Finn called New York a week or so ago and had a lovely chat with Americana singer-songwriter Tift Merritt before she hits the road on a tour of Australia with Mary Chapin Carpenter which will see her visit Auckland at the Tuning Fork on September 7.

“I’m at home in New York and I’ve been writing and thinking about putting a new record together. I’ve actually been taking a break from the road and this will be my first time back out in a long time.” Tift is taking a well-earned rest from the road after many tours. “This was a well-orchestrated break, I’d been on the road for such a long time it was time for a break. Although I definitely have had some times at 8 o’clock [pm] where I go I have so much energy.” Not being on tour with tremendous musicians has allowed her the time to think about a new album for herself though.

The last album of her own was released in 2012, a stunning record – Traveling Alone (stay tuned for a review of that from Chris Dent), but she has since then done a couple of collaboration albums.

“I did a record with a classical pianist and toured that for a bit and then I was in Andrew Bird’s old time band, the Hands of Glory, so I toured with him for about a year. So I’ve been doing some different things which was great fun, and then I took some time off to come back to my own songs.”

“It was really intense and required both of us to move beyond our comfort zone, extremely rewarding musically and personally.” Tift is talking about the collaboration with pianist Simone Dinnerstein on their album Night. “It grew very naturally and honestly, I think that’s really the only way to collaborate. Collaborating requires really reaching out and meeting the other person more than halfway. She and I had a great deal of trust in each other, for each other, by the end of the project.”  

“Collaborating with Andrew [Bird], being in his band, I loved being a sidekick, I loved singing with him. It’s very acoustic, a lot of the times around one microphone, I just had a ball. You can throw yourself into a band with a different type of enthusiasm when you’re not the front person. More pressure on you when you’re the front person, and if you’re a Southern Woman then you are never allowed to think anything nice about yourself. It was great being supportive in that role.”

She visited New Zealand for the first time last year, after a tour of Australia with Americana artist Jason Isbell. “You guys have the best organic food in the world, I just remember I’ve never eaten so well in my life. It’s so beautiful, it’s like I was eating things I’d eaten a million times and they tasted completely new. So I’m really excited to come back and eat some more.”

“I remember I was driven to the beach last time, Piha? That was unbelievable. When you go somewhere so far away, and so special, you want to set aside time to explore it, my father loves to fly fish and I really wanted to bring him with me and drive to the south of NZ. But life doesn’t cooperate this time and so I’m just coming for a really short trip, so you guys have to promise to like me and that this is going to be a serious relationship and not a fling so I can come back and do it for real. I want to come back and go car camping and drink a lot of wine and fall deeply in love with NZ. This is just a flirtation.”


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