Kendra Morris Interview Part II

Kendra Morris Interview

Kendra Morris Interview

Kendra Morris Interview, Part 2

If you have not read it yet, please start with Part 1 of the interview with Kendra Morris

OSW: Both of your parents were musicians, so you had music around all of the time.  Your first recording goes way back doesn’t it?
Kendra Morris: Oh yeah.  Both my parents are musicians.  I remember, as a kid, my idea of fun always involved music.  Whether I had a fake band, or whether my friend, Jacqueline and I  would always think of these groups, and we would perform for each other out in my front yard and  put on shows.  With the recording, I wasn’t interested in having a lot of friends and being part of the Girl Scouts or anything like that.  I was always interested in creating things and making things. I remember getting a karaoke machine for Christmas.  I think I used it for karaoke maybe once.  I got the whole box of cassette tapes, and instead, I would take blank tapes, and I would just sing on them.  I’d take it into my closet and I would make songs. I started realizing that I could bounce my vocals and make all these other vocal parts.  I would sit in my closet and make songs with backup harmonies, and that is how I started learning.  Little did I know at 8 or 9 years old, that what I was doing was something that people in big studios in New York City were doing. That was how I just started hearing melodies.  My mom sings, and we would just always have harmonizing contests with each other.  We’d sit in the car and try to harmonize to everything.  I’ve saved everything from over the years; all my recordings.  I’ve tried everything.  I’ve been in all kinds of bands.  When I think back, I have been journaling since I was about 12 years old also, and I have just piles of journals from over the years, and music was always just, asides from teenage girl drama, the focus.  I’ve always been involved with making music somehow.

OSW: What are you most proud of?
Kendra Morris: I guess what I’m most proud of is that I’ve kept going,  I went to a performing arts high school, and everybody started out with the same dream.  Everybody was like, “I want to be on Broadway,” or “I want to be a singer,” but as you get older, what you want changes.  Some people are like, “Actually, I want to start a family,” or “I don’t think maybe acting is what I’m cut out for, but I think I’m better for this,” and that’s fine.  Everybody has their own paths, and everybody gets to where they’re going. But, singing has been what I’ve always wanted as far back as I can remember, since I was performing for stuffed animals.  I think what I’m really proud of is that over all these years, I have stuck with it.  It feels good to stick with something.  There have been setbacks, and some days are better than others, but to create and to make music that is what makes me the happiest.  When I’m making something…. when I’m making something out of nothing.  Just to have kept going and now it has been 10 years, and I’m still at it. It’s also nice that now starting to see the fruits of hard labor.  I’m definitely one of those advocates of “The world is your oyster. If you want something bad enough, if you really want something, you can do anything.”  That’s how the Eiffel Tower was built.  That’s how the pyramids were built.  When you think of this whole planet, everything on it, is because of someone’s crazy idea and making it happen.  I’ve been just really excited seeing things come together.  I’ve had my days where I am kind of bummed out; I can be hard on myself, but then it’s kind of taking a step back from the big picture and saying, “I’m putting myself out there, and people are responding to it”, and it’s affecting other people day to day.”  That is the beauty of music.

OSW: It really is. The thing that I don’t think any of of us realize going in is how much time the non-musical stuff ends up taking so you can make music.
Kendra Morris: Oh yes.  Lately, I’ve been just crazy busy.  My days will fill up so fast, not just with the creative side of things.  I sell a lot my posters on my website, and I print those then go to the post office, or there are days I spend hours just answering emails.  There is so much that goes into it, especially when you’re doing everything on your own.  There are the Lady Gaga’s of the world.  She has huge teams of people working for her.  She is still doing tons of work.  But at the level she is at, she has to have teams of people, as well.  There are a lot of artists who don’t have teams of people, but you have to keep the ball rolling.  It doesn’t matter the amount of people who hear your music.  For me, every single person is just as important.  If one person sends me an email, I have to find time to write them back.  They’re the ones that keep me in music. I think it is so important to be in touch with your fan base.  It’s a nonstop thing.

OSW: How did the tour with Dennis Coffey come about?
Kendra Morris: That was so cool.  Randomly, the guy who was managing Dennis had heard of me.  He’s an avid Wax Poetics magazine reader and just had heard of me through them.  He’d seen me in some ads and went and looked up some of my stuff.  When I first signed with them, they put on a 45 of me; Syl Johnson was on one side; I was on the other. He called Wax Poetics and said “We’re doing this showcase at South By Southwest and Dennis needs a singer on some of these songs. I joined Dennis Coffey on stage for that, and it went over really well.  Then he asked, “We’re doing a tour over the summer in the Midwest “ I said Yes! Are you crazy?! Absolutely, I want to do this!”

OSW: Do any books or movies influence your writing?
Kendra Morris: A lot of both.  I watch a lot of movies.  My nighttime is my down time where I try to give myself time to do something like that, and I read a lot.  I get so many influences from between what I’m reading, what I’m collecting.  I collect oddity-sort of things; taxidermy.  I flea market a lot.  That is pretty much my weekend therapy.  I’ll get up early, go to a flea market in NY and just walk around.  Sometimes I’ll buy stuff; sometimes I won’t.  I love looking at these old things that somebody else used to love.  Sometimes, I’ll look through all the old family photos, sometimes, it’s just the design of a piece of furniture. I get really inspired by the past.  All the stuff on the cover of “Banshee” is stuff from my apartment, and we just took it.

