Continuing our examination of the musical ecosystem from whence Ryan Adams came, we have Tift Merritt — one of the more prominent artists to emerge from the Triangle’s alternative-country universe in Whiskeytown’s wake. I first started seeing Tift on local stages in 1998, with her band The Carbines, and as with Ryan it was obvious that she was something special. Ryan thought so, too. After she opened some shows for him in 2000, Ryan rhapsodized about her in an online posting that began, “Tift Merritt makes me want to get right with God.”
Tift has had a fine career despite never quite breaking through commercially, although she’s come tantalizingly close a couple of times (most notably a best-country-album Grammy nomination in 2004, still her mainstream high-water mark). And she’s always doing interesting work and cool projects, which is one reason I’ve probably had more memorable interview experiences with her than anyone else. Over the years, I’ve interviewed Tift:
— On a TWA flight bound for the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.
— At the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, while standing in front of a painting by Cy Twombly.
— In a cafe in New York City’s West Village.
— In a coffeehouse in Boulder, Colo., during a radio convention.
And over the phone, too, of course. Alas, that’s what I had to settle for this go-round. Tift has a new album coming out in Rocktober and she’s playing in Carrboro tonight. You’ll find a new interview from Friday’s paper as well as some back verbiage here. And speaking of stuff from my back pages, here’s a No Depression magazine feature I did on her way back in 2000, plus a review of her last album.