Tift has been a regular visitor to these shores as either a solo artist or with her band. Her most recent performance was a number of her own gigs as well as opening for Mary Chapin Carpenter. Tift hopes to return early in 2011.
I've never regretted my career choice because I never really felt like I had much of a choice. I've tried to stop and walk away and the first thing I do is write songs. Music and being a writer have always been what made order of my life. What I've learned, more than anything, is that everyone's choices and everyone's job has ups and downs, rewards and consequences.
Like anything, it really depends. While I love to be alone, being alone in a strange city or motel room around strangers can be hard. I usually don't have time to really write on the road, as the best in you is given away during the shows. I love to go to museums on tour, and I did have a chance to write quite a bit on a recent tour opening for Mary Chapin Carpenter as we were on a bus and I had a dressing room to myself all day. Generally, though, touring comes down to being alive in the music for the hour or so that you are onstage.
Sitting in a studio and biting your nails over every detail is much more difficult that performing purely in one single moment. Though taking the time to labor over a record is rewarding, the immediacy of music is always what one is after. I've been thinking about making a record in an old theater for the very reason of keeping the intensity of performance as present as possible.
Freedom. That was a very innocent and rare and pure period of time where I lived very simply. I was free from the constraints of what I knew, the culture I was accustomed to, anyone I knew, and most importantly, the language I was accustomed to. I enjpyed how intimate and human basic communication can - from ordering a coffee or asking directions and depending on someone's eyes to understand. The writing on that record is so plain for that reason, and I am proud of that.
I'm not sure what shape the music business will hold for me, but I would say that people who believe in what you do are the most crucial ingredient, and beyond that, hard and fast rules are hard to find these days. I think it is very exciting that people can put records out on their own these days. I was on a major before the music industry really took a sharp left turn, so what I saw may not apply anymore. I don't like to compromise, and I don't consider myself an entertainer for entertainment's sake. I make what I make, and I imagine my decisions will fall where I find support for that.
That is a pretty good question these days. What is really important is to find someone who is passionate about what you do, willing to protect it, and has some muscle to follow through. If you are asked to change your name, show your cleavage, fire your band and write a hit, you should probably run.
You are, obviously, passionate about your music do you see that changing for any reason in the future?
I would surely hope not. The music business is hard, for sure, but I don't think music is really about the music business. I am usually passionate about whatever I do, from making soup to watching old french films. I always want to be learning, and I figure that if that hasn't changed yet, I'm probably out of luck.
What motivates you to write the songs you do and how much of yourself do you put into them?
Something I care about or something that touches me is always where a song begins. I put an enormous amount of myself into writing a song - both in heart and in energy. But a song that is worth its salt usually takes on a life of its own and stands on its own legs by the time it is finished. Whether it is some sort of magic you can't explain, or something the lyric demands, a good song usually crosses a distance from being purely a personal statement to something that makes its own way without me in the end.
That is a really hard question to answer in a few sentences. I have had some opportunities as a musician that I only dreamed about - being nominated for a Grammy, singing with Emmylou Harris, writing in Paris - and sharing those victories with my family and friends who have believed in me is something that I will keep forever. But the highs and lows that come along in anyone's life are terribly personal and usually somehow tied to each other. The lows earn their way to the highs and the highs give way to the lows, and the details aren't that interesting to anyone but me, but the lessons they elicit make their way into my songs.
I was very honored to do some small part for Obama's campaign, but I certainly worry about what is happening in the US. Politics don't make sense to me. I wrote a song called Do Something Good about it. I just don't understand how decisions are continually made that just seem immoral and hurtful are continually justified on the basis of money and the interests of a few. To me, if one has power, one should use it to do good, not consolidate more power. I guess that is why I am a folk singer.
I would really, really love to spend more time in Italy, Spain and Portugal. I really love the Mediterranean countries.
You never know what might come about. I love pure, spare storytelling and the rawness of early country music. My work usually is centers itself in songwriting, and at this point, I try to write in a way that honors the tradition of roots music while at the same time tries to push forward with a voice that is my own.