Kendra Morris Banshee

OSW: The same things go in the collages you make?
Kendra Morris: With the collages I do, I collect old nature books, old encyclopedias and old magazines.  My whole book shelves are full of these books.  There is a guy on my street who sells all sorts of weird stuff…… sometimes it’s junk; sometimes it’s treasure, but I check it every day.  He’ll put things aside for me that he knows I’ll like.  I am really influenced by art.  I do these collages, and I feel like those influence my writing, too. Making a collage, you’re creating this world out of something else.  In the same way, you’re doing that with a song sometimes, too.  You’re taking all these pieces of instruments to create a song or whatever is influencing your lyrics, just all your day to day influences.  Sometimes, when I do a collage, I can go back and I can write better.  The cool thing about creating something is always trying to be outside of the box, finding a different way to do something.  There are a million-and-one ways to look at one thing; it’s all perspective.  My best friend and I, our summer project, we did a Stop Motion video to an unreleased song of mine (“Winding) that I had always wanted to release.  I said, “Let’s do something,” so we decided to do Stop Motion with collages.  All summer, that’s what we worked on, a Stop Motion music video.  We actually just finished it last week, but it took us about 70-something hours to do.  It is so much; writing a song; it is completely different, but so much alike.  You’re trying to find things that fit the pieces together.

OSW: You’re trying to find a different way to tell that story
Kendra Morris: Yeah. Doing Stop Motion, we did not storyboard it.  We did it one scene at a time.  Every day we worked on a different scene, and we did a lot of stream of consciousness.  The key to it… we felt like we were MacGyver, because we’d start the day out, and you have to find a way to go from one scene into the next scene.  With Stop Motion, it has to be constant moving.  Something always has to be going.  So each day it was figuring out how to go from the scene from the day before into the new scene. Then when you finish up, leave it in place so the next time you work, you can go from there.  We would give ourselves challenges.  We couldn’t ever do the same transition twice, and we couldn’t  do the same thing for the second time the chorus goes around.  We didn’t let ourselves use double footage.  I think with Art, whether it’s making music or making a painting, it’s all kind of coming from the same place.

OSW: If you could go back and be part of any session what would it be?
Kendra Morris: Oooh, there’s so many. I would sit in on ‘ Pet Sounds’
OSW: yeah that one comes up a lot.
Kendra Morris: I started reading a book about the making of Pet Sounds, and it was pretty crazy.  Hearing how he was working alongside Phil Spector or in the same studio. I’m also curious about the Wall of Sound andwould love to sit in on some Phil Spector sessions as well.  I’d love to sit in on Jimi Hendrix, ‘Electric Ladyland’  It was so good. … or an R Kelly Session,  or Les Baxter when he did ‘The Dunwich Horror soundtrack’.

OSW: What is your favorite lyric?
Kendra Morris:
Wanda Jackson  ‘Whirlpool’. Great lyrics throughout the entire song!!!!!!

“You got me falling down and down. You got me me spinning round and round. Loving good and loving true.. In a whirlpool. The waters deep and dark around as I go falling down and down. I reach out and what i touch. Your lovin’ hands I need so much. Whirl, whirl pool. Crazy, crazy over you. In a whirlpool I’m loving you.”

When people ask me what sort of music is influencing me, it changes.  I’ve been buying a lot of records lately, and I’ll listen to a record to death.  I finally got a record player, and there are a couple really good record stores by my apartment.  I’ll take a break from working on stuff, and I’ll walk to the record store and pick out something that sticks out to me. Then I’ll listen to that record over and over and over again.  Lately, I got Temptations, ‘Psychedelic Shack’.  That album is so good, and Dennis Coffey is all over it.  You hear it all over.  It’s kind of trippy, because that record is so good, and I think, “Man I got to sing with that guy.”  It’s a cool feeling.

OSW: What advice would you give to young songwriters/composers?
Kendra Morris: To keep going if you really want it.  You’ll never know what could have happened if you quit, so keep at it.Also to accept your setbacks as your building muscle.  You need those….. whether you want to call them failures or setbacks.  I call them little tests.  You have to have those.  I talked with a friend the other night.  She’s going through a rough time with her music.  She is so crazy talented.  Her music is amazing and she’s just going through an itch right now, and I said, “Just keep going.  You are building your story right now, and in 50 years this will be a blip.  You’ll be glad that you had these things, and you can’t just stop at the blip.”

