Rae Morris is one to watch! I discovered her 4 years ago and have followed her musical career ever since. Earlier this year she released her debut album ‘Unguarded’ and she is performing at Newcastle 02 Academy on Sunday, 4th October. I caught up with the 23 year old singer-songwriter and talked about life on tour and what motivates and inspires her.
CR: Where did you play your first gig and how did it go?
RM: It’s hard to remember because I played a lot of open mic nights. I never really know
whether they count as gigs because they are just like – you stand up and hope for the best,
kind of close your eyes and hope that it works. So I played a lot of those in Blackpool and
Preston and places in the North-West. I do remember my first London show, I think it was
in the June of 2011 and I remember being so scared it was like the biggest thing that had
ever happened to me but it went really well.
CR: I’ve seen you play 3 times, (Once in St. Phillip’s Church in Salford, The Deaf
Institute in Manchester and with Bombay Bicycle Club on The Other Stage in
Glastonbury) – I know you’ve played a lot of gigs, what has been your favourite one
so far and why?
RM: Glastonbury this year was just a massive moment, definitely Glastonbury! I think as
you said I’ve played with Bombay there before and i’d always dreamt of doing my own slot.
It’s just something I think when you get there you realise how big a deal it is. Before I was
like ‘oh yeah just another festival blah blah blah’ and then you get there and you kind of
arrive on site and think, ‘oh my god this is a huge deal’.
CR: How are you finding life on the road then?
RM: Life on the road is actually one of my favourite parts of doing this. To be honest i’m
quite nervous about when I stop touring to focus working on the next record. I’ve been
touring basically for the past 4 years and i’ve not really stopped gigging. So it’s going to be
quite strange and I love my band, we get on so well, we have such a wonderful time so i’m
going to miss them when we stop touring.
CR:Some songwriters can go be very prolific. It must be difficult to find time to sit
down and write music whilst you’re on the move touring. Have you been working on
any new songs lately? What’s inspiring you at the moment?
RM: It is difficult to write when you’re on the road and I think the first part of this year I
found it quite difficult to separate the promo for the album. I was constantly talking about
‘Guarded’ my first record and the songs on there, so it was actually quite hard to get my
head away from that. So yeah I did find that hard but as festival season arrived things
were a bit more chilled I had a few weeks off in London just writing and doing cool things.
So i think my mind was able to kind of separate itself from everything. I actually feel in a
really good place with it all now, i’ve got this last tour this October and then that’s kind of
the last thing for ‘Unguarded’.
CR: Your sound has really developed since I first heard you play. I remember it was
on a ‘Watch Listen Tell’ YouTube sessions, singing your song ‘Day One’. Back then,
it was just you and your piano, more acoustic almost melancholic, now it seems to
me your music is more upbeat, produced and obviously a lot more instruments, was
it always your plan? – Might you return to the stripped down solo sound from time to
RM: Wow, that’s a long time ago. Yeah absolutely, I think the development of the
instrumentation and the production on the record happened really naturally because of just
having the opportunity to do it and being in these beautiful studios having so much cool
equipment and gear around and just being so privileged to be able to use those talented
musicians that I had around me and stuff. I think it’s a wonderful thing to do to fill your
music with sounds that you never expected there could be and yeah, I still sit at the piano.
I’ve got a piano at my flat in London so there’s still a huge part of me that’s just piano and
vocal and i’m sure i’ll continue to do that.
CR: Has touring and playing with a live band shaped your songwriting processes
compared to when you first started out?
RM: I think it has, just watching people’s reaction – watching the audiences reaction. I’m
wanting to give them a set that surprises them and develops and changes and kind of give
them something to go home thinking about. I do think about that now and I consider what I
could do to bring everything to life a bit more on the next record.
CR: The video I mentioned on WLT was posted 4 years ago. You must have a large
repertoire of original songs now. Was it difficult deciding what made it to the album?
RM: It really was yeah, it was really hard. It was probably the longest part of the process
just kind of making sure that I had the right songs. Even though I love every single one of
them in a different way – the ones that i’ve written, it’s difficult just kind of ordering them.
It’s almost like putting together a painting. You have to make sure each colour and tone
and feeling that you want to portray is represented in that way so it was quite a task. In the
end, I was able to tell the story that I wanted to tell at that time.
CR: My favourite song off the album is ‘Not Knowing’ because it’s the one that had
the biggest impact on me when I saw you play it live and the studio version is also
very atmospheric. What’s your favourite song off the album and why?
RM: It’s really cool that you like that one, that’s one of my favourites too. It’s strange to
choose your favourite i guess because part of me wonders whether i’m even allowed to
say that I really love one of my own things but I think at the moment ‘Morne Fortuné’ one of
my songs on the record is one of my favourites because I wrote it quite late in the process.
It was actually because my brother was getting married and I didn’t have a gift for him so I
wanted to write him a song. I’d never actually done that for him before. So I wrote that
song for him. ‘Morne Fortuné’ means ‘hill of good luck’ which is a place in St Lucia where
my mum and dad got married originally. So, I wanted to kind of continue the theme of luck
and give him that gift.
CR: You are one of the artists who has inspired me to write and play live, who
inspired you to get out there and perform?
RM: Amazing! Performing is a whole separate thing. I’m inspired by people to write songs –
people like Carol King and Feist. Those were the people who inspired me to write but from
a performance point of view, I think people like Bjork and Kate Bush. They perform in a
way that I really admire, it’s not like show biz glam – it’s like art.
CR: You’ve achieved so much so young with your music already. Where do you
hope you’ll be in 5 years time?
RM: 5 years is a strange amount of time because I know it’s going to go really quickly – I’ll
be 28. I think i’d like to have written at least 2 more albums, I think that’s a good amount of
time to have done that. And I’d like to be slightly wiser. Maybe i’ll be a good runner or
something? I’ll have gotten really healthy and fit. I’d definitely like to be sometime in
America, spending some time there. And perhaps i’ll have a studio where I can have all my
favourite musicians and hang out and make music!
**Photographs: Shay Rowan