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Subject: Tift on the songwriting process
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Mitch Kokai

06/29/2017 12:30 PM  

SongswritersOnProcess.com interviews Tift:

"Adjectives and adverbs are not what we need to be singin'," Tift Merritt told me during our interview. Like any good songwriter, the Grammy-nominated artist favors economy of words and simple language in her lyrics, just as two of her biggest literary influences are Cormac McCarthy and Raymond Carver. "A lyric needs to feel as if somebody could've spoken those words while standing in line at the post office," she said. ...

... How much writing do you do outside of songwriting? Lately, I've been trying to do a lot more. My background is actually in prose; I went to a creative writing program for college, so my first love really is writing. I always wanted to be a writer. Short stories were my preferred mode of expression. To answer your question, I always do a lot of collateral writing besides my songs. I think that's the right way to characterize it: collateral. It's almost collateral damage, because you can't just reach into your creativity and say I want to pull this out fully formed. Instead, you have to roll around in it. I will say that what I'd like is enough time to take my prose writing from something that was the initial flame of something--the initial motion of writing--and give it the energy to make it something complete. I haven't been able to do that for many years. I've been trying to be on the road less and to write more. I'm trying to write one thousand words a day, but it's tough given the fact that I'm a mother.

Mitch Kokai

03/17/2018 10:26 AM  

Tift's latest Oxford American essay focuses on Eudora Welty's enduring influence.

When someone asks me who my first influences were, I cringe a little—not because it is a cliché question, but because it is almost uncomfortable to conjure how vulnerable I was when I first needed a hero. Heroes are no trite matter—people worth looking up to are important at any age. Adult influences wield less power; we come to them more fully formed, with harder edges and less need. Those first heroes are mentors, confidants, complete relationships in their one-sided way. Not unlike first loves, they hold that most delicate of heartstrings: hope. Hope for the future, for what love is capable of, what words are capable of, what we ourselves are capable of. My first hero is, always, Eudora Welty. 

I never met Eudora; I never even so much as had dinner in the same room with her or saw her pass on the street. I can’t remember when I first read “Why I Live at the P.O.,” but I recognized myself and my intense Southern family immediately in the cadence, the temper tantrums, the mess of their befuddled, self-damning characters.

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