OSW:  If you could sit down and talk about songwriting with anyone, who would it be and why?
Kendra Morris: I wouldn’t mind picking Leonard Cohen’s brain a little bit.  I love his songs.  His lyrics are so great.  They’re like poetry.  I just saw him at Radio City back in March.  I didn’t become a really big fan of his until probably then.
OSW: Yeah, he was one that  I didn’t get for a while.  But when I did he became one of my favorite writers.
Kendra Morris: I was familiar with him, but just hearing him there, it was like, “Wow! What have I been missing out on?”  I really appreciate him.  I would also love to  sit down with Buddy Holly.  I think he was such an incredible songwriter. His songs are just so classic and simple, and I love that about them.  I am always blown away by someone who can do that.
OSW: Yeah, an old Nashville writer Harlan Howard said, “All you need is 3 chords and the Truth.”
Kendra Morris: Yeah, some of the hardest and the best songs are the most simple.  Some of the songs even that I’ve written that I’ve been happiest with, they were the hardest to write, and the ones that people are attracted to the most because it just simply says something.  It’s easy to find a vague way to describe something; that’s always  a lot easier, but to find a way to just put something out there and just clearly say something using the perfect words to say. It’s why we do this.


Thanks again to Kendra Morris.  I really enjoyed our phone interview.  Please check out Part I of the interview if you’re reading this first. Please check out Kendra on the web also;

Kendra Morris on the Web
Twitter @kendramorris
Instagram @kendramorris

All interviews and Bonus Materials, including Kendra Morris, will be archived alphabetically HERE for easy access in the future. PLEASE go check out Kendra’s playlists there!  This time we have 4 videos of Kendra and 4 videos of songs she likes.

Please follow the Facebook Page for more updates and songwriting posts. Send us a message on Twitter and tell your friends, neighbors and relatives about us, if you like.

Thanks for spending some time here,
Our Scattered Words


Quincy Mumford Songwriting Interview

Quincy Mumford Songwriting Interview

Quincy Mumford and the Reason Why

Quincy Mumford

Current City: Asbury Park, NJ
Most Recent Release: ‘It’s Only Change’
Band Affiliation: Quincy Mumford & The Reason Why

Bio: After 5 years, 400+ shows, and four award-winning albums, New Jersey-based 21 year-old singer/songwriter Quincy Mumford is set to release his 5th album “Its Only Change” on July 30th, 2013.  Its Only Change was recorded in Nashville, TN with producer Ken Coomer (Wilco, Uncle Tupelo) and features performances from Jerry Roe (K.D. Lang), David Labruyere (John Mayer) and Aubrey Freed (Black Crowes, Sheryl Crow).  Producer Ken Coomer, states, “Quincy Mumford is a true artist that can bring raw 70′s style rock and funk highlighted with the voice of an old soul, it’s a perfect blend.”
Full Bio is HERE

OSW: OK, let’s get this out of the way first. You are not and have never been a member of Mumford and Sons. Has this led to some funny situations for you?
Quincy Mumford: No I am not, although I wouldn’t mind being apart of that group haha. My last name is English. One time there was a write up in a Philly magazine saying that Quincy Mumford from Mumford and Sons was playing…I guess they did not do their research.

OSW: What is your songwriting/composing process? 
Quincy Mumford: It usually starts with a chord progress, moves to a melody and becomes complete with lyrics. Lately, I have been switching it up. I have been getting a ton of ideas in my head, just humming melodies, and creating music later, and even writing down lyrics first and creating a song around that.

OSW: What’s different or new about your 5th album, “It’s Only Change.”?
Quincy Mumford: For the first time I have created an album that has a story behind it. It feels to me like a complete album, not just a bunch of songs placed together in a random order. A lot of thought and planning went into choosing the songs, and order. Each song relates back to each other, and they all have the same constant theme of change.

OSW: What are you most proud of?
Quincy Mumford: Probably my writing. I have worked hard over the last 8 years writing as much as I could, in order to perfect my songwriting craft. It is what I most enjoy about music, and it can only get better from here.

OSW: Do lyrics come quickly or do you revise them over a period of time? 
Quincy Mumford: It depends on the song. Some lyrics I can’t write down quick enough because they just keep flowing, and others I need to come back to multiple times to revise and perfect. 

OSW: Most people connect Asbury Park to Bruce Springsteen, but it really has become a great and varied musical community with yourself, April Smith and the Great Picture Show, Allie Moss and many others. Tell us about the music scene in Asbury Park, 
Quincy Mumford: What I love about the Asbury Park music scene is the amount of different music that comes out of it. There are so many different genres that come out of this area, and if you are like me, this is exciting because I love so many different types of music. There is indy rock, ska, punk, metal, soul, funk, reggae, you name it!

OSW: What is your favorite songwriting lyric?
Quincy Mumford: Mine or someone else’s? Ryan Montbleau has a song called, “Carry”. It is about marriage, and the idea of being married some day. I love the line, “Time hangs heavy on the vine, lets make wine”. 

OSW: Has technology changed your writing process at all the past few years?
Quincy Mumford: Yes! I used to use my notebook all the time to write, but now every time an idea pops into my head, i just take out my iPhone and write it down, or sing a melody into my voice recorder. 

OSW: Are there any books on songwriting/lyrics that have influenced you?
Quincy Mumford: Unfortunately I don’t read to much, but I listen to a lot of music and study the way that other artist write and compose their songs.

OSW: What advice would you give to young songwriters/composers?
Quincy Mumford: Write all the time, and don’t throw anything out! It does not matter how bad you may think it is, keep writing until you finish the song. You don’t have to use it, with each new song you grow and get better, so keep writing! 

