Tift Merritt’s sixth album, “Stitch of the World” was recorded while the singer-songwriter was six months pregnant. Though the album itself was written before Merritt knew she was having a baby, it marks a transition in the artist’s life—after recording she moved back to Raleigh, her hometown, to be near family.
“I remember the first night getting back from the hospital and thinking I was going to break her,” says Merritt of daughter Jean. “I didn’t really know how much I would love being a mother, but I love being a mother so much.”
She shares with us her journey into motherhood.
Was it different singing while pregnant?
Your voice can really be great when you’re pregnant. Just like anything else in pregnancy, it differs woman to woman. Physically, I felt really, really good. I had a lot of energy. We recorded in four days.
Then you decided to return back to Raleigh.
New York is not an easy place to have a family and be a songwriter. You have this visceral sense that you need to make some space for this child. I knew I needed some space, some time and some family. It was not my game plan when I started out, but it’s been wonderful.
And how does it feel being back in Raleigh?
Raleigh has changed a lot in the time that I was gone. There are so many really interesting people doing fabulous things right now. And I love that sense of community. Our lives are going so fast. I think we are exposed constantly to the bad things in the world. I’m pretty susceptible to that. I feel what I read; I feel the hurry of the city. I think it’s a nice time to actively gather in and be a little simpler.
How has your daughter impacted your music?
My daughter is 8 months old right now, and it has changed everything. I feel like my creativity has changed, and my perspective has changed. I was trying to get up and write every day, and my computer crashed and I lost everything. But I kind of went, I just have to trust that my creativity is intact. It’s been hard to find enough time in the day to get ready to put this record out. My reach is not so much about making work as it is about being a good mom. But I also feel energized, and hopeful and happy, and music has a whole new meaning to me.
We want to read into singer’s words. Do you go back and hear your lyrics differently?
It’s really important to remember that songs are not journal entries. They evolve and stand on their own, but everything that I write about is coming from my own questions and life. One thing that really differentiates this record is that I was going through a whole lot, and I didn’t have perspective on it. My marriage broke up. I think it will be years before I have perspective on it despite [my daughter] Jean. But I have to say I wrote the best I could on this record. I had to throw myself off the cliff and say this is not a neat thing that I have filed away in a psychological file case. And maybe that’s actually truer, maybe that’s actually more like life. Jean certainly fills my life with joy and love, but she doesn’t make the world a simpler place.
You’re about to go on tour with Jean. That’s a huge change.
Absolutely, she goes everywhere with me. We did some things this fall with a band called Hiss Golden Messenger and I practiced. At that point, I was prepared to feel that I can’t drag her around. Thus far, she thinks this is really fun. There’s so much to look at. We go home, and she makes a leap forward based on what she’s seen. The times that I’m on tour also allow me to be home with her. Being a musician on the level that I’m a musician is tough; it’s a little gritty. It was always easy to say I’m going to choose this because this is where my passion is. But asking someone else to do it, who is innocent, is a really complicated thing. So we’ll just see how it goes.
Sometimes it’s better not to look too far into the future.
I started a habit a long time ago where I really tried to think about being a musician like any other job. Every mother tries to figure out how do I work and be the mom I want to be. My life looks a little different on paper, but I think it’s something every woman goes through.
It’s a universal question, isn’t it?
Someone gave me parenting advice, about how actually at a certain point my sphere of influence with my daughter is only so big. It’s really big right now; I’m the mom show. But I’m trying to raise her so that she thinks for herself. I find myself thinking what would I want Jean to do? What do I want to show her? It’s a wonderful thing as a human being to have someone else factor into the moral character decisions you’re making.