Morgan gets personal
First Posted: 4/1/2013
Kyle Morgan grew up singing in church, picking up a guitar when he was 12 and writing songs by 13. He was naturally drawn to folk music, but his biggest influence, by far, was Michael Piatt, a Tennessee blues singer known as “Rotten Belly Michael” in Rotten Belly Blues.
“He writes really authentic blues. He plays a lot of slide guitar. He’s kind of a mentor in that blues tradition for me,” Morgan described. “That’s what really propelled me in that world.”
It didn’t matter that Morgan was based in Harrisburg; in this day and age, country music is no longer confined to just the South.
“It’s much less regional than it was before, recorded music in general. I can listen to the recordings of people in the South from the 1920s, so in a way, it transcends time and place,” he explained.
“Its origins are in certain music, but I think it’s universal in the way that it reaches people anywhere in the country, or in the world, really. And also it has its roots in the British Isles and West Africa and all over the world, really, so like America, it’s a conglomeration of traditions.”
Also a member of Cold Front, a pop garage rock band from Philadelphia, and traditional folk group Tumbling Bones from Portland, Maine, the now 24-year-old is carving his own personal niche with his solo work, which has produced an experimental folk rock record called “Starcrossed Losers.”
“It’s the kind of longing for the life I would like to live but am, as of yet, unable to attain. The songs kind of reach forward into the future towards the kind of person I’d like to be, anticipating it,” Morgan said of the 10 tracks on the album.
“Some of the songs go back a number of years. This was the first one I was able to pick from about 80 songs I’ve composed… Half of them are new songs, half of them were older.”
Many of those songs began with a single line and a melody that “sets the mood” for the rest of the tune, crafting a “very personal” record in the process.
“I tend to write either external narrative songs about other people or things, but then I write personal songs, and I decided for this first (record) to choose songs that were taken, for the most part, from my life. It’s in a way typical love relationship (songs), but I think it goes beyond that… There are darker and lighter parts of the album, more feel-good songs and reflective, introspective songs,” Morgan noted.
“I think it’s a good variety of things. If you’re a classic rock fan, you’ll find things that you can latch on to, but if you’re more of a mellow folk fan, you’ll find that, too.”
The title, “Starcrossed Losers,” simply ties the subject matter of whole album together.
“A lot of the songs are kind of examining past relationships and trying to wrestle with how they failed, trying to reconcile useful revelations of love and of life and trying to come to terms with how they don’t work out quite that way, moving from an idealistic perspective to a realistic perspective,” he said.
“Coming of age – growing up, you’d call it.”
He began recording in May of 2012, getting as many of his musician friends involved as possible, giving it a live and improvisational vibe – another Rotten Belly influence, he admits.
“A lot of it I kind of pre-orchestrated with horns and whatnot. I had specific parts I wanted, but then I had areas that I relegated to improvisation where I just let the musicians free to create on their own, and that really brought more life to just what my ideas would be,” he continued.
“You may be sacrificing some of the perfection of it, like I have to sing and it’s hard to really sing the whole take perfectly, but what you gain is the honesty and authenticity of being right there in the moment and not sacrificing that for perfection. There’s a balance between that.”
In between Cold Front and Tumbling Bones tours, Morgan will be showcasing the new record during several upcoming performances, most notably at a CD release party on Friday, April 5 at Sign of the Wagon (154 East Philadelphia St., York), where he’ll reunite with many of his friends who played on the recording, and during a performance with his band at the River Street Jazz Cafe (667 N. River St., Plains) on Saturday, April 6.
“It’ll be great just to have all the friends who contributed to it all together in one place, and it’ll be kind of like a celebration in that way,” Morgan said of the York performance.
“I didn’t want it to just be my project; I wanted to give it to other people and have them share it, and it’s as much their project as my own.”