OSW: What advice would you give your younger self 10 years ago?
Quincy Mumford: Study more music and don’t be lazy! I could have taken music a lot more serious and learned a lot more 10 years ago.

OSW: If you could go back and be part of any album session what would it be?
Quincy Mumford: John Legend ‘Get Lifted’.

OSW: If you could sit down and talk about songwriting with anyone, who would it be and why?
Quincy Mumford: Ryan Montbleau. He is my favorite songwriter of this day and age. He is a poet that plays music, an incredible songwriter. I always say he is like the Paul Simon of the new generation. Oh! That’s another person, Paul Simon is a genius, I would love to pick that guys brain about songwriting. He is so honest and playful with his lyrics and melodies. 

Quincy Mumford & The Reason Why on the Web

All interviews and Bonus Materials, including Quincy Mumford, will be archived alphabetically HERE for easy access in the future. 

Please follow the Facebook Page for more updates and songwriting posts. Send us a message on Twitter and tell your friends, neighbors and relatives about us, if you like.

Stop back by on Monday, 9/30, for Part II of our interview with Kendra Morris

Thanks for spending some time here,
Our Scattered Words


Kendra Morris Songwriting Interview (Part I)


Kendra Morris (photo by Marc McAndrews)


Being flexible and adapting to what happens around you, or what makes things work is a huge part of being a musician.  I like, and am comfortable, sending out questions to the musicians I interview.  This gives me a chance to really plan out the best series of questions for everyone.  It also allows them time to think about the questions and to be sure the wording is right.  Words are very important for people that spend most of their time working on lyrics and telling stories.  But, sometimes you have to be ready for change and do what works.

Kendra let me know that she’d be most comfortable doing a phone interview.  We had a great time and talked for an hour.  She sat out on her front step, so we had trucks and ambulances going by, along with neighbors and the mailman.  I figured out a way to record her side of the conversation and had my sister, who’s a medical transcriptionist, write it out.  It was a lot of fun and lead our talk in some different directions.  Growing up, the phone was the only way to stay in touch with friends and relatives who were not in town.  That or letters, which is a whole other topic.  But, now in 2013 with all of our fancy smart phones that do everything… we spend very little time talking to other people on our phones.  A conversation is so much more personal and intimate that trading texts or liking Facebook statuses.  In fact, sometimes I’ll put on ‘Elizabethtown” just to watch the phone call scene.  I miss talking with friends to catch up and need to get back in that habit. I’d be glad to do more interviews this way.

Hometown/Current City: St. Petersburg, Florida/New York, NY
Record Label: Wax Poetics
Most Recent Release: ‘Mockingbird’ (2013)
Band Affiliation: 
Dennis Coffey

BIO: (from )

 “For some reason, a lot of my life has revolved around recording in closets and tiny spaces,” laughs Kendra Morris. It’s been a bit of a recurring theme in the New York–based singer-songwriter’s career thus far, and it can be traced back to one Christmas at Morris’s childhood home in St. Petersburg, Florida. A mini-Kendra, aged eight, discovered that her karaoke machine could also be used as part of a makeshift studio set-up. “I would go into my closet, take these cassette tapes, and I’d start singing, record it, and switch it to the other side and sing over that,” she recalls.

Morris grew up imbued with a sense of music—her parents played in bands together, and she often broke into their cabinets full of vinyl to listen to their favorite records. As Marvin Gaye, the Spinners, War, Stevie Wonder, Jackson 5, and the Temptations washed over her, they soon became hers too. She sang along to her favorite albums with a voice she discovered soon after she learned how to talk.

Go HERE to read the rest of Kendra’s Bio.

