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Sunday October 2nd

Grammy-nominated singer Tift Merritt discusses her return to UNC

UNC alum and Grammy-nominated country singer, Tift Merritt, is performing in Memorial Hall on April 20. Photo by Alexandra Valenti.
Buy Photos UNC alum and Grammy-nominated country singer, Tift Merritt, is performing in Memorial Hall on April 20. Photo by Alexandra Valenti.

UNC graduate and Grammy nominee Tift Merritt will be performing in Memorial Hall Friday. Staff writer Rachel Jensen spoke with Merritt about returning to her alma mater, her musical evolution and the sound of her new album, “Stitch of the World.” 

The Daily Tar Heel: How does it feel to be performing in Chapel Hill again? 

Tift Merritt: It always feels a little full circle. I started a band as a student. The Creative Writing and American Studies Departments were the places where my life started to make sense. Whenever I return home, I kind of take stock of where I’ve gone. This is also my last show for a while, so it’s important for a number of reasons. 

DTH: How has your music evolved since you left UNC?

TM: That’s a big question. I don’t know that it’s a straight line. I definitely know how to ask questions and how to follow my questions more fiercely now. I always hope that my work deepens and widens, but it’s something that’s really intangible. 

DTH: You are on tour with your most recent album, “Stitch of the World.” Could you tell me about the sound of this album?

TM: This album had a really beautiful cast of characters that worked on it. I took a lot of time writing, so I’m proud of the writing. I was six months pregnant and we recorded it in four days, so I’m just proud that it happened. I put more importance on tone and space. If you listen to the record, I think you can really understand the moral compass of my aesthetic work. 

DTH: What are some of your proudest accomplishments as an artist? 

TM: One thing I learned is that you don’t feel the way you think you would about what happens. You think it’s going to be the moments in the spotlight when you’re all shiny and proud, but it’s the small moments that are more fulfilling. I have established a practice, and I went on a tour in Europe with Jason Isbell and my daughter. I’m proud that I have the capacity to grow and the fire to still do it. 

DTH: What are looking forward to about playing this Friday? 

TM: Memorial Hall is just such a beautiful room. I’m looking forward to playing piano in there with a full band and back-up singers. It’s always a privilege to have people making noise with you. We’ve been rehearsing, and we have a really fun set list. It’s more of a holistic look at my records. 

DTH: What advice do you have for students at UNC who may be considering a career in music? 

TM: I think you have to get to know the process. You have to have the courage to look at your work with a critical eye. You have to be the person that shows up and asks the hard questions.


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