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Up-and-coming songstress Miranda Lee Richards charms audiences with her sunny new album.

MIRANDA LEE RICHARDS has always had a gift for music. But the 33-year-old San Francisco–born chanteuse never thought her passion could also double as a profession until her senior year of high school, when a mutual friend introduced her to another Bay Area musician, Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett. Under his tutelage, the angelic-voiced performer began to blossom as a true singer-songwriter.

Her first album, 2001’s The Herethereafter, was a moderate success; several of the songs were used in movies and TV shows. Now, some eight years later, Richards is celebrating the release of her follow-up album, Light of X, a multifaceted music box of ethereal folk pop.

I’ve seen you describe your music as “psychedelic chamber folk rock.” Does that about cover it? [Laughs] Well, it depends on how well you can handle the term psychedelic. That’s just more of a term for creative or forward-thinking [music], and it relates to some of the sounds themselves, like some of the guitar work and vocals. It’s a way to say that it’s just a little left of center.

I hear hints of Aimee Mann, the Sundays’ Harriet Wheeler, Natalie Merchant, and Emmylou Harris in your vocals. Who are your favorite female vocalists? I do love Emmylou Harris, actually. I have a country record in me. This record has just a little tiny bit of country with the pedal steel and things. I love country music because it’s just really simple. There’s a lot of space for lyrics.

You not only wrote all the songs and arranged the strings for the new record, you also played everything from the glockenspiel to the guitar to the piano to the mellotron on it. Is there an instrument you can’t play?
Well, I’m not very good on the bass. I can play it simply, but I’m no Paul McCartney.

Compare where you were on your 2001 debut, The Herethereafter, with where you are now on Light of X.
[The eight-year gap] gave me a lot of time to grow, that’s for sure. When you have that much time in between records, hopefully you’ve evolved in some way. It’s such a big jump, that period of time from your early 20s to your late 20s. So I think you’ll pick up on that with this record. It’s a lot more mature than my first record.