OSW: Hey Kendra, we finally connected. Glad you’ve been busy.
Kendra Morris: Yeah, I don’t usually book so many shows close together, but some of the different bloggers put on shows, and then there were other things that I had previously committed to, and finally we had that release party. One wanted to us to do a thing in an art gallery.  It was a really cool, stripped down event.   It had just wound up being a lot of shows in a course of two weeks.  I’m glad I’m done now. We are working on new recordings right now, and so I’m just excited to not have any shows to be thinking about, because when you’re writing you kind of need to have a clear head and not be worried or thinking of other things.
OSW: That’s one of the things I talk with a lot of the writers about, someone like a Ryan Montbleau who does 200 shows a year I guess gets used to writing on the road.  But I, and a lot of people, have a routine around writing in their office, home or studio.
Kendra Morris: Well, we’re trying some new things with the writing now.  Jeremy Page, who produced both of the records, we wrote Banshee, just the two of us, aside from one song, which was an older one of mine that I brought to the table.  The new record, which are these new recordings, I think the whole band is sort of writing because we’ve all been playing together so long now, and we finally have our keyboardist, because it was kind of like a floating member for awhile, and now we’ve had the same keyboardist for a year, so everybody is kind of wanting to write.  We are going back to the way that writing used to be, with all of us sitting in a room with our instruments,  Jeremy playing different chords on Guitar, me on my notebook with the lyrics.  That is kind of exciting to try this whole other way of writing.
OSW: That’s a lot of fun, rather than sitting in a room by yourself working out parts.  You can get a lot more creative.
Kendra Morris: Yeah, Because everybody’s head is coming from a different place.  I’ll do the lyrics, then the vocal melodies because I love to take the reins on that.  All of the guys hear things differently, and they’ll be like, “Yeah, let’s try this”.  Jeremy comes in more as a producer and makes all of that work into the glue of a song. So it’s cool, and then everybody gets excited.  Even though I am a solo artist, and I go under Kendra Morris, my band is so much involved and a part of the project. It feels like a project rather than a backing band.
OSW: It’s great when you have a group that’s together for that long who collectively have an idea of what your “sound” is. Now do you play Guitar or Keyboards?
Kendra Morris: Yeah , I play guitar.  I’ve been playing guitar for awhile.  I just don’t play it on stage because of how intricate some of the vocal parts have gotten. You know, I think there will come a time where I will pick up a guitar and play a couple of songs with everybody on stage, but I just like to focus on singing.  I use guitar more for my writing tool.  I was doing these solo tours for awhile.  I think I’ll probably do another one.  I’ll play guitar for those where both my friend and I will travel the country and just do solo sets.
OSW: Outside of the new things you’re trying, what is your songwriting process?
Kendra Morris: I start with the melody first.  That’s what I’ve always done.  I keep a notebook with me, so if I’m just like in the city doing stuff, sometimes a lyric will pop up in your head, and all of a sudden you’re like, “Ahh-hh” and write it down.  I’ve had a couple of songs that started with a lyric, or just have the notebook, and a lyric, it’s like a lyric bank, so I’ll go into it when I’m stumped on something, But mostly, I start with a melody line.  Whenever I’m writing, that’s the first thing that comes to my head.  On my phone, the memory is all full from using that little speaker app.  I’m constantly going in and deleting old stuff.
OSW: Yeah, I like to keep my Lyrics in the Notes app so they’re always with me.  Does the group change tempos or feels once you’re together?  Sometimes, slowing down a fast song or speeding up a slow song can change everything, including the meaning
Kendra Morris: Yeah, definitely.  My computer is full of songs that started one way, and there are like four different versions of what those songs went through.  All of a sudden, there will be a different tempo, or a different mood, or the guitar sounds on it will sound completely different and change-up the whole vibe of the song.  So, yeah we’re constantly experimenting.  I think what has worked is, that when you’re writing, you have to put your ego aside and be willing to try different things. Because sometimes, the thing that you’re insistent wouldn’t work, is the thing that completely ended up being the best thing for it.  I think in writing you’ve got to let go of your ego.
OSW: The benefit of having a consistent group is that you can try out songs different ways each time until you find the right setting for that song, rather than working those things out in the studio.
Kendra Morris: Some of this new writing we’re doing is more like that.  For ‘Banshee’, that was just Jeremy and I in the studio going back and forth, kind of ping-ponging ideas.  He would start with some sort of instrumentation, and I would have my notebook in front of me and be singing out some melodies and ideas and come back out and that would start a new idea for him, like, “Oh I hear it going this way,” so then he’ll start tweaking more things instrumentally, and then I’ll say, “Oh and now I hear this,” and I go back in the vocal booth, and we’ll do that for hours and hours at a time, just kind of feeding off each other’s ideas. That is how ‘Banshee’ kind of worked. Then with ‘Mockingbird’, it was kind of the same thing, but more of the vocal arrangement sense than the instrumental sense.  With ‘Mockingbird’, it was the band coming in, and that’s when the band started getting more involved.  The band is all over that record.  You can hear them, just their ideas coming out.  That’s when our keyboardist Colin came in and really locked in too. He brought some stuff to the table that we had never even thought of before.
OSW: That was the nice part on ‘Mockingbird’, you’re taking songs that everyone knows and adapting them to how you want to tell the story.
Kendra Morris: Yeah, that’s a real important thing on a cover tune.  If you’re going to do a cover do an interpretation.  It’s like, make it your own.  I mean, always find a way to respect the originator of the song, but It’s like a coloring book.  Coloring books can be boring if everybody colors them the same.  That’s what was fun about them, the pictures are always different.
OSW: It was interesting, and I messaged you about this, that the guys were playing lines from “I’ll Take You There” on “Walk On The Wild Side”.  It makes sense too, I had never thought about those being the same chords
Kendra Morris: Yeah, you know what, I didn’t even think about that.  I went back and listened and totally heard it in there, which is cool.  I love when a song does that .  There’s a new song I’ve been working on and I took a super old children’s poem and added in a nod to that with one of the rhymes.  It’s fun to kind of do those sort of things, and you hope someone realizes it.

OK friends, we’ve reached 2000 words on today’s post which is probably plenty for one day.  I’ll make this Part I and come back to Part II as soon as possible.  Hope you’re enjoying this talk with Kendra Morris as much as I am.

