British singer and songwriter PJ Harvey was introduced to music at an early age and began writing songs as a teenager and joined with bassist Steve Vaughn and drummer Robert Ellis to create PJ Harvey in 1991. She is best known for her wide range of musical styles, exploring rock, electronica and folk. Outside of music, Harvey also expresses herself through art.
Born Polly Jean Harvey on October 9, 1969, in Corscombe, England, PJ spent her early years on her family's farm in rural England. Both of her parents loved music and introduced her to blues, jazz and rock.
As a teenager, Harvey began writing songs and learning to play different instruments. She also had a passion for art. For a time, Harvey thought she would pursue a college degree in art, but music soon won out. She joined with bassist Steve Vaughn and drummer Robert Ellis to create PJ Harvey in 1991. The group released two singles in England—"Dress" and "Sheela-Na-Gig"—both of which attracted a lot of positive reviews. The trio built on their early success with their first album Dry the following year.
By the time the tour for their second album Rid of Me (1993) ended, Vaughn and Ellis had left the group. Harvey continued on, releasing her first truly solo effort, To Bring You My Love in 1995. "I knew all along that I'd want to work with different musicians eventually, which is why I used my own name for the group. I wanted to be completely freed up by not having to limit my writing to what I thought they would be able to perform," Harvey told the press at the time.
The album proved to be a career breakthrough for Harvey. Praised by critics, To Bring You My Love made her into one of the darlings of alternative rock. It featured her greatest American hit to date, "Down by the Water." The video for the song was played frequently on MTV, and she developed quite a following among the modern rock set.
Since this first wave of success, Harvey has continued to record and tour. Her music has evolved over the years. One critic described her career as "brilliantly mercurial" with her songs "leaping between the intimate and the mythic." Still "her sound is too abrasive, her lyrics too intense to enter the mainstream," wrote another critic.
Harvey has also found time to work with other artists. One of her most fruitful collaborations has been with John Parish. She and Parish have recorded two albums together, Dance Hall at Louse Point (1996) and A Woman A Man Walked By (2009). Harvey has worked behind the scenes as well, serving as a producer for Tiffany Anders and Marianne Faithfull.
Most recently, Harvey released Let England Shake (2011), on which the artist took a more political stance. She told a reporter that she is "taking a look at the world and what happening in the current world affairs" on the album. But she doesn't "feel qualified to sing from a political standpoint. I sing as a human being affected by politics."
Outside of music, Harvey also expresses herself through her art. She has created and exhibited numerous paintings, drawings, and sculptures. At present, Harvey is working with photojournalist Seamus Murphy on a joint project.
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