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LAist Interview: Tift Merritt

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It won’t be apparent when she takes the stage tonight at the Troubadour, but the last time Tift Merritt was on the road, a rigorous year supporting her vibrant 2004 album, Tambourine, it left her so worn out that she fled to Paris to get lost. With no intentions of working but simply to take in the solitude of being a stranger in a country not her own, she nonetheless found herself plucking away melodies on a piano in her rented flat. When she least expected it, Merritt was inspired and songs that would ultimately wind up on her newest release, the intimate and hopeful Another Country, began taking shape. The album's title not only alludes to James Baldwin and Merritt's wish to lose herself in a foreign land, but it also suggests a transcendence of musical genre. In Another Country, Merritt finds freedom both artistic and personal.

Reached in Seattle after a soundcheck, Merritt explains her surprise productivity at a moment when she thought she was just about drained. “It came at a time when I felt like I didn’t have anything to say,” Merritt says, “And I think that freed me up. Sometimes you have to free yourself, and distance gave me the luxury to do that. I was just writing songs for myself.”

Merritt soon found herself freer than she might have liked. Even with two critically-lauded albums with Lost Highway and Tambourine’s Grammy nomination for best country album, the label dropped her as she awaited the green light to record a new album. It shook up her world, but she eventually landed on Fantasy Records. By all accounts it has worked out for the best. Merritt struggled with Lost Highway to record her first two albums, but with Another Country she says, “I felt no pressure on this album. I felt free to work.”