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.
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?
Wanda Jackson ‘Whirlpool’. Great lyrics throughout the entire song!!!!!!
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;
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.
Thanks for spending some time here,
Our Scattered Words