Tift Merritt - Biography
By J Poet
Nashville hasn’t seen anything like Tift Merritt in decades. The Texas born, Bynum, South Carolina raised singer is a first class songwriter, impressive guitarist and bandleader; she’s also a down to earth woman with good business sense. Raised in a family that thrived on music, Merritt sang and picked guitar at an early age, playing along with her dad and singing harmony to his lead. Her mother was literary and taught her to appreciate poetry and good lyrics.
She started playing open mikes and bars in Chapel Hill and Raleigh in the late 90s, and put together the Carbines while still attending The University of North Carolina. Her first record was an EP, The Two Dollar Pistols With Tift Merritt (1999 Yep Roc), a straightforward alt.country effort that brought her to the attention of Ryan Adams, who took Merritt and her band on the road as his opening act in 2000. He also hooked her up with his manager Frank Callari, who brought her to Lost Highway, a division of Universal music that’s run like an indie. Her first major label outing, Bramble Rose (2002 Lost Highway) was recorded with her own band, a perk many superstars have to fight for. Merritt’s songwriting, a bend of blues, country, Southern folk and R&B, avoided country clichés and showcased Merritt’s powerful vocals. Critics were unanimous in hailing her as a bright new presence.
Tambourine (2005 Lost Highway) emphasized her love of rock and soul, and was nominated for a Best Contemporary Country Album Grammy. Despite the rave, Lost Highway dropped her and her first live album, Home Is Loud (2005 RCAM), was released on an indie label in a limited edition. Live from Austin, TX (2007 New West) is a DVD of her performance on the popular alt.country PBS show, Austin City Limits.
In 2007 Merritt spent a few months in Paris, recharging her battery after almost seven years of constant gigging. She had a small apartment, just a big enough for a bed and a piano, and songs and stories came flooding out of her. She worked on some of them at small clubs in Paris, just Merritt and her piano, then came home to make Another Country (2008 Fantasy). The album is a stylistic retooling of her original country/folk sound, full of heartfelt mid-tempo ballads that show off her soulful singing and attention to lyrical detail. In 2010 she released See You On The Moon, followed by Traveling Alone in 2012.