Catherine Tift Merritt is an American singer-songwriter, musician and North Carolina native. With her longtime band, she has built what has been called a "unique" and critically acclaimed body of work of "sonic short stories and poignant performances." She has been compared to artists like Joni Mitchell and Emmylou Harris.
Merritt began her professional career with her band The Carbines playing small clubs in Chapel Hill and Raleigh such as The Cave, Cat's Cradle, and the front porch of the General Store in Bynum, NC. In 1998, The Carbines released a 7-inch single "Jukejoint Girl" b/w "Cowboy". In 1999, Merritt made a guest appearance with the Two Dollar Pistols, led by John Howie, Jr., on a seven-song EP The Two Dollar Pistols with Tift Merritt, on the Yep Roc label. The EP featured two original tunes and five cover songs. In 2000, she won MerleFest's Chris Austin Songwriting Contest, found a manager, and signed a contract with Lost Highway Records.
In 2002, Merritt released her debut album, Bramble Rose, containing eleven original songs recorded with her long-time band and produced by Ethan Johns. The record landed on the top ten lists for both Time and The New Yorker, and was named "the best debut of the year in any genre" by the Associated Press.
A song from the album, "Trouble Over Me", was featured in writer Nick Hornby's 31 Songs. While touring to promote Bramble Rose, Merritt opened for fellow North Carolinian Ryan Adams, who had helped her secure her first management and record contracts.
In 2005, Merritt and her album Tambourine were nominated for three Americana Music Awards by the Americana Music Association: Album of the Year, Artist of the Year, and Song of the Year for "Good Hearted Man". During the tour to promote Tambourine, Merritt opened for Elvis Costello and recorded Austin City Limits—a performance later released as a DVD by New West Records. The sold-out homecoming concert for the tour—at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, North Carolina—was recorded for a live album release; Home Is Loud was released in 2005 and re-released by the German label Blue Rose Records with bonus tracks in November 2009.