See how country music—and my dad’s love of classic country tunes—influenced me. Proud to be a North Carolinian making my kind of country music. Check out my In Studio this Thursday, September 12 at 10 PM, on @publicmediaNC, and read our conversation now by clicking this link.
Tift is an important Artist
Now how does she stand up as a songwriter-as good as Joni Mitchell? Is this even a fair comparison? My answer is yes and yes. Tift has matured as a songwriter over the years but even the early songs show signs of a mature, wise beyond chronological years artist. So many other artists may come to mind or be put there by other music writers and critics.
Singer/songwriter Tift Merritt
Between the Carbines and the Two Dollar Pistols, Merritt was becoming a popular figure in the North Carolina roots music community, and in early 2000 Merritt and the Carbines seemed poised to sign a contract with Sugar Hill Records. The deal fell through at the last minute, but when Merritt won the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at the annual 2000 Merlefest Music Festival, it sparked a new round of interest in her work. Fellow North Carolina native Ryan Adams brought Merritt to the attention of his manager, Frank Callari, and he began shopping a record deal for her; when he was hired as an A&R executive for the Universal-distributed roots music label Lost Highway, Merritt became one of his first signings. (While Merritt was signed as a solo act, she’s continued to use the Carbines as her backing band, both for live shows and for the recording of Bramble Rose.) Her debut album was released to enthusiastic reviews in June 2002. The George Drakoulias-produced Tambourine appeared two years later, followed by Another Country in 2008, and the live Buckingham Solo in 2009, both on Fantasy Records. Traveling Alone, recorded in Brooklyn and featuring guest spots from Marc Ribot, Andrew Bird, and others, appeared in the fall of 2012. Merritt teamed up with classical pianist Simone Dinnerstein for a unique collaborative project, the 2013 album Night, in which they performed a variety of pop, folk, jazz, and classical pieces. Merritt also collaborated with Andrew Bird in his group the Hands of Glory, appearing on their 2014 album, Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of
Tift Merritt wastes no time gettin’ to it on Stitch of the World, kicking off with the rowdy, countrified folk of “Dusty Old Man.” Piano-led weeper “Heartache Is an Uphill Climb” follows in dramatic fashion, showcasing her commanding warble. Merritt’s deft songwriting contains multitudes, and she gets mystical on the album’s title track with a windswept arrangement that conjures dark desert nights. And Sam Beam, a.k.a. Iron &
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I began collecting artist interviews for Marfa, Texas Public Radio many years ago and I am thrilled to continue that work in partnership with @carolinaperformingarts Each month, I speak with an artist about how they really make their work and live their lives. The conversations are not about neatly packaged finished products. These are conversations about laughter, tough times, teachers, and turning points — the not so neatly hewn insight which comes from having your hands in the dirt. In the new time zone of 2020, I revisit my own questions of meaning and making meaning every day. Here, I pose them to beautiful thinkers and bright pioneers of making one’s own way though the world. The Spark is my chance to be a student. I learn something new from each episode and find that resonating when I jump back into my own work. The truth is that I’d make The Spark if no one heard it at all. It is my reminder that making work is a process rather than a destination and listening to the world around you is sometimes the best part. The Spark premieres this fall with guests Abigail Washburn, Pedja Mužijevi, Wynton Marsalis & Carlos Henriquez. Registration is free at carolinaperformingarts.org, further events in the series will be announced later this fall.