By the time Regina Spektor's major label debut, Begin to Hope, arrived in 2006, the Russian-born singer already had a lengthy pedigree as a musician. She took up piano under the direction of her musically inclined parents while a child in Moscow. Her family eventually moved to the Bronx, where she continued classical studies at the Manhattan School of Music and started writing her own music. Her musical pursuits carried through college, and she graduated from a music composition program at Purchase College in 2001. Frequenting venues in Manhattan, she became associated with the so-called "anti-folk" movement and self-released 2001's 11:11, 2002's Songs and 2004's Soviet Kitsch, which Sire later reissued. A compilation of early recordings, Mary Ann Meets the Gravediggers and Other Short Stories, was released in 2006. In 2009, Spektor gathered an all-star production team to help her with Far, the much anticipated follow-up to Begin to Hope.