Four years after the Grammy-nominated album 'Tambourine', rock singer Tift Merritt is back with a brand new album titled 'Another Country' that had her "lost" in Paris. Slated to be released on February 26, 'Another Country' found Merritt working straight from her heart to communicate her feelings to her listeners.
The Texas native told AceShowbiz how her new album is different from the last one, how she looks at competition in the industry and her other projects beside writing music.
ASB: First of all, it got us in question. Why did you stop producing studio albums after the Grammy-nominated 'Tambourine'?
Merritt: Hey, wait a second, who said I stopped producing studio albums? I toured Tambourine for about a year, took a little time off to write, then made a new album. It's a little dramatic to say I stopped much of anything, let alone working in the studio.
ASB: Has the hiatus served you well?
Merritt: Yes, I took a few months off touring in France and began to write. That is where the new albums comes from. The months I spent writing and getting lost in Paris were about the most amazing time I have ever spent. I don't think any of us often get enough time to ourselves and I can never have enough time to write, so it was really a gift.
ASB: What prompted you to switch label to Fantasy Records?
Merritt: I was dropped by a major label so I had to find a new one.
ASB: Would you call 'Another Country' a 'comeback'? Do you reckon it will reach the same level 'Tambourine' did?
Merritt: Wait, in order to have a comeback, you have to have something to come back from, don't you? Did something happen that I don't know about? Scandals? Game show appearances? Outfit horrors? Tambourine was nominated for a Grammy and toured over 40,000 miles, so one of nicest gifts it game me was that I felt very free from having to prove myself to anyone other than myself when working on Another Country. I worked from my heart and that is always the most important thing.
ASB: 'Tambourine' saw your slight departure from country to rock/soul. From the sound of your song 'Another Country', looks like it's still in the same soul direction. True?
Merritt: I would say Another Country is a singer songwriter record, like my other records. I write songs about what I feel. I always hope my albums have a depth to them, and a color of their own, something deeper than marketing categories or neat genre boxes. I don't think much about genre, except that I think soul and rock and roll and pop and traditional country and storytelling and folk music are really cousins and often pull from each other.
ASB: What is the songwriting process for this one like for you?
Merritt: I just started plunking away on the piano in the flat I rented in Paris. I could hear a lot of noise from the street, and everyone was living with their windows open, so that openness just seemed to spill into the room and help these songs along.
ASB: Do you relate personal issues to your songs?
Merritt: Oh yeah. I wouldn't ask anyone else to listen if I didn't find them something I related to deep down myself.
ASB: With more and more new acts entering the music scene, do you find the competition is getting fiercer?
Merritt: I would really hesitate to thinking about music as competition. Thinking about being a musician or any kind of artist in terms of competition is really off point, I think. I long for the people making music or poems or noise around me inspire me. But I just have to do what I have to with my little point of view. It isn't the sort of thing where someone gives you a medal or something. And who cares if they did, really? Most of us musicians are just out there living on the road and trying to say what we feel and working really hard and not playing it safe. I think we are all on the same team, actually.
ASB: You seem to enjoy yourself a lot during live shows. What really captures you on-stage that studio work doesn't?
Merritt: By nature, the studio is a kind of solitary, intense experience that a few people have together while a performance is really something larger like a party. There's really no way to compare them, except to say that sometimes, you get lucky enough to perform a song well when no one is looking. And sometimes you get lucky enough to perform a song well when lots of people are looking. It's two extremely different kinds of pay-offs.
ASB: Can we expect a full-length tour with the new album?
Merritt: Absolutely. The spring tour dates are already up on our website. They'll be followed by European dates and then more US dates.
ASB: Are there artists you haven't worked with yet but you would like to in the future?
Merritt: Of course. Many, many, many, many singers and painters and poets and players, So many inspiring people everywhere! Who knows where one might be headed.
ASB: You will soon launch a radio program 'The Spark With Tift Merritt' on January 27. Can you tell us a bit about it?
Merritt: The Spark talks with the real people behind great works of art about how they ply their trade and live their lives. My own curiosity longs to know about artist's real lives, and also the answers to harder questions like how they maintain their integrity and fire in the face of quotidian life. Really, it is my excuse to cull knowledge from artists I admire, as people and as makers of amazing things.
ASB: Do you have other projects after this beside promoting the album?
Merritt: I'm working on a little book of photographs from my travels in France and on tour. And I am always trying to write a little something...
ASB: With 'Another Country' coming out shortly, what message do you want to deliver for our readers?
Merritt: Funny enough, writing Another Country was filled with a very simple joy and sense of relief in speaking directly to another person. In a foreign country in a foreign language, you can't take even the smallest communication for granted, and those little traded bits of words are filled with such wonder and mystery and happiness. I hope that when people listen to this album, they feel that feeling I had most of all - that people are as varied and often untranslatable as other countries, and it really is a great thing to sit and speak honestly and directly to one and another.