New York-based singer/musician/ songwriter is something of a forthright chap, digging on on music business matters where he considers he should do and generally championing those in his field who he feels should be heard. To find out more about Morgan we invited him to field a set of questions – customised as usual – and now have his full responses to share with you fine readers. BTW some of his songs have the kind of rich chordal insistence that Roger Hodgson and Co utilise, hence that Supertramp question! Thanks Blake and here we go….
What gear do you currently use for live performances? Which is the newest item and which the most essential?
I’ve been performing solo in recent years (singing and playing either electric guitar or piano), so my gear is crucial to the show’s sound, and it’s equally crucial that I can bring it with me everywhere I go. I play a 1999 Silverjet that Gretch made for me (a true “bespoke” model), and my pedalboard is all EarthQuaker Devices pedals (Dunes, Disaster Transport, and Ghost Echo––the greatest reverb pedal ever). When I’m in NYC I use one of my small Vox tube amps but when on the road, I use the 200-watt ZT Amplifiers Lunchbox. That’s the newest item that has become the most essential if you can believe, and the one that sound engineers gasp at (in a good way). Couldn’t live without it.
Which two things have you learned NEVER to do on stage?
It’s death if you ever get caught trying. It’s death if you ever get caught being afraid.
What inspired your song Forgetting To Remember You?
Originally, the movie Memento by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan. In the movie, Guy Pierce’s character has lost his wife (murdered), and he’s also lost his ability to make new memories. It’s a strange form of amnesia. He expresses that he can’t move forward and can’t heal from her murder because he can’t remember to do it. He “can’t remember to forget her.” I played with the idea and switched the direction, but it’s what inspired me nonetheless.
You sing in a range I couldn’t attempt – how do you look after your voice?
I take care of my voice by practicing, a lot. My voice is far more likely to rust out than wear out. Like anything, the more you do it, the stronger––and the more unselfconscious––you get. I’m far more interested in moving you with something I’m singing than in singing “well,” but I find that the more my tools are at my disposal vocally, the better chance I have of doing that. So yeah, I practice.
Name a track – any artist or genre – with a memorable drum introduction
“Rain.” The Beatles. Game over.
What is the NMPA please?
In my experience, people in Washington DC often forget that most people don’t know who they are or what they do. It somehow makes me smile, wryly. The National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) is an American trade organization. They represent music publishers and are an important voice in both the music industry and on Capitol Hill, shaping legislation and advancing the interests of their membership. Good folks.
Suggest an acoustic gem that bears repeated listening. (Artist / title / source album)
Punch Brothers, “Movement and Location” from the album Who’s Feeling Young Now? Also game over.
Which is your favourite Supertramp album? For which tracks?
So I’m going to be honest: I have never––in my life––listened to a Supertramp album. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, just the truth. I pledge to do so. Sort of.
To what extent do you listen to Peter Gabriel? Any favourite tracks?
His work has been so important to me throughout my life, it’s hard to put into words. Gabriel 3 (Melt) and 4 (Security) changed the way I thought about music when I was a kid. And of course So affected me, and the world, forever. I once listened to the live version of “San Jacinto” from Plays Live for three months without listening to a single other piece of music. Sorry Supertramp.
Which of your own songs or pieces show you at your most a/ reflective ? b/ lively?
Hmm. For reflective I might go with “So Scared and Happy,” and for lively perhaps “Best Bad Idea.” The latter is one of my only attempts (or the only, actually) to be funny in a song. It’s an attack song, but with some humor. I hope.
Your song I Can Hear You Say – to my ears the ghost of Roy Orbison haunts this song! – discuss?
Oh I love that…thanks. Someone else once mentioned they felt Henry Mancini was in that song somewhere. Either way, there’s definitely some ghost that haunts that song, and one from the early 1960’s I think. It’s in the chord changes, but especially in the melody in the verses. There’s a little James Bond theme in there too I think.
Has your music been used in TV or Cinema productions?
Yes, many times. My favorite use of a song of mine was in the season premiere of CSI: Miami one year, for a song called “Better Angels.” The song questions the nature of hope (and religion), in fact––there’s a line in it, “I wound’t mind hanging on if I could find out what I’m hanging from.” The show used the song just as David Caruso (this century’s William Shatner) walks into a church and genuflects at an altar. The show’s producers completely missed the meaning of the song. It still makes me smile.
Venues differ so much as regards acoustic qualities – so far , which place has best suited your style and sound?
My favorite venue anywhere is Rockwood Music Hall in New York City. I’ve had a residency there for the past three years (sold out, thank you very much), and I hope to continue to play there for as long as I can stand upright and make music. It’s a beautiful venue with three stages, and each sounds immaculate. Stage 3, where I perform, is a jewel of a room where people truly, deeply, listen. All the energy stays in the room (no windows), and by the end of the show it’s as if it’s become a nuclear reactor. I love it there.
How do you feel about your music being used in advertisements? In the UK, a lot of adverts use music from the Queen catalogue at the moment….
I’ve never had a track or song of mine used in an advertisement, and I’m really happy about that.
How do you choose a setlist? Might this vary from country to country?
I choose a setlist for each tour––I’ve travelled almost 70,000 miles one the past two years––and unless something really isn’t working, I stick to it for that entire run. I tell a lot of stories in my show, and they’re tailored somewhat to where I’m going (often they’re anecdotes about the last time I was in that city, for example). I also try not to repeat myself setlist-wise or story-wise in a city I’ve been to before. But musically, I try to build a show that would excite me. I find if I do that, there’s a great chance it will do the same for the audience.
Is travel a bore for you or an inspiration?
An inspiration. It’s a bizarre form of travel, touring. People often suggest places I should go visit on tour (this cathedral, this museum), and it’s often if not always impossible. On tour you’re working, and the travel is tight. Flight, car, hotel, car, venue, hotel. Rinse, repeat. But there’s a lot of beauty in that kind of travel, at least for me, and I get a lot of thinking––and feeling––in along the way. It’s like being in a bubble. My friend and label-mate Tracy Bonham calls it “The Travel Bubble.” I think we’re nicknaming our upcoming tour that, in fact: The Travel Bubble Tour.
Which film has the best introductory music, for atmosphere? Excluding ‘Shaft’!!
Check out the score for the Steven Soderbergh movie Solaris, by Cliff Martinez. From moment one to moment done, it’s utterly mesmerizing. Trance-like. Perfection.
Is there a piece of recorded music that – for you – fades too early? Some say this of Kate Bush’s ‘Wuthering Heights’
Describe your hometown in five words, please
My city that never sleeps.
Do you have a favourite composition by a/ Brian Wilson b/ John Mellencamp c/ Joni Mitchell?
Not really, definitely not, and all of Blue. That album is an indispensable achievement of humankind.
(Thanks Blake for the answers)
Feature Image and Photo Credit: Taylor Ballantyne
For more information on Blake Morgan and ECR Music Group visit the company’s official website here: http://bit.ly/2EZ9epD