Meryn Cadell, singer, songwriter, teacher (born in Brooklyn, NY). A singer-songwriter best known for the quirky spoken-word song “The Sweater,” which became a sleeper hit in 1992, Meryn Cadell received Juno Award nominations for Most Promising Female Vocalist and Best New Solo Artist, and released three albums before going on to teach songwriting at the University of British Columbia. Cadell underwent a gender transition in 2003 and came out as a female-to-male (FTM) transsexual in 2004.
Education and Early Career
Cadell was raised in Waterloo, Ontario, and moved to Toronto in the mid-1980s to attend the Ontario College of Art and Design (now Ontario College of Art and Design University). Cadell performed in Queen Street nightclubs for several years alongside such burgeoning acts as the Barenaked Ladies, and became popular for a playful, avant-garde mix of music, poetry and performance art.
After releasing an independent cassette titled MARE-in ka-DELL (1988), Cadell signed with the independent Toronto label Intrepid Records, which released the 20-track angel food for thought in 1991. A quirky and humorous spoken-word song called "The Sweater" — which recounts a teenage girl’s obsession with a boy and his sweater over a remixed sample of Syd Dale’s jazzy instrumental track “Walk and Talk” — became popular on alternative and campus radio stations across Canada. After the video went into heavy rotation on MuchMusic, the song became a modest hit, peaking at No. 46 on the Canadian singles chart in the summer of 1992. This led to Cadell signing with Sire Records, which re-released the album worldwide.
Cadell’s sophomore album, Bombazine (1993), featured contributions from the Rheostatics, k.d. lang collaborator Ben Mink and Barenaked Ladies drummer Tyler Stewart, among others. It didn't reach as large an audience and Cadell parted ways with Sire. Toronto's Handsome Boy Records released Cadell’s third album, 6 Blocks (1997), which featured cellist Anne Bourne, singer Mary Margaret O'Hara and members of Blue Peter, the Odds and the Rheostatics. Unlike earlier albums, which included some spoken-word tracks, 6 Blocks featured Cadell singing all 11 songs. The album met with lukewarm consumer response in Canada and Cadell moved to New York City.
Cadell received Juno Award nominations for Most Promising Female Vocalist in 1992 and Best New Solo Artist in 1994, and also made a variety of television and radio appearances, many of them on the CBC. Cadell earned a 1993 Gemini nomination for performing in an episode of the CBC TV series Ear to The Ground, and contributed to almost 20 albums by other artists, including the Barenaked Ladies’ Gordon (1992) and the soundtrack for Thom Fitzgerald’s The Hanging Garden (1997). In 2007, Bongo Beat Records released a re-mastered edition of angel food for thought, which included the video for "The Sweater" and two tracks that were previously available only on cassette.
Teaching Career and Other Pursuits
Cadell took a break from music in 1995 to work with PEN International, a charity devoted to the defense of freedom of expression. Cadell also wrote a feature film titled Going Back to Find, which was set to be produced by Bruce McDonald but never came to fruition, and a multimedia play titled Raging Dreams that was staged in Toronto.
Cadell underwent a gender transition in 2003 and came out as an FTM transsexual in October 2004; he discussed his transition publicly for the first time on Bill Richardson’s CBC Radio One program Bunny Watson. Cadell retired from the music business and moved to Vancouver in 2003 to teach song lyrics and libretto in the Creative Writing Program at the University of British Columbia.