Tift Merritt

Tift Merritt

Songwriting | Raleigh

The North Carolina Arts Council supports diverse and innovative artists with fellowships, professional development and more to enhance the state’s brand and drive economic impact.


“In my nearly 20 years as a recording artist, I have tried to make my own brand of sonic short stories, rooted in plain-spoken language and a sense of place,” says Raleigh-born and Grammy-nominated musician Tift Merritt, who is a 2019–20 N.C. Arts Council Fellowship award recipient in songwriting.

“I give voice to the granular experience of overlooked humanity in everyday life,” she says. “I believe in process over the spotlight, that making work is a hopeful gesture for deep community connection, that different mediums have more in common spiritually than their differences in material practice. My devotion to my own instincts, to cultivating a unique point of view, has not always made my path easy, but it has made it worthwhile.”

Merritt wanted to be a writer until her father taught her guitar chords and introduced her to Percy Sledge songs. Her catalog now includes eight studio albums. She received a Grammy nomination for Country Album of the Year in 2005 for Tambourine (Lost Highway, Universal Recordings, 2004). She has performed with the NY Philharmonic and toured with bands including Iron & Wine, Nick Lowe, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Gregg Allman. Her television appearances include Austin City Limits and the Grand Ole Opry. The New Yorker calls Merritt “the bearer of a proud tradition of the distaff country soul that reaches back to artists like Dusty Springfield and Bobbie Gentry.”

Having completed her Honors Thesis in Creative Writing in Fiction at UNC-Chapel Hill with legendary professor Doris Betts, Merritt continues to write for the page as well as the stage. While most at ease at the piano or with a guitar in her lap, she also is a regular contributor to Oxford American magazine and has even designed a line of textiles for Bernhardt Design, based on her vintage ribbon collection.