Morgan Brock on her Upcoming EP Release: Stars or Angels

In a lovely twist of fate, the stars aligned and I was introduced to Morgan Brock's music through a mutual friend (thanks Pete!) just days before her newest EP release. I was seriously blown away by her diverse range and powerful vocals. I quickly found myself listening to her singles on repeat, curious about her inspirations and the meanings behind her stories. Morgan agreed to tell us a little bit more about her background and the motivation behind her upcoming EP, Stars or Angels, available on all major streaming services on 2/19.

Sonika: I love the lyrical nod to the pandemic with “stand six feet away” in Hold My Own Hand. How have you been able to stay creative in the age of COVID? 
Morgan Brock: The few things I need to be creative are time, a room with a window, and something important to talk about, which 2020 certainly provided. Also, wifi helps! Zoom co-writes are the future, but they don’t come without awkward mute to unmute transitions and audio issues, but it is pretty incredible to connect with people around the world. This past year kept us from the experiences and people that inspire art, so I had to either pull from the vault or write about the now. The world is hurting collectively but in such a uniquely isolated way, so “Hold My Own Hand” felt like the only reasonable way to console myself literally and lyrically. I feel profoundly blessed to have experienced this past year from a safe home with good people nearby. It gave me time to be still. I’ve never been this creative or productive in my life and I went to art school, where we pulled all-nighters.

I imagine you are unable to tour at the current moment. Do you see a tour in your future?
MB: Before March 2020, I performed a few times through Sofar Sounds in NY, where I used to live, and I recently opened for rising country artist Lily Rose at Eddie’s Attic in Atlanta. I hope to perform more in the future. To be honest, I feel more comfortable as a writer or a creator, rather than a performer, which I think comes from my visual art background. In my opinion, as a visual artist I have the luxury of creating behind closed doors, before cutting the umbilical cord to detach from the art, allowing it to perform on its own. Musicians have to recreate their art over and over again, like an athlete, but with a broken heart.

What’s your creative process like? Do you write all of your own music?
MB: I do write my own music! Each idea comes to life in its own way, whether I have a passing thought, a memory, or something I overheard. From there, I work out the story with my guitar. Some of my favorite songs I don’t remember writing, which is usually when I know I am on to something. The story starts to tell itself and nothing is forced. You also have to be okay walking away from an idea. It will reintroduce itself naturally, if it’s worth chasing. Also, Nashville has an incredible co-writing community, which is great for writing more commercially, across genres, or from someone else’s perspective. It’s also just super fun and a great way to meet people.

I heard a lot of Mazzy Star, Stevie Nicks, maybe a little Grace Potter in your sound. Who are your influences? 
MB: I am so stoked you mentioned Grace Potter. I truly worshipped her back in the day and still do, especially the “Grace Potter and the Nocturnals” 2010 album. I am equally excited you hear influences of Mazzy Star and Stevie Nicks, because we actually used a Mazzy Star song as a reference track for Comeback Kid on the Red Chair EP. So good ear! Landslide was the first song I learned when I was 15 from my guitar teacher Marian Mereba (MEREBA), who is an incredible artist. Her blending of genres and lyrics are super powerful. You should check her out if you don’t know her! I have been told before that I have similar tones to Stevie, which is crazy cool and makes me laugh because my mom is not the biggest fan of her sound (everyone please forgive her), but I absolutely try to channel her through my music. Growing up I listened to rock, British rock, my mom is from England, so Queen played in the car a lot, obviously accompanied by Sheryl Crow. I am currently inspired by the sounds of Angel Olsen, Molly Parden, Bon Iver, Waxahatchee, Big Thief, Phoebe Bridgers, Courtney Marie Andrews, Sharon Van Etten, Savannah Conley, Lady Lamb, First Aid Kit, and many more!

Who is your dream collaboration?
MB: Okay I have two dream collab ideas. 

