Press Release



This morning, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced singer, songwriter,and multi-instrumentalist Rhiannon Giddens as a MacArthur Fellow. The MacArthur Fellowship offers an unrestricted $625,000 grant, distributed over five years, to, in the Foundation’s words,“individuals who show exceptional creativity in their work and the prospect for still more in the future.”

Giddens said of being awarded the Fellowship: “I am just thrilled! So many things I want to do – but the first thing is to thank whoever nominated and supported me for this grant – it means the world to me, and to the projects I have been longing to do”, and added in an interview with her home town paper, North Carolina’s News & Observer, “it’s gonna let me live a little bit. I’ll be able to pursue some things while not having to stay on the road so much to keep the lights on. This will let me tour a little less and work on larger projects I believe need to be done.” More info about Giddens and her Fellowship, including downloadable photos and video, is available here.

Among this year’s recipients, in addition to Giddens, are a painter, a psychologist, an immunologist, a computer scientist, a historian, a fiction writer, a designer and urban planner, a composer and musician, and a community leader. All Fellows were selected for their creativity, originality, and potential to make important contributions in the future.

“From transforming conditions for low-wage workers to identifying internet security vulnerabilities, from celebrating the African American string band tradition to designing resilient urban habitats, these new MacArthur Fellows bring their exceptional creativity to diverse people, places, and social challenges,” said Cecilia Conrad,  Managing Director of the MacArthur Fellows Program. “Their work gives us reason for optimism and inspires us all.”

Giddens is currently on a headlining tour in celebration of her highly praised, Americana Award–nominated second solo album Freedom Highway. The album, released earlier this year, includes nine original songs Giddens wrote or co-wrote while she and her band toured for her debut album, 2015’s critically acclaimed Tomorrow Is My Turn, plus a traditional song and two civil rights-era songs—Richard Fariña’s “Birmingham Sunday” and Staple Singers’ well-known “Freedom Highway,” from which the album takes its name. Tickets for this tour are on sale now and available here.

Freedom Highway is a departure from Tomorrow Is My Turn, which included one original song, with the rest being her interpretations of songs written or performed by a wide variety of female musicians. Giddens co-produced Freedom Highway with multi-instrumentalist Dirk Powell in his Breaux Bridge, Louisiana studio, with the bulk of recording done in wooden rooms built prior to the Civil War.

As producers, Giddens and Powell sought to release the stories already in the walls, allowing the space to be a voice in itself. This approach allowed for an emotional fearlessness and presence not always easy to achieve in the studio. Together they assembled the players, which included her superb touring band, local musicians from the bayou, a soulful horn section from New York, and talented family members. The principle recording was done over an intense eight-day period. The result is an album that is rawer and more personal than its predecessor.

Giddens has a recurring role in CMT’s series Nashville, the new season of which begins in January. Her Grammy–nominated duet with country superstar Eric Church on his powerful anti-racism song “Kill a World” reached the top ten on country radio.

Tour Dates
October 25 /// Walt Disney Concert Hall /// Los Angeles, CA
October 26 /// University of California Santa Barbara /// Santa Barbara, CA
October 27 /// Rio Theatre /// Santa Cruz, CA
October 28 /// Herbst Theatre /// San Francisco, CA
November 10– 12 /// Cincinnati Music Hall (American Originals: Vol. 2) /// Cincinnati, OH
November 4 /// The Greatest: Muhammad Ali At Whitney Hall /// Louisville, KY
November 17 /// O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire //// London, United Kingdom
November 18  /// Colston Hall /// Bristol, United Kingdom
November 19 /// Town Hall /// Birmingham, United Kingdom
November 21 /// The Stables /// Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
November 22 /// Arts Centre /// Pocklington, United Kingdom
November 23 /// Bridgewater Hall /// Manchester, United Kingdom
November 25 /// Vicar Street /// Dublin, Ireland
November 26 /// Royal Concert Hall ///Glasgow, United Kingdom
November 28 /// Sage /// Gateshead, United Kingdom
December 19 /// Théâtre Du Champ-Au-Roy /// Guingamp, France
December 20 /// Le Théâtre De Lorient /// Lorient, France
December 21-22 /// Théâtre National De Bretagne /// Rennes, France
December 31 /// Eccles Center For The Performing Arts /// Park City, UT
August 2-5 /// Cambridge Folk Festival 2018 /// Cambridge, United Kingdom

About the The MacArthur Fellowship

The MacArthur Fellowship is a five-year grant to individuals who show exceptional creativity in their work and the prospect for still more in the future. The Fellowship is designed to provide recipients with the flexibility to pursue their own artistic, intellectual, and professional activities in the absence of specific obligations or reporting requirements. There are no limits on age or area of activity. Individuals cannot apply for this award; they must be nominated.

For more information, please contact Mary Moyer ( or Emilio Herce ( at Q Prime 212.302.9790 or Melissa Cusick ( at Nonesuch Records 212.707.2912.

Artist Bio

Singer-songwriter Rhiannon Giddens is the co-founder of the GRAMMY award-winning string band Carolina Chocolate Drops, in which she also plays banjo and fiddle. She began gaining recognition as a solo artist when she stole the show at the T Bone Burnett–produced Another Day, Another Time concert at New York City’s Town Hall in 2013. The elegant bearing, prodigious voice, and fierce spirit that brought the audience to its feet that night is also abundantly evident on Giddens’ critically acclaimed solo debut, the Grammy nominated album, Tomorrow Is My Turn, which masterfully blends American musical genres like gospel, jazz, blues, and country, showcasing her extraordinary emotional range and dazzling vocal prowess.

On February 24, 2017, Giddens follow-up album Freedom Highway will be released. It includes 9 original songs Giddens wrote or co-wrote along with a traditional song and two civil rights-era songs, “Birmingham Sunday” and Staple Singers’ well-known “Freedom Highway,” from which the album takes its name.

Giddens’ recent televised performances include The Late ShowAustin City Limits, Later…with Jools Holland, and both CBS Saturday and Sunday Morning, among numerous other notable media appearancesShe performed for President Obama and the First Lady on a White House Tribute to Gospel, along with Aretha Franklin and Emmylou Harris; the program was televised on PBS. Giddens duets with country superstar Eric Church on his powerful anti-racism song “Kill a Word,” which is currently top 15 on country radio; the two have performed the song on The Tonight Show and the CMA Awards, among other programs. Giddens received the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for Singer of the Year and has won the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Bluegrass and Banjo in 2016.

Giddens, who studied opera at Oberlin, makes her acting debut with a recurring role on the recently revived television drama Nashville, which debuts on CMT in January, playing the role of Hanna Lee “Hallie” Jordan, a young social worker with “the voice of an angel”.

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  • Rhiannon Giddens
    PHOTO BY: David McClister
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    PHOTO BY: Tanya Rosen-Jones

Album Artwork

Rhiannon Giddens