Bottle Rock Napa Valley Featured Artist: Tift Merritt

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The exceptionally talented Tift Merritt will be making a featured performance at the inaugural Bottle Rock Napa Valley during the second weekend in May. Jordan, one of our contributing writers, was able to catch up with Ms. Merritt earlier this week for a short phone interview. Bottle Rock Napa Valley takes place May 9th – 12th. 

Tell me about your first gig – what do you remember the most about it?

“That was a long time and many gigs ago – I remember being a bit scared and feeling alone…”

Over the years have you noticed any sort of demographic amongst your fans? Is there a demographic that you *wish* knew more about your music?

“I’ve always had lovely fans, but I wish more women and children came to my shows…”

Tift MerrittGreat songwriters are great storytellers – are there any stories that you have tried to tell repeatedly over the years, but haven’t quite gotten out in the way you wanted?

“If you go back through my body of work, you’ll see a lot of stories about making my way through life. I think that’s what the best stories are about – the journey…”

What’s your best memory of touring in other countries than the United States?

“I lived in France for a time, which was lovely, but I particularly loved the time I spent in Sweden. The feel of new streets, eating new foods, hearing strange voices, having strange looking money in your pocket – it’s a kind of rush. And, the Swedes are just the kindest and most gracious hosts.”

What’s “Alt Country”mean to you? I’ve always hated that label. Topically, I can’t discern between Ryan Adams and Willie Nelson. What do you think drives the need to over-classify artists?

“Well, part of it comes from a need to simply categorize music a bit the way a library categorizes books. Part of it comes from the practical aspects of marketing. But, music shouldn’t be listened to intellectually, you know? I mean – listen with your heart! Alt-country was kind of the inevitable backlash away from Nashville country – I’d rather sound like Kitty Wells than some polished pop music…”

There’s a fantastic video on YouTube of the legendary Roy Orbison at the Roy Orbison and Friends concert – Bruce Springsteen looks smitten as Roy finishes up “Running Scared”. Have you ever played with an artist that was larger than life to you? What was it like?

“Playing with Emmylou Harris about ten years ago. I was beside myself. My mom mentioned afterwards that from here on out I would get nothing for Christmas, since I had just gotten everything I ever wanted…”

If you were in charge of the world, what is the first decree you would make?

“GET ME OUT OF HERE! Seriously though, I would want people to stop fighting…”

Where do you stand on digital distribution of your music? Are there any methods or platforms you prefer over others? You and I both grew up in a world that had a “before the Internet” time. Do you think the ability to listen to whatever you want whenever you want has changed how music affects us?

“Well, it’s more important to know *how* to use continuous access to information than it is to simply *have* that access. The same thing applies to music – the internet certainly lets you find out a lot more about a great deal of artists, but it can also be overwhelming…”

A friend taught me a pretty fantastic guitar tuning the other day called “Orkney tuning” – CGDGCD. Do you have any tunings or keys you like writing in more than others?

“I have a high strung guitar I adore. I also like some dropped D tunings. On the piano, the key of B flat is my favorite well worn groove…”

Do you have any consistently favorite albums?

“Stop what you’re doing and buy the next Over the Rhine album, when it comes out. Also, dig into Washington Phillips. He was a travelling preacher in Texas, and an amazing troubadour…”

The author – Jordan Pritchard –  apologizes for any minor inconsistencies from verbatim. The interview was conducted via cell phone from the parking lot of an office park in Rancho Cordova, CA. Ms. Merritt was gracious and funny throughout, and the staff of The Blue Indian would like to thank her for her time and consideration. Ms. Merritt released her fifth consecutively beautiful record, ‘Travelling Alone‘, in 2012.

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