Kendra Morris on the Web
Twitter @kendramorris
Instagram @kendramorris

Bonus Video.  The bonus materials link is listed after this video.  But, I wanted to also include this new stop motion video for “Winding” that Kendra and her friend Shannon Weidel worked on all Summer

Kendra Morris “Winding”

All interviews and Bonus Materials, including Kendra Morris, will be archived alphabetically HERE for easy access in the future. PLEASE go check out Kendra’s playlists there!  This time we have 4 videos of Kendra and 4 videos of songs she likes.

Please follow the Facebook Page for more updates and songwriting posts. Send us a message on Twitter and tell your friends, neighbors and relatives about us, if you like.

Thanks for spending some time here,
Our Scattered Words

Duquette Johnston Songwriting Interview

Duquette Johnston Songwriting Interview

Duquette Johnston Songwriting Interview

Duquette Johnston

A few months ago, when I started this blog, I was worried that I would only interview people I knew.  Maybe a lot of local musicians and then friends from other cities.  Now, I know a lot musicians so I could go on for a long time just with those folks.  But, I never imagined there would be so many songwriters I’ve never heard of before.  My buddy, Julie Peel, sent my a message and told me I needed to interview Duquette Johnston.  Hearing the sincerity, truthfulness and passion in his songs I completely agreed.  Here’s some quotes from his answers that summarize his views pretty well, “..  I want to always be writing, sometimes things get in the way. When people tell me they are waiting to write for inspiration or something else I just don’t understand that. What if something happens to you? Write, write, write, now!…..Be fearless, do not be afraid to experiment or be vulnerable with your music and your lyrics….”

Write, write, write, now. Be fearless, experiment, be vulnerable.  That’s great advice for all of us.

Current City or Home Town: I’m currently living in Birmingham, Alabama; born in Franklin, Tennessee; raised between Wyoming and Alabama
Record Label: I am very fortunate to be a part of the Pipe and Gun family and the Communicating Vessels family.
Most recent release: ‘ Rabbit Runs A Destiny’ (2013)
Band Affiliation: In the way past: Verbena 91-98, Anomoanon 99, Cutgrass 97-2002, The Blake Babies 2001(reunion tour) Gum Creek Killers 2010, Duquette Johnston Always

Over his last three records, Johnston explored his relationship with Alabama, where he’s been a fixture in the music scene for over twenty years, offering many raw looks at his time coming out of 90’s rock and roll (he founded and played bass for Verbena before the band signed to Capitol Records), the costs of fame and the toll it can take on the creative mind. But through the trials, three exquisite records emerged, each building on the others’ strengths and revealing Johnston’s knack at writing songs in his own commanding voice.

One listen through his new album, though, may be a bit unsettling for those familiar with Johnston’s older work, because it is such a departure, both lyrically and sonically. With mastermind Armand Margjeka at the producer’s helm, Rabbit Runs A Destiny runs the gamut, from stripped-down acoustic tracks to enormous crashes of drums, haunting strings and thick vocal harmonies, provided mostly by Isaaca Byrd of Nashville-based band The Bridges and singer/songwriter Natalie Prass.

“Part of my deal with doing this record with Armand,” Johnston says, “was me trusting him as a producer, because this was the first time I’ve let anyone else do that for me.” That sort of challenge can instill enough fear to limit the potential of a record, but Johnston’s unequivocal confidence in Margjeka’s abilities truly paid off, as the album’s ten songs are rich, fully developed and vivid beings, each a look at the intersection of psyche and reverie.

Another aspect of embracing change with Rabbit Runs A Destiny was the decision to only use musicians Johnston had never played with before. While Johnston and Margjeka bore the brunt of the album’s instrumentation, guitarist Kyle Ryan (Mindy Smith, Madi Diaz), bassist Adam Popick (Rachael Yamagata, James Farrell), string player Eleonore Denig (Marc Broussard, Katie Herzig) and drummer Evan Hutchings (Brandi Carlile, Sara Watkins) all contributed to the album, fleshing out the arrangements and giving them an intensity further developed by Margjeka’s adroit production hand.

Rabbit Runs A Destiny is new territory for Duquette Johnston, unveiling a voice that’s willing to be both vulnerable and strong. Anchored by sweeping, and often majestic, sonic landscapes, Rabbit shows a musician firmly in control of his craft, but unafraid to grow and dig deeper. These songs mark a new journey for Duquette Johnston, and one that’s worth hitching a ride to follow.

OSW: What is your songwriting/composing process?
Duquette Johnston:  I do not have a distinct process. I mostly try to stay open to music always being around me and grabbing some when ever I can. I used to think I could only write during certain situations or in a certain state of mind, like when I was depressed or struggling with something. Now I think that is garbage, I want to always be writing, sometimes things get in the way. When people tell me they are waiting to write for inspiration or something else I just don’t understand that. What if something happens to you? Write, write, write, now!

OSW: Can real life stories make good lyrics without a touch of fiction or enhancement?
Duquette Johnston: I’m sure it depends on the writer and the experience. I’ve written several songs that were the exact story and no enhancement, well it depends on enhancement. The song “Oh 19” on my first album, ‘Etowah’, was a true story about a guy I did a little time with. He was a young dude, his dad had abused him his whole life doing things like burning him on the arm with cigars and worse. I could not believe the stories he told me and one night he came into the chapel where I was writing and the song just poured out really fast. The are real life stories that make their way to songs that no one could make up or enhance.

