Nature was one of Tift Merritt’s favorite collaborators while writing several songs on her sixth studio album Stitch of the World, which was made in the wake of several life changes. She was turning 40, her marriage was ending, and she decided to take a year off the road to see what would happen.
After touring with Andrew Bird and his old-time band Hands of Glory in 2015, she secluded herself in nature to put her life to music. She visited a friend’s ranch in Marfa, Texas, where pastoral scenes on the high plains provided daily inspiration.
“These beautiful landscapes that I was staying at were really lifting my heart and my eyes and I think that emotional life has cycles just like nature does in the way nature expands and contracts and changes from day to night,” she told CMT.com.
Watching birds learning to fly and dust themselves in the driveway inspired “Icarus.” In Greek mythology, Icarus is the son of Daedalus, a master craftsman and the creator of the Labyrinth. Their escape from the island of Crete is often depicted in art in a classic theme of failure at the hands of hubris.
According to the myth, Daedalus constructed wings from feathers and wax, and before takeoff, Daedalus warns Icarus to fly neither too low nor too high so the sea’s dampness wouldn’t clog his wings and the sun wouldn’t melt them. Icarus ignores his father, flies too close to the sun and his wings melt in the heat, causing him to fall into the sea.
In Merritt’s “Icarus,” she claims there’s a wing down in each of us, but in the end everything flies.
Her 2017 tour continues Tuesday (March 28) in Alexandria, Virginia.