I have been a fan of the lovely Tift Merritt ever since I first heard her 2002 debut album, Bramble Rose. Since then, I have been lucky enough to meet and work with Tift as part of our MAKESHIFT initiative. One of my heroes, Emmylou Harris, once said that Tift “stood out like a diamond in a coal patch,” and her thoughtful lyrics and melodies prove this to be true time and again.
In 2012, finding herself without a manager or a record deal, the North Carolina native did some soul searching to find out what kind of artist she really wanted to become and came face-to-face with self doubt. I’ve shared before how my own challenges led to moments of real breakthrough and commitment to doing good work – and the admission that no matter how seamless it may seem, the journey is not effortless. Tift told Pop Matters, “Being a good artist is not for the faint of heart…I think you have to ask questions that are scary to ask and you cannot apologize for that and you cannot worry what anyone else thinks about your journey.”
That same year, she released her fifth full-length album Traveling Alone, a record made in 8 days with talented musicians and friends. What emerged was an honest album that sounded as warm as a group gathered in a living room, singing their favorite songs. She said, “We wanted that thick, warm, deep, rich sound, like you were able to be in the room with us. And I think that when you do allow for that space, all the instruments are allowed to bloom more fully. All the musicians who are playing are very special and, on purpose, we wanted to capture that.” She succeeded in all of this and more.
In 2013, she released a special edition of Traveling Alone accompanied by a hardbound lyric book with illustrations by Diana Sudyka. When I received my copy of the album from Tift, I read along as I listened and the words spoke to me more powerfully than ever. The book has a graceful beauty, like the songs on the album, and the artwork is a perfect compliment. The special edition also includes a bonus CD called Traveling Companion that features 10 new acoustic recordings of the songs from Traveling Alone, plus previously unreleased tracks and two covers of Tom Waits and Joni Mitchell songs.
Tift Merritt’s music is always in rotation here at The Factory. Her music speaks to our creative spirit. I think she will speak to yours as well.