Saturday, August 13, 2011

MORGAN Rising - Getting To Know the Dude

I do admire guys who can come into this racket late with a thing or two left to say, having had a career already as an editor, writer and, lately, interactive project manager and, time permitting, can cobble together a bunch of demos, get signed to an indie label, gig, and begin to build an audience.

This is what singer-songwriter MORGAN has managed to do.

And while getting here has taken awhile, that's kind of the point.  Indeed, time is the sort of bell weather that does seem to lend itself to the notion that the storytelling in the songs somehow is justified by experience, and isn't this worth our time?

The artists hopes so.  He's recently released two singles, "West Coast Hearts" and "Katie" on Not Dead Yet Records label.  Produced by singer, songwriter, and bassist Justine Kaye of Joe K's Kid, these solidly-produced tunes are indeed refreshing, interesting, and lovingly composed.  Maybe this is why it's taken so long for Morgan to appear on the scene.  His forthcoming EP and full length, West Coast Hearts, is his shot at the title.  He knows all too well that some are going to want to see it evaporate but he's not letting that derail his train.

Morgan, a displaced Yankee hailing from New England, has been a quiet fixture on the west coast for more than a decade.  Like a lot of folks who go out there, he went looking for a screenwriting deal and, like a few kids, got close but watched the door shut.  "I still update Final Draft whenever I can," the artist says.  "One of these days I'll get something going."

But the business has changed.  And so has the music biz, for that matter.

Social networks, websites, Twitter--all of this has turned journalism on its ear but it's also made guys like Morgan more accessible. His ReverbNation page is a busy mess (like a lot of those kinds of sites that have to cram a ton of material into one small plot of real estate) and his tweets are spare at best.  However, that's not really what he's here for.  "Yeah, but just don't tell my label," jokes the songwriter.

I sat down with him the other day.  He drinks his coffee black with one sugar, doesn't smoke, and still wears wayfarers.  He's cool but maybe a little nervous; he's not used to interviews. All the same, he's got a strong handshake.  He seems real, and this is refreshing in Los Angeles. : Ok.  So what's your deal?

MORGAN : What do you mean, Des?

D@BC : Your music, your life, your message.  What's your deal?

M : This sounds like a trick question.

D@BC : It's not.

M : My deal... I guess my deal is I've been an observer long enough and now it's time to act.  It's time to say something.

D@BC : Who inspires you?

M : Risk-takers.

D@BC : Musically, who inspires you?

M : The risk-takers.  You know--Beethoven, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Joni Mitchell, Johnny Cash, Townes, Steve Earle, Robert Earl Keen, Gregory Alan Isakov, Neil Young, Cooley and Hood from Drive-By Truckers.  These folks--some of them, anyway--were living through their message, through their song.  Bernie Taupin's quite good, too.  You know him?

D@BC : Of course.  Elton John's lyricist.

M : He's amazing.  And Loretta Lynn.  Sometimes overlooked as a songwriter.

D@BC : Yes.  But tell me about your songs.

M : My songs.  Yes.  Well, there are several of them--four or five notebooks at this point, I think.  I did some song study under Harriet Shock.

D@BC : The "Ain't No Way to Treat a Lady" songwriter.  Grammy nominee.

M : That's the one.  It was very humbling.  Your song was deconstructed and in the process so was the songwriter.  It was a great experience.  I recommend it for any creative artist.  But out of it came a way of looking at songs and songwriting that had alluded me.  Harriet's great.

D@BC : What do you like about songwriting?

M : Let me tell you what I love about songwriting first then I'll tell you what I like.  I love the challenge of trying to tell a story in less than four minutes--to have a beginning, middle, and ending, to have a plot, a sub-plot, a story arc, and a certain amount of drama or comedy.  What I like about songwriting is the poetry and the immediacy.  That's not to say songs happen fast--not in my notebooks.  But an afternoon can be a couple of songs whereas a novel or script could be a couple of months or even years.  On the other hand, I've got incomplete songs that've been going on for a few years now, so there goes my theory, I guess.

D@BC : What kind of guitar do you play?

M : Mostly acoustic.  I'm all about Taylors.  Got three of them.  Bob Taylor broke off from the herd and in the process created the legend. I admire that.

D@BC : But you've had other brands--Martins, Gibons, etc?

M : Of course.  And it's true that Martins are the so-called standard and are of a constant quality.  But Taylors are consistently beautiful-sounding and aesthetically pleasing.  Maybe they'll endorse me.  Wouldn't that be nice?

D@BC : Any other instruments?

M : Harmonica and ukulele.

D@BC : So is it country music?

M : It is but not country music per se.  It's there, for sure.  It's alt-country-folksy-rootsy-bluesy-rock.  And punk but not in a traditional sense.  Nashville--you listening?

D@BC:  Nice cowboy hat.  Do you know how to ride a horse?

M: I do, yes.

D@BC : What do you want people to know about you?

M : Apart from what we've already covered?

D@BC : Yes.

M : I want people to know that I'm serious about this.  That it means something.  Watered-down versions of crap eventually find their way back to the sea only to dissolve and be forgotten.  But solid foundations last like mountains.  That's the goal: to last like mountains.

Check out MORGAN'S new singles, downloadable on CD Baby -  He's gearing up to gig on the west coast and beyond, so look for him soon.