Morgan Saint, The Visual Way
I sat down with Epic Records' new artist, Morgan Saint yesterday, to discuss all things music and Morgan. The New York native is undoubtedly raw, yet fascinatingly tender in her pursuit to voice her authentic chronicle of life's ups and downs —occurrences that she says have all helped shape her into who she is today —someone that has learned the significance of self acceptance, creativity and growth. "Everything I write about is really personal. Life is filled with really happy moments, and really sad moments, and I try to touch on it all, but certain songs definitely have touches of a bit of sadness. I confront things that maybe other people feel are "moody".
With a very visual way of looking at things, and an artistic approach to integrating her diverse inspirations, listeners of her new EP "17Hero", are in for a pure sensory experience.
From: Mattituck, on the Eastern end of Long Island. "Almost as far out as you can go, on the North Fork --a small beach town. My house is on the water --I grew up boating and swimming and doing water sports."
1- At what point did you know that music is what you wanted to do?
I think if I think back to when I was really young, my ultimate dream was to be a musician —a singer/songwriter. But, I don't think I believed in myself enough until more recently. It sort of seemed like an unattainable goal, to sort of have, for some reason. So I think I just pursued things that seemed a little more tangible. I went to school for visual art, at Parsons New School for Design, and throughout my whole time there I was writing music and taught myself guitar and I'd been taking piano lessons since I was like 8 years old. ...So it's always been there, I just think it took me some time to realize that I could really do something with it.
I had written a song that sort of correlated with my thesis project that I was working on, during my senior year at school, and I was like 'I really like this song, and it's super personal to me'. I was in that mode where I was creating things for my thesis; which was in a book form.. And I felt like it was really cool, and something I could hold on to and save.. and have forever. I wanted to do that, with some of the music that I had written, so I reached out to a friend of mine, whose name is Cass Dillon, who's a singer/songwriter himself, but he was starting to get into producing —and I was like 'can you listen to this song, and let me know honestly if you think that it would be worth recording?'. My only intention was to record a simple demo with guitar, just good quality. So we did that, then we added cello, violin..
My sound never went in that direction after that, which is totally OK with me. It was like a stepping-stone to get to where I am now. It was a personal thing for me.. a special moment in time. I'd sort of rather just leave it there, because the stuff that I'm making especially now —and even working towards future releases is more and more personal, and I'm becoming more and more involved in the full production end of it, and every sound.
So we made that, then we made a music video to go with it —the music video's not out in the world or anything, but after that I had gotten [an idea] of how the studio works..production wise and all that stuff. I think I've evolved a lot since then. I've learned so much.
I kept writing and writing, and I think that after that song is when I really focused on 'what "sound-wise" feels most me, and what is matching these stories that I'm trying to tell'. The first one was more-so guided, just based on the fact that I wrote it on my guitar, and that's where I thought it would live. But then I ended up writing, which I think since then was maybe a year and 4 months or something, since I recorded that first song. And after that I just kept writing and writing, and recording. I think I've written and produced like 25 songs since then —in the last year. Obviously 5 of those are going to be on my EP which is coming out. The 2nd song that I ever wrote, with the intention of really recording and turning it into something, was the single that I put out called "You".
2- Although we realize that no two days are alike, what's a typical day like for you these days?
It's just starting to get a little busier now. I just got done doing a run, opening for Banks, and also Goldfrapp, both of them are incredible writers and artists. That's really cool playing for bigger crowds of like 2,000 people per city —that was new for me and very exciting.
It's really different every day, I'm just kind of starting so today for instance I'm talking to a lot of different people about my EP that's coming out and the music. But, I think my main focus right now is doing a lot of live performances. I also do my own graphic design; everything from a tour poster to any graphic you see —I make my EP artwork; the physical vinyl and all that. I'm actually kind of insane, I don't let anything get by without me designing it as this point.. while I still can.
And honestly Epic's been so nice and hands off, and I really appreciate the freedom in that regard. So I do a lot of graphic design actually, just because everyday whether I'm posting about a show I'm doing or I'm working on coloring and my music video, I'm always working on [that] if I'm not in the studio. A lot of the 'in-between', I'm definitely doing a lot of writing still and so its a really great mix. I feel like I'm back in school because I'm sort of delving into a lot of different things, but I'm creating everything for myself.. there's such an intent. With school you're getting projects that maybe you're not always passionate about. [This is all] 100% organic and it feels very, very right. And I feel infinitely grateful that Epic has been so hands-off in just letting me do my thing. And I think that for me that is so important because my ultimate goal is to make music and create visuals that are 100% honest and I think if I'm allowed to have my hands in everything that's going to ultimately be the only way that it's going to be fully genuine and honest, and totally me without any people in the middle, hearing what you want or your vision and then trying to make it happen. If I could just do it I know that it's going to be exactly how I would do it. For me that causes way less stress than trying to trust someone and then it not being right.
