An Open Letter to Sixpence None the Richer

Dear Matt & Leigh,

I’m a big fan. One of the biggest. I first heard Sixpence None the Richer 20 years ago, and for most of that time you have been my favorite band. This Beautiful Mess is my favorite album of all time. Maybe I am living in the past, but that is how I feel. I love all of your music though, and I am thrilled that you seem to be on the cusp of releasing your fifth studio album (finally).

Yesterday Invisible Creature posted your new album cover they designed on their blog. I love it; it is beautiful. Very different from past Sixpence albums; and it should be considering it has been a decade since Divine Discontent was released.

I am sorry that you have had so many record label problems in your career. I know it sucks, and as a big fan it has sucked for me as well because it has greatly limited the amount of Sixpence I have been able to hear. I know it has been especially frustrating as of late because Lost in Transition has been lost for two years. Strange Conversation was supposed to be released in August of 2010, I don’t know why it wasn’t, but I am sure it is nice that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Both the original and new album titles seem fitting, and I am sure you glad your transition is over.

When I discovered the new album cover there was a link that led me to your newly updated website, which I was excited to pore over. The track list for Lost in Transition was a highlight. (The biggest initial negative was the incorrect tracklisting for This Beautiful Mess and the absence of your wonderful EPs, Tickets for a Prayer Wheel and My Dear Machine). But what got me most excited was a link that said “LAUNCH THE PLAYER”. I quickly did, and couldn’t wait to hear some new Sixpence tunes. However, to my dismay, the player contains the last four songs of yours I wanted to hear.

If I want to listen to “Kiss Me,” “There She Goes”, “Breathe Your Name,” and “Don’t Dream It’s Over” all I have to do is go to Walmart or Chili’s and I’ll hear them over the intercom. “Kiss Me” and “Breathe Your Name” are fine songs. I liked them the first time I heard them and they are good in the context of the albums they were released on. But they are old. And overplayed. The other two… we’ll, you didn’t even write them. They were fine to play as covers in concert a dozen years ago, but I am under the impression that you didn’t even want to record them and a record label pressured you to add them to your CDs. One proof of that is that there are versions of Sixpence None the Richer that don’t contain “There She Goes” and versions of Divine Discontent that don’t contain “Don’t Dream It’s Over”. (These are great songs by the way, but if I want to hear them I’ll listen to the La’s or Crowded House.)

The main reason I don’t want to hear these songs anymore though is because most every song you two have ever written is BETTER! According to my collection, you have written and released over 60 original songs (not including covers). At least 50 of them are better than all four of the songs you currently have streaming on your website. Maybe you don’t believe this, but at least one of your sets of fans does.

That’s right guys, you have two sets of fans. One set comes to your concert waiting and begging for you to play “Kiss Me”. But there is another set that hopes you play anything but and are standing there thinking how cool it would be if you played “Meaningless” again and jammed for 20 minutes. One set of fans knows you for those four songs you have on your website. But those ARE THE ONLY SONGS THEY KNOW. They don’t care that your self-titled album was a masterpiece meant to be heard as a whole. They can’t believe that it used to end with the appropriate “Moving On.” (Honestly, they don’t even know you have a song called “Moving On.”)

Which set of fans is more important? The set that gets high off “There She Goes” and has 4 Sixpence mp3s on their iPod shuffle, or the set that LOVES everything you have done and owns 7 (at least) of your CDs? Who are you trying to reach with your website and new music? The fan that can’t wait to download only the new single “Radio” from iTunes or the fan that can’t wait to pre-order a deluxe Lost in Transition package which contains an autographed poster, a t-shirt, and a double vinyl LP? You may be surprised, but that second set of fans is out there. I am one of them. My most prized Sixpence possession is the vinyl LP I own of the self-titled album. Although as much as I love it, I am still mad you took “Easy to Ignore” off of it because there wasn’t room on side 1. (And speaking of “Easy to Ignore”, I still remember when that song was called “One Night.”)

Am I crazy? Yes. But I LOVE you guys. I want you to have fun and release as much new music as possible. But I also want to make you aware of the die-hard fans, the ones that have followed you for 15, if not 20 years. You can find them here. They want to give you money. 

My blog has 302 posts since 2003. My most-viewed post is titled “Sixpence None the Richer- Strange Conversation” and has 2901 views. My second-viewed post is “1997” and has 1551 views. (Guess what album I ranked as #1 in 1997?) Your true fans are out there, and they want to hear new music. Many of them want a copy of the My Dear Machine EP but have no way to get it. I am going to help them out until you can provide them a way to buy it. (You gave it away for free originally so hopefully you are OK with it being free now.) How about putting it on Bandcamp and let them stream it for free or buy it for $4? How about using Kickstarter to raise some funds for a vinyl version of Lost in Transition? Steve Taylor used Kickstarter fairly successfully. My brother is also doing it. He only has 100 fans, you have thousands. 

Fans have been wondering what is up now for years. Those of us who got all excited in 2008 have been beside ourselves for the 3 ½ years since. The My Dear Machine EP is awesome and The Dawn of Grace is excellent. My 4-year-old son begs to listen to that Christmas album weekly (and it is April). “Around” and “Prayer” prove you are still writing highly creative songs with instrumental breakdowns. I can’t wait for more. Hopefully you are done with labels and will now put out an LP per year indefinitely.

Lastly, what is up with your setlists? I have seen you guys in concert 15+ times, but unfortunately not once since 2002. In 1998 I saw you guys play three times in one week in Franklin, TN. I agree that you should play mostly new songs from the new album. From the recent setlists I have seen it seems you are forgetting you released 3 albums in the 1990's. How about throwing in some of your best work every once in awhile? How about “Musings” or “Love, Salvation, Fear of Death” or “Puedo Escribir” or “Dizzy”? How about using “Healer” as your encore again? How would you feel if you went to a U2 show and they didn’t play anything from Joshua Tree? (It’s up for debate which of your albums is the equivalent to Joshua Tree, but your die-hard fans debate between This Beautiful Mess and the self-titled album.)

I care and I am willing to help. Now give us that new album! (Put up a deluxe pre-order option like this, we'll buy it.)

Alan Parish

P.S. If you are a fan and reading this, please comment.

4/25/10 8:48 a.m. UPDATE:
After 5 days, this post has 670+ pageviews, which makes it the 8th most-viewed post on my blog EVER. I took a screenshot of the top-10 stats, and every other post in the top 10 is at least 10 months old (if not a couple of years old). In the next couple hours it will become the 6th most-viewed. My blog has been around 10 years and never gotten this much traffic. Also of note, 5 of the 10 posts in this top-10 are Sixpence-related.

I am blown away and thrilled that the letter is resonating so much with Sixpence's fans. However, I can only hope that Matt and Leigh read it, because if they don't, it serves no purpose.