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Tift Merritt shoots for the moon

By Brian Baker, August 2010

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The pain of losing her grandmother wasn't the only extreme emotion that Merritt was experiencing. On the other end of the scale, she and Hutchins were finalizing their wedding plans as were Brown and his girlfriend, while producer Martine and his girlfriend, singer/songwriter Laura Viers, were expecting their first child.

Combined with losses yet to come, these emotional peaks and valleys helped inform the decision to add two covers to the set list: '70s singer/songwriter Emmitt Rhodes' Live Till You Die and Kenny Loggins' classic Danny's Song.

"We‘ve always loved Emmitt Rhodes," says Merritt. "We had a bootleg of his album in the van when we were driving around for ‘Bramble Rose.' And not to be trite about it, but there was some living and dying going on in this record. And I always felt that to have a female singing Live Till You Die would be really different. As a singer/songwriter, it sort of sums everything up. ‘I have to say the things I feel/I have to feel the things I say.' I had a couple weeks before we went in the studio, and I was sending (Tucker) little pieces of stuff, like, ‘Do you like this? Should I try to finish it?' And he just responded so much to Live Till You Die. And when we got in there with the band. it just felt like this greasy, Big Star-ish kind of thing. Anytime we can the have the greasy stuff, we want to keep it."

Danny's Song evolved spontaneously out of a studio conversation, but was definitely tied to the emotion surrounding the sessions. Merritt was breezing around the studio in borrowed roller skates when someone made a reference to Melanie, which led to a reference about Anne Murray, which led to an unkind criticism of the Canadian pop chanteuse.

"Tucker and I were like, ‘You're crazy!'" says Merritt. "He had Danny's Song on his computer and pulled it up and played it for everybody. They we were watching YouTube of ‘Snowbird' and all this '71 footage of Anne Murray. Tucker's girlfriend Laura Viers, who's an amazing songwriter, was pregnant, and I was getting married to Zeke and Jay was getting married to his girlfriend, and we all kind of teared up at Danny's Song."

"When it wasn't our turn to do something in the studio, Jay and I figured it out and started practicing it. Tucker said, ‘Okay, you have 30 seconds to go in and sing that song on that microphone.' We thought it would be a fun outtake. And the more we played it for people, everybody was like, ‘What, are you crazy? You have to put this on the record.' By the end, there it was. It really did fit."

The thematic element to "Moon" is important to Merritt's satisfaction with the album.

"When I step back from it, I think there's a lot of the larger cycles of life in this record," says Merritt. "A lot of happy and sad things were happening at the same time; people were dying, people were getting married, people were in the midst of their lives and people were losing their lives. It seems a little arrogant to have thought, ‘Oh, we'll make a record that tackles that,' but I think we made a record that echoes it a little bit. We all lost our grandmothers and we were all getting married; the duality of that was in our subconscious. I don't know that anyone else would hear that, but I think it's that period of time to us when we look back on it."

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