Song of the Day #108: ‘Something to Me’ – Tift Merritt

tiftmerAh, Tift Merritt.

Here is one of those serendipitous finds you just have to chalk up to fate. I don’t know how or why I happened upon Merritt’s second album, Tambourine, a few years ago but it hit me like a freight train. Where had this woman been all my life?

Just a week or two later I got tickets to an Elvis Costello concert and who should be his opening act but… Tift Merritt. I was as excited to see her perform that night as the main act and she did not disappoint. She commanded the auditorium during her short set, jumping from keyboards to acoustic and electric guitar to the harmonica and showing off that wonderful voice — alternately gravelly soulful and crystalline pure.

I even got a chance to meet her after the performance, babbling like an idiot while she signed a copy of her first CD, Bramble Rose. I listened to that one on the way home from the concert and it just confirmed that I had stumbled onto a songwriter and performer of extraordinary talent. Her latest album, Another Country, could be her best yet.

But somehow she remains almost entirely unknown. The fans she has are rabid — look up any of her YouTube videos and you’ll find just a handful of comments, but every one describes her as the second coming — but it doesn’t seem right that she’s not a superstar.

I know a lot of people prefer to have their secret artists, and even feel resentful or lose interest when those artists hit it big. I’ve never understood that mindset. When I discover a new passion I want to share it with the world… both for the artist’s sake and the world’s.

I’m straying from my usual preference of playing only album versions of songs because I find this video incredibly charming. First, the fact that she’s playing a live show in a Nashville record store just underscores the degree to which she’s under appreciated. Second, she answers the store’s phone before playing the song… how cute is that? And finally, I love watching somebody captivate an audience with just her voice and an acoustic guitar. That’s the true test of talent.

4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #108: ‘Something to Me’ – Tift Merritt

  1. pegclifton says:

    She strikes me as a sweet unassuming personality, really enjoyed the phone bit. Pretty voice too.

  2. Dana says:

    I agree that she is quite a talent, and also agree that you babbled pathetically when you met her:)

  3. Amy says:

    What I love about this video is how it demonstrates that, before all the studio shaping and marketing, any talented artist starts off as just the person next door with a guitar or piano, a pleasant singing voice and the will and courage to get up in front of a person or a group of people to share a song. Put Bruce Springsteen, Prince, or Madonna in that same record store, and I bet each would be equally charming/funny/natural answering the phone and making chit chat with the “audience.”

    Unfortunately, the SYSTEM usually works to try to minimize those moments and to make the artist a commodity rather than a person, a label rather than an artist. Perhaps that is the reason why passionate fans dread the widespread discovery of their favorite artists; it’s not only the selfish desire to keep that person to themselves (though that may be part of their motivation), but it’s the fear of what will happen to the the genuine person behind the microphone, how that person might be lost to the machine, and, therefore, lost to the fan, forever.

    One of the reasons I continue to appreciate and just plain like Adam Duritz so much, regardless of the level of fame Counting Crows earned over time, is that he seems to me much as Tift does in this video. Whether he’s writing on his blog about the latest movie he’s loving or standing in front of and joking with a loyal audience getting rained on in an outdoor stadium, he seems to be the same guy he would be if you were just sitting next to him on the subway. Tift Merritt strikes me as being that same person. Widespread adoration would likely not find her any different than she is in this video, and her talent certainly suggests she should eventually find it.

    I remember my friend from high school telling me he watched Tracy Chapman playing on the street corner in Boston, and I remember watching The Indigo Girls playing a free concert in front of the Reitz Union in Gainesville. And Dana and I watched Marc Cohn play a concert on a floating stage in Tampa Bay (while we were there for Dana to take the Bar exam). The notion of discovering an artist is one of the best things about loving music, so, whether she ever makes it big, you’ll likely be recalling your joy at discovering her music and actually getting to have a conversation with her, as you talk to your grandchildren years from now.

    It doesn’t get any better than that.

  4. Stan Vann says:

    Exactly the feeling I had when I first heard and met her. She’s truely a rare talent and what a hard working band. They have played a killer schedule in 08.

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