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Petra Haden

About this Artist

In a restlessly eclectic, wholly unique musical career that spans over two and a half decades, Petra Haden has established a singular reputation for creativity and versatility, and a unique niche that's allowed her to apply her multiple talents to a dazzlingly diverse array of music.

As a singer, instrumentalist, and composer, Haden has built an impressively varied and accomplished discography encompassing her work as part of the 1990’s alt-rock quartet That Dog, her collaborations with a broad array of acts, and a series of her own releases, which often showcase her unique talent for constructing complex, evocative A-Cappella arrangements by inventively layering multiple tracks of her own voice. In 1996 she released her first solo album, IMAGINARYLAND, which introduced her method of layering her vocals in unexpected and wonderful ways.

Her 2005 album Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out, reimagined The Who's 1967 classic through her tour de force A-Cappella interpretation. The complexity of Petra's massed vocals belied the fact that she constructed the tracks at home while recovering from some serious injuries from an auto accident, recording on an eight-channel cassette recorder given to her by friend Mike Watt.

Petra Haden Sings The Who Sell Out's admirers included The Who's Pete Townshend, who commented, "I heard the music as if for the first time. I listened to all the way through in one sitting and was struck by how beautiful a lot of the music was. Petra's approach is so tender and generous. I felt like I’d received something better than a grammy. I adore it."

Haden's 2013 album Petra Goes to the Movies (Produced by Justin Burnett) was a typically ambitious effort that reflects her lifelong fascination with film scoring. On it, she layered her vocals to create personalized reinventions of classic Hollywood film scores ranging from Rebel Without A Cause to Psycho. Petra also put her scoring skills to good use on assignments for various film, TV and commercial soundtracks. In 2010, for instance, she scored a trio of Toyota Prius commercials, composing and recording her own A-Cappella originals for two and creating an inventive A-Cappella version of the Bellamy Brothers' "Let Your Love Flow" for the third. In 2014, Petra scored the music to the short film “Dog Bowl” (written and directed by Gordy Hoffman). She wrote the entire score using just her voice.

What Haden's far-flung creative endeavors share in common is a consistent sense of adventure and expression, along with a playful sensibility that gives her projects a consistently uplifting, inventive spirit that marks them as uniquely hers.

As one of the triplet daughters of the late, legendary jazz bassist and composer Charlie Haden, Petra was literally born into a life in music. She first picked up the violin at the age of 8, after seeing a young violinist play on a Children’s TV show. “She was playing “Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov. “Her fingers were flying all over the fingerboard of the violin and the look on her face was so intense. I remember thinking, ‘that’s what I wanna do’.”

Petra's early fascination with the violin and other instruments led her to develop an uncanny ability to use her voice to recreate the sounds of the instruments she heard, and to develop elaborate pop, jazz, blues and classical arrangements based on those sounds. While she was in high school, her father bought her a four-track recording deck, on which she taught herself to overdub multiple vocal tracks.

In 2014, she teamed with sisters Rachel and Tanya to record the widely celebrated album,” The Haden Triplets”, produced by Ry Cooder. The three sisters (along with their brother Josh, who leads the band Spain) had previously recorded together on their father's autobiographical 2008 album Rambling Boy. “The Haden Triplets: The Family Songbook” was Produced by composer Woody Jackson and was released January 2020. The album includes 4 unearthed songs written by their grandfather, Carl E. Haden.

In 2015, Petra teamed up with producer, guitarist, vocalist, and composer Jesse Harris, one of the 21st Century’s top songwriters and released: Petra Haden Sings Jesse Harris, “Seemed Like a Good Idea” (Sunnyside)

Thanks to these and other projects, Petra's skill for vocal harmony and instrumental accompaniment led to her voice and/or violin appearing on albums by the likes of Foo Fighters, Green Day, The Decemberists, Beck, John Zorn, Jesse Harris, The Twilight Singers, Rufus Wainwright, Mike Watt, her brother Josh Haden’s band Spain, Cornelius, Sunn O))), Megan Mullally’s group: ‘Nancy & Beth’, Susanna Hoffs, Bill Frisell, Paul Motian, Victoria Williams and more.

She won substantial acclaim for 2005 Petra Haden and Bill Frisell, which matched her vocal inventiveness with the vision of master guitarist Frisell on a set of pop standards ranging from Gershwin to Tom Waits. You can also hear her on Bill’s albums: “When You Wish Upon a Star” (2016) and “Harmony” (2019).

In 2020, John Zorn and Jesse Harris released “Songs for Petra.” Singer Petra Haden excels in this beautiful and unique program of songs penned by the songwriting team of John Zorn and Jesse Harris. Friends for many years, they began working together on The Song Project in 2012, and eight years later this CD presents the full fruits of their collaboration: thirteen Zorn compositions with original lyrics by Jesse Harris. Including selections from a wide variety of Zorn CDs (and one original that has never appeared on CD before), the melodies are catchy, the lyrics heartfelt, the grooves deep, and the solos profound and exhilarating. Backed by the amazing Julian Lage, Jorge Roeder and Kenny Wollesen and produced by Jesse Harris.

Coming up in 2022, Petra will release: “Devotional”, a magical collaboration with Greg Anderson from (Sunn O))).

“I love these words from my Dad and try to live by this every day: ‘I want to take people away from the ugliness and sadness around us every day and bring beautiful, deep music to as many people as I can.’”