Gillian Welch is a singer-songwriter whose musical style combines elements of bluegrass, neotraditional country, americana, old time string band music and folk into a rustic style that she dubs “American Primitive”. Her music is often described as haunting or soothing.
Welch was born in Manhattan and was adopted when she was three days old. She moved to Los Angeles at the age of four. By the age of seven, she had learned to play the guitar. Studying at the University of California, Santa Cruz Welch discovered bluegrass music through the “mountain soul” stylings of The Stanley Brothers. After a short stint in a local band, Welch moved to Boston and studied at the Berklee College of Music.
In Boston, Welch met and began dating David Rawlings, who would become her longtime musical partner. In 1992, they moved to Nashville and began building a career. In Nashville, she met T-Bone Burnett, producer to such artists as Los Lobos, Sam Phillips, Counting Crows, and Elvis Costello. In 1996, Welch released her first album, Revival, which was nominated for a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album in 1997. Since then, she has recorded other albums and collaborated on the songs “Didn’t Leave Nobody But the Baby” and “I’ll Fly Away” on the soundtrack of the Coen Brothers hit O Brother, Where Art Thou?.
Welch has also collaborated with good friend and singer/songwriter Ryan Adams on the albums Heartbreaker, Gold, and Demolition. She and Rawlings toured with Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, and Buddy Miller in 2004 as The Sweet Harmony Traveling Revue. Welch and Rawlings have collaborated with Old Crow Medicine Show and appear in their video of their song “Wagon Wheel”.
It’s also of note that Welch covered the Radiohead track “Black Star” with her own distinctive sound in at least one live set. A recording of this cover has not been released on any album, but is widely available online.