1. I’d be super down for a male/female duet situation with Kristian Matsson (Tallest Man on Earth). He is an incredible songwriter and guitar player, and I really dig his voice. It’s so textured and raw with crevices that tell stories of their own. Also, I already met him! The day I moved from Brooklyn to Nashville, my boyfriend and I ran into him in the car rental shop, but we only passed along a classic “we are big fans of your music” then grabbed the keys and ran. 

2. This one isn’t genetically possible, but since we are dreaming, I’d love to be in a sister band, like HAIM or First Aid Kit or the Staves, who are from my mom’s hometown in England. So maybe we are somehow related? So again this is genetically impossible, because I don’t have sisters, only a brother, but since we are dreaming, then Maggie Rogers, Faye Webster, Julia Jacklin, and I are quadruplets in a band together.

You mentioned you’re working full time. How do you find a balance between a full time job and staying consistent with your music? Do you have plans to make music full time in the future?
MB: It’s tough but also great for me. It removes any financial obligation from my art, which is super liberating. I also work a lot harder and better with constraints knowing that my hours of doing music are limited around my working hours. Of course the dream would be to pursue songwriting and music full time, but I’m being patient. My brain is also super split left and right, so I am pretty well fed throughout my day, between the 9-5 and writing songs, so I sleep very well at night!

I’m a huge fan of I Saw a Ghost and Comeback Kid from your Red Chair EP. So far, the singles from Stars or Angels seem to have a bit of a different tone, maybe a bit darker or more honest - very relatable. Would you like to comment on that at all?
MB: Thanks so much and totally! You can hear and feel a younger girl figuring out her sound and story in that debut record. I actually wrote and recorded most of those songs back in 2017/I8 and held on to them before releasing in fall of 2019. I even debated wiping them from platforms before releasing new music, because I have grown so much since writing and recording them. In the end, I am super proud of Red Chair, the people I worked with, and that younger version of myself. It is a journey and you can hear it. Sometimes I can’t believe I made those songs happen in a city where I knew no one, nothing about the music industry, and had never stepped foot in a recording studio. I was super open and impressionable to my surroundings while recording those songs, because I felt inexperienced and ill-equipped to have strong opinions. I am thankful to that experience, but afterward it meant I needed to figure out my style and vision, which moving to Nashville was pivotal in my development as an artist and songwriter.

What’s the inspiration behind your upcoming EP, Stars or Angels? 
MB: These 6 tracks are definitely a wintered debut of what I’ve been writing and feeling over the last year or more. The songs are dark sounding and portray a sense of wayfinding and questioning of perspective. I spend a lot of time in between different emotions and realizations within these songs. I can be quite mercurial, so there is a flighty shift between humor and despair, that I hope feels authentic and relatable. “Stars or Angels” comes from a lyric in the final track “Upstairs”, which is a song about finding peace in this life, with the hope of what comes next.

Anything you’d want listeners to keep in mind as they make their way through it?
MB: I want listeners to understand that these 6 tracks are part of a larger collection of songs written over the last year and half. I did not have a map of where these songs were going, how they would communicate with each other, or how I would deliver them to anyone, until my producer, Asher Peterson, and I finally came up for air and realized we had recorded 18 songs. So, we pressed pause, got organized, and arranged them in a way that was not only digestible for the audience, but also for me as well. I really needed to stop and reflect on the art we created and what it all meant.

Can you give our readers any insight into when we can expect a full length album?
MB: Yes! Like I mentioned, we started recording 18 songs, which we are now finalizing for a full-length record. One of the songs I wrote with my good friend and Toronto based artist, Bryn, which I might release closer to spring, but I’ll let you know when I know! I am hoping to drop some more breadcrumbs throughout summer before releasing the final project closer to fall.  

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
MB:  I can be stubborn and really bad at taking advice or receiving help, so I should probably start there. I have learned that it’s important to speak up and remember we are all human, with spells of self-doubt. Figure out what you like and stand by it.

Morgan, thank you for your willingness to chat and give us an inside look into your work. 

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