OSW: Do you read much?  If so, does that influence your writing?
Duquette Johnston: I wish I read more. I have a stack of books sitting next to my bed that I are taunting me on a daily basis about my lack of reading. Well they do not really taunt me, it just feels that way. I have written whole albums pulled from verses in the bible, I would read a verse and write an entire song around it. I am extremely influenced by visuals, paintings, photographs, and film. When I write I can see the visual story unfolding in my mind and it helps me paint that picture.

OSW: Your blog features a lot of nostalgic photos, especially images focused on motorcycles.  Do you have a strong connection to riding and James Dean or On The Road storylines?
Duquette Johnston:  I am a pretty nostalgic man. My childhood was very surreal, looking back, and I seem to gravitate towards images of travel and rebellion. Growing up I split my years between Birmingham, Alabama and Buffalo, Wyoming, school in Alabama and summers in a very small town on the edge of the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming. I guess all that travel caused me to desire to be on the road a lot. I love home, but if given the chance I will drive across country in a heart beat. My father raced motorcycles when I was a kid in the 70’s for Husqvarna and my uncle Mike raced before I was born. My uncle had a horrible wreck and never rode again, but he was obsessed with music and that had a tremendous influence on me.

OSW: What influence do Brad Laner and ‘Medicine’ have on your work?
Duquette Johnston: Wow, Brad Laner. My first band, which at the time of us hanging with Medicine, was called Shallow. I can not remember how we got turned on to all the shoegaze and noise stuff going on in the early 90’s but we came across Medicine and made sure we opened for them when they came to town. Brad’s guitar sound was mind melting. He was running it through a four track recorder and back into his amp and pedals. At times it sounded like a chainsaw, yet all the songs still had a melody to them. He and Kevin Shields opened my mind to the possibility of noise being completely beautiful and using sounds in unique and creative ways. On my new album ‘Rabbit Runs A Destiny’ I finally worked with a producer who understood that and was not afraid to experiment with noises within the roots songs I was writing and giving them new life.

OSW: What is your favorite songwriting lyric?
Duquette Johnston: I have so many, but I love this from Leonard Cohen
“Well you know that I love to live with you,
But you make me forget so very much.
I forget to pray for the angels
And then the angels forget to pray for us.”

OSW: What advice would you give to young songwriters/composers?
Duquette Johnston: Keep writing, never stop writing, even when you write stuff you think is crap or a throw away. You have to get that out of your system. Be fearless, do not be afraid to experiment or be vulnerable with your music and your lyrics.

OSW: You used fan funding to help the release of “Rabbit Runs a Destiny”. Do you see fan funding as necessary part of releasing an independent album or do you see it as a tool to help connect the fans to the creative process?
Duquette Johnston: It really depends on the artist. The thing about the state of the so called music business these days is that there are no real rules or set ways to release an album. What will work for one person will not work for another. For some people it is the only actual way to make the recording and get it out, so then it is necessary. I think it is an incredible tool for connecting fans to the album , not just the creative process, it gives them ownership in the project. Crowd funding in some circumstances cuts out the middle man of the music biz. It is truly incredible that I can sit in my house, if I wanted, record a song and promote to everyone around the world with out being able to go all over the world. If you can get people to get on board and give them great incentives for contributing it just builds the relationship between artist and fan. I love talking with fans and emailing with them, so it was a no brainer for me. My fans are incredibly supportive so if I can give back to them I am a very lucky man.

OSW: If you could go back and be part of any album session what would it be?
Duquette Johnston: Damn what a great question and a tough one. Being a rabid music fan there a so many albums I would have just loved to been a fly on the wall at. I’d say, ‘Tonights the Night’ by Neil Young, The Beach Boys ‘Pet Sounds’, The Ronnetes ‘Be My Baby’, and hell any of the early stuff up in the Shoals from Rick Hall at fame and Jimmy Johnson and the boys at Muscle Shoals Sounds. I met Jimmy a couple of years ago, if I see him again I’m going to ask about recording with him. There is a live Chet Baker album I would have loved to just be in the club for. Great question man. Hell I can not stop writing out this one, ‘Loveless’ by MBV, this list could go on and on.

OSW: If you could sit down and talk about songwriting with anyone, who would it be and why?
Duquette Johnston: Neil Young! Some people will read this and go yeah well that is obvious and who wouldn’t, but he has been the guy for me my whole life. His songs have always evoked an emotional reaction in me and I love his dedication to his family, plus he seems fearless in his writing. Neil is Neil and uncompromising, for better or worse. I also would love to talk with Leonard Cohen and E (Mark Oliver Everett) of Eels, I’m dying to make an album with E.

Rugged and Fancy
Communicating Vessels
Pipe and Gun

“SIlver and Gold”


All interviews and Bonus Materials, including Duquette Johnston, will be archived alphabetically HERE for easy access in the future.

