress’ on independent label, Too Pure. Dry, released March 1992, was hailed globally as an astonishing debut album, particularly in the United States, where Rolling Stone magazine named Harvey ‘Best Songwriter’ and ‘Best New Female Singer’ of 1992.

In 1993, she signed to Island Records and released her second album Rid Of Me. The album, supported by a lengthy world tour, garnered Harvey her first Mercury Music Prize nomination. The original trio dissolved and Harvey’s solo follow-up, 4-Track Demos was released in the autumn of 1993.

To Bring You My Love, an eclectic and starkly original album followed in 1995, and was accompanied by live performances that saw Harvey explore a more theatrical edge on stage. She received her second Mercury Music Prize nomination, two Grammy Award nominations, and ‘Artist of the Year’ awards from both Rolling Stone and Spin.

Her fourth album Is This Desire? released in September 1998, attracted plaudits globally, gaining several BRIT and Grammy Award nominations. The much anticipated follow up, Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea, was released in October 2000 and went on to win Harvey’s first Mercury Music Prize. ‘Stories…’ was supported by a sold-out worldwide tour. After a summer of live dates, including the first rock concert to be held at London’s Tate Modern gallery, Harvey finished work on her next album, Uh Huh Her.

White Chalk was her critically-acclaimed seventh studio album, which marked a departure as it was composed almost entirely on piano. It was supported by a string of notable solo performances including Manchester International Festival, The Royal Festival Hall, the Hay-On-Wye Festival of Literature, the New Yorker Festival, Sydney Opera House and a performance at Copenhagen Opera House for the Crown Prince couple.

In 2006 PJ Harvey: The Peel Sessions was released – a collection of recordings for the veteran British broadcaster John Peel, spanning her career to date.

Harvey’s 2011 album, Let England Shake, was created with a cast of musicians and long-standing collaborators Flood, John Parish, and Mick Harvey. The songs focus on both her home country and events further afield in which it has embroiled itself. The record evokes the troubled spirit of its time, whilst also looking back through our history. Let England Shake won Harvey her second Mercury Music Prize, setting her apart as the only artist to have won the award on two occasions, an achievement recognised by The Guinness Book Of Records. The album was also awarded ‘Album of the Year’ at the 2012 Ivor Novello Awards and was named ‘#1 Album of the Year’ by numerous publications including The Sunday Times, Los Angeles Times, Mojo, Uncut, Washington Post, The Guardian, NME, Spin, Sydney Morning Herald, Le Matin, OOR Magazine, Irish Times, The Independent, and The Sunday Telegraph. Prior to the album’s release, in May 2010, Harvey made a guest appearance on BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show, the week before the UK General Election. She was interviewed by Marr and performed the song ‘Let England Shake’ in front of Marr’s other guest, the then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. She was invited back on the show in April 2011 alongside Brown’s successor, Prime Minister David Cameron, and performed the song ‘The Last Living Rose’.

Let England Shake was accompanied by 12 short films by award-winning photojournalist Seamus Murphy. Murphy, with whom Harvey began working in 2011, has spent over two decades documenting the world through his lens. His work has taken him to Rwanda, Eritrea, Kosovo, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

Harvey’s work with Murphy continued over subsequent years, with the pair accompanying each other on trips to Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Washington D.C. This unique artistic, journalistic and photographic journey became Harvey’s ninth studio album, The Hope Six Demolition Project. In early 2015, the album was recorded during a month-long and groundbreaking residency, called ‘Recording in Progress’ at London’s Somerset House, during which audiences were given the opportunity to observe Harvey at work with her band and producers in a purpose-built studio housed in the basement of the iconic London building. The Hope Six Demolition Project was released in April 2016 and became Harvey’s first UK number 1 album.

In 2019 Harvey released her first original theatrical score album, All About Eve, via Invada Records & Lakeshore Records. The 12-track album contains 10 original pieces of instrumental music as well as two new songs written by Harvey and sung by Gillian Anderson and Lily James. Harvey’s score for All About Eve, is performed by herself, James Johnston and Kenrick Rowe, and uses Franz Liszt’s ‘Liebesträume’ (a musical element of Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s original 1950s classic film) as a musical touchstone, exploring the more somber and deeply psychological aspects of the story.

2020 sees the start of a comprehensive reissue campaign which sees PJ Harvey’s entire back catalogue – plus her two albums in collaboration with John Parish – released on vinyl over the course of 12 months. For the first time, each of PJ Harvey’s album demos will also be available as a stand-alone album on vinyl, CD and digital.

In 2013, Harvey was awarded an MBE for services to music. The following year, she was awarded an Honorary Degree in Music by Goldsmiths University. She has been nominated for several Grammy Awards and is the only artist in history to have won the Mercury Music Prize twice.

  • PJ Harvey