Heavily influenced by the confessional alternative folk stylings of Ani DiFranco, Anaïs Mitchell began writing songs when she was 17. Born in Vermont, she attended Middlebury College and traveled throughout the Middle East, Latin America, and Europe studying global politics before alighting in Austin, TX, in the early 2000s. She released her first album, The Song They Sang When Rome Fell, in 2002. Mitchell performed at the Kerrville Folk Festival the following year, where she was awarded with the New Folk award. Her second album, Hymns for the Exiled, came out on Waterbug Records in 2004, and a copy eventually made its way to DiFranco herself. The folk icon attended a few of Mitchell's performances and offered her a deal at Righteous Babe Records soon after. The Brightness, Mitchell's debut on that label, arrived in February 2007.
Her 2010 "folk-opera" Hadestown is an honest-to-god album, the kind whose songs tell a story from beginning to end—specifically, the ancient Greek myth of the poet Orpheus and his doomed quest to rescue his wife Eurydice from the underworld. In Mitchell’s hands, the familiar saga is reimagined as unfolding in a version of the U.S. that simultaneously evokes our Depression-era past, the current financial disaster (though it was written before the stock market collapse), and a post-apocalyptic future. It’s a land where people hide behind walls in a misguided attempt to preserve their “freedom” and protect their riches.
From its opening notes, Hadestown is packed with irresistible melodies and the kind of plainspoken poetry that is a hallmark of Mitchell’s songwriting. It’s a love story set at a time “when the chips are down”—an epic tale on a personal scale, a saga both ancient and new, mythical and all too real.