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Thanks for spending some time here,
Our Scattered Words



On Chasing Your Dreams (via Levi Weaver)

max canyon

Back in June I interviewed Levi Weaver, a singer/songwriter from Nashville and friend.  I always enjoy his blog posts, but this one really hit home.

My son (pictured above in an old photo) , just recently finished shooting his 2nd movie, but really first true movie since he hired a crew, professional actors and rented a RED camera to shoot the film.

I’ve been putting off releasing my own album to do this blog. I’m still writing and recording music every week for work, But, none of my songs has been completed and put out there yet for this new project.  That’s been in thoughts a lot recently and this has also been, for other reasons, a really tough week.

So, this was a really good read and reminder for me.  Hope you enjoy and share this. Click through to read after the preview

Here’s the start of his post, follow the link for the full article

 A list of necessary accoutrements, should you wish to chase your dreams:

1. Something Impossible.
Even if it is only impossible to you. This is the first step. This is the dream. Without a dream to chase, nothing else here is relevant.

2. The Will to Learn Everything About it.
This means late nights. Or early mornings. Or both. (Usually both.) It means putting to use the study skills that you learned in school. In retrospect, I was right in High School when I said “I’m not going to use any of this” (with the exception of spelling, grammar, and some basic math skills). But teachers never told me that I was right: I wouldn’t use the tedium. But I would use the ability to learn. It’s hard to get fired up about a calculus exam. It’s incredibly easy to get fired up about your impossible dream. If they’d only told me this, I would have been their favorite student.

Use your time in school to learn how to learn, so that when your dream appears, you are equipped with the proper tools with which to study your prey.

If you could go back…


I like to research the songwriters I don’t know and find meaningful personal questions for them.  Things I’d like to know about their; process, writing and songs.  I ask these things because, in my mind, they’re things that everyone is interested in.  But, I also love having some questions that everyone is asked so we can compare the answers.

This question started showing up after a few interviews and has been a really interesting, and strangely consistently answered one.  Check out how many times ‘Pet Sounds’ or other Brian Wilson sessions show up on this and the question about “who would you like to talk songwriting with?”

 If you could go back and be part of any album session what would it be?

Adrienne Pierce: It would be fun to be a fly on the wall during the recording of The Beach Boys ‘Pet Sounds’ Album. Just imagine watching them sing the vocals for “God Only Knows”.

Heather Woods Broderick: Hard to choose. Maybe Neil Young’s ‘Comes A Time’. I learned to sing harmonies to his records, and I often have dreamt of being there singing along. Or I might just want to be a fly on the wall during the making of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Nebraska’.

Torres:  Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and Nick Drake’s Pink Moon are two recording sessions for which I would’ve been obliged to be a fly on the wall.

Toby Goodshank:  Oh, The Frogs “It’s Only Right and Natural.” I wouldn’t have belonged there, though. Or maybe Scott Walker’s latest. Any Jandek album.

Caleb Hawley: ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered” album. Not only is it my favorite Stevie record but it’s one of the few he used the funk bro’s on. I’d love to sit in the room with James Jamerson & Stevie Wonder at the same time. That would teach me more than a Berklee degree easily.

Dallas: I would like to be a fly on the wall of the Pet Sounds sessions.  No one other than Brian Wilson knew what he was trying to achieve and he didn’t feel it was necessary to convince anyone that he was doing something great. “I guess I just wasn’t made for these times” is such a genius line that explains exactly what he was doing at the time.

La Fleur Fatale: “S.F. Sorrow” with Pretty Things.

Courtney Jones: After much debate, I think I’m going to go with Pink Floyd “Dark Side of the Moon”. I wonder what that room was like, not knowing how successful and defining that record would become. Also, I’d really like to know if that whole Wizard of Oz thing was on purpose or not. But seriously, watching that album come together would really be something special.

Sharon Van Etten: That’s a tough one. Maybe Neil Young ‘Harvest’.

Adam Levy: Talk Talk’s ‘Laughing Stock,’ from 1991. This record is an utter enigma to me. So beautiful! I don’t know what I would have added, but I wish I could’ve at least been a fly on the wall.

Aves:  ‘SMiLE” by the Beach Boys most definitely. To me the whole album and the story behind the making along with all the making of snippets there are, is simply the most fascinating tale of creative genius at it’s peak.

What album session would you like to go back and be part of?  Please leave a comment!

Christine Hoberg “All That Hate” Video

Christine Hoberg asked us to host the first video single from her upcoming album “World Within’. We’re glad to share “All That Hate” with you.

Here’s some more on the album and video;

New York composer and vocal artist Christine Hoberg will
return with her fourth LP, World Within, in the Fall of 2013.
The follow-up to her 2011 Moonlight Never Shined So Bright,
this new album was recorded in Christine’s Brooklyn home
with an analog forefront.
“This album is about my fascination with worlds that exist
within each other. I have very vivid dreams. We rest ourselves
and awake in another world for hours each day. We spin on
a tiny globe and can see the stars and forget that we are
looking through a darkening atmosphere at suns that are
much greater than ours. They have their own tiny planets and,
odds are, other lives awake on those tiny spinning planets. A
world within a world. We are all held together inside of other
worlds. Awake and asleep and awakening again without end
into other worlds again.