Singer, songwriter Keren Ann Zeidel, who records under the name Keren Ann, was born in Israel in 1974 to a Dutch-Javanese mother and a Russian-Israeli father. She was nine when her parents bought her a guitar, on which she learned to play songs by Joni Mitchell and Serge Gainsbourg. In the years to come, she would also learn to play the harmonica and the clarinet. Zeidel and her family, including a brother and sister, lived in Israel and Holland before settling in Paris, France, when she was 11.
In the 1990s Zeidel met musician/arranger Benjamin Biolay, with whom she would form a fruitful partnership. In 1997 she had a small part (as Judith) in Alexandre Arcady’s K, and in 1998 she released a couple of singles as a member of Shelby, but they attracted little attention.
Zeidel released her full-length debut, La Biographie de Luka Philipsen, in 2000. On it, she combined trip-hop, folk, and French pop to sublime effect. Lyrically and thematically, she was inspired by her family history; the name Philipsen, for example, comes from her maternal grandmother. Biolay assisted with the writing and arranging. As influences on her unique sound, Zeidel has cited Russian literature, Jewish folk music, French poetry, Bob Dylan, and Suzanne Vega, whose “Luka” is also referenced in the title (in 2001, Zeidel would open for Vega in France). La Biographie was enthusiastically received in Europe, garnering favorable comparisons to Françoise Hardy, Portishead, Beth Orton, and Dido. In addition, it earned several nominations for the French equivalent of the Grammy, the Victoires: Best New Discovery (Artist and Album) and Best Song of the Year. The song “Jardin d’Hiver” (“Wintergarden”) was co-written by Biolay and became a hit for Henri Salvador. Zeidel and Biolay contributed a total of five songs to his best-selling Chambre Avec Vue. A version of “Jardin d’Hiver” also appears on La Biographie.
In 2001 Zeidel assisted with the writing of Biolay’s Rose Kennedy. Her follow-up to La Biographie, La Disparition (“The Disappearance”), came out the following year. She recorded a version in English at the same time. While preparing the album, Zeidel listened to a lot of Beatles, Chet Baker, and Tom Waits recordings, resulting in a bluesier, jazzier sound. As with La Biographie, much of the material was written with Biolay, who has also claimed the Beatles as an influence. Late in 2003 the English-language Not Going Anywhere arrived and was distributed by Blue Note in the U.S. the following summer. After relocating to New York, Keren Ann released the half-French, half-English Nolita in 2004, which marked the first time she worked without Biolay, producing and writing most of the tracks on the album herself. In 2007 her self-titled full-length hit shelves.