3- From the outside looking in, I know many would think this [music] world is a magical rockstar place with absolutely no worries. What are some challenges you'd say you've faced?
I am very new so, I probably don't have enough experience to fully answer this.. but just from my experience so far I think it's more so personal challenges. In order to do what what I'm doing, I had to be in a place where I'm fully comfortable with who I am and truly mean that. Because to get up on a stage in front of 2,000 people and sing and perform stories that are so personal, there's no way of doing that without having a confidence that's beyond a physical..it's not about what I'm wearing or the makeup.. but just an inner confidence to be able to do that.
I feel like this has all happened at the right time because it's taken me a while to get to the point where I feel fully, truly comfortable in my own skin. So I think that's the biggest challenge —I'm a shy person, and I realize that in order to share this craft with the world I need to be comfortable.
I don't like getting up early, and sometimes that happens..
And ya know, touring, it's not this glamorous situation.. you're traveling a lot.. it's tiring. It's lonely sometimes. You finish one show, and you're driving to the next city and you get up and you're working.. I've only had a taste of it, but it's a grueling task for sure. But I think the outcome of just connecting with people and having them find a connection with your music makes up for all of the hard [parts].
4- Talk to me about "You". What's the story behind that record?
It was one of the earliest songs I've ever written and recorded. It felt to me that in writing all this music and these are only five out of that big body of work that I'm constantly creating —I felt like I tried to pick the songs that were a key chapter in the story. So the 5 songs on my EP tell this story of my life, mostly in the past year when I was writing them, but also reflecting on my childhood and how those relationships have affected my relationships today. And how there's a parallel between the two. That's sort of the first chapter in my head, to the rest of the EP.
["You" is] about a relationship that I was in briefly. Or not 'in', I guess I should say just a relationship that came into my life and I think I wasn't fully aware of who I was as a person. And I wasn't fully confident, and I wasn't fully comfortable with who I was.. so I'm sort of searching for myself in this person, and I'm reflecting in this song on my life up until that point. And how I was feeling in that very moment, sort of sets the stage for the rest of the stories to come in the EP.
5- Going through heartache and loss (sometimes big, sometimes small) is sadly something we all go through growing up...how would you say you've taken certain personal experiences that you've gone through and reworked that into something that can really inspire others?
Yeah..I mean, I do do that. The things that I'm talking about have very personal details in all my songs, but the over themes of each of the stories is I think something that we've all felt. We're all human and whether we've lost a friend or a grandparent or maybe we've never experienced death, but we've lost friends in our life that we've grown apart from.
For me music is just a powerful medium and it's helped me so much and I think that other artists' honesty and writing for themselves —there's nothing more inspiring for me. Especially when I was younger and I was going through some of those difficult times I often turned to musicians and songwriters to sort of make me feel like I'm not alone in those experiences. And that's really my goal with creating what I'm creating.
6- What truly inspires you?
So much inspires me because I am a very, very visual person.. to me, and I'm not sure if it's just the way that I make things..and create things, but when I'm even writing music or making music I kind of like see colors and textures in the different sounds. When I'm writing a song I'm already seeing 'ok, what does this look like' —it's like a painting to me.
I'm inspired by not only personal things going on in my life, or going on in the world around me. Color and textures and photographs, and movies. So much inspires me that I don't know if I can even categorize it. I'm inspired by other artists of course, but the things that inspire my work would be more so colors and textures and sounds. And light and all these different things. I feel like I see all the different ways in which I like to create just blend a 100% together.
For me it's not like 'well this is my visual artwork...and this is my music and this is my painting'. In order for me to feel like I'm being fulfilled as an artist I couldn't just make music and that's it, and let everybody else do the rest. I need to be doing it all, or it doesn't make sense for me to do it at all.
7- Your must have(s) for productivity?
I definitely need my instruments —my guitar, my piano. Definitely couldn't live without my guitar, because I write almost all my songs on [it]. That's where every song starts.
My laptop, just because I use a lot of Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator.. I live on Photoshop..After Effects. Whatever it is that I'm making.
I think the biggest thing for me is just the people in my life, because that's where my greatest inspiration really comes from. My loved ones, or people that maybe affected my life negatively or that I've lost —they've all contributed. That's sort of what the title of my EP is about —all my heroes. Not heroes in your typical sense of a superhero or action figure. Not in that way, but my personal heroes. Some of my heroes are people that have hurt me the most, but have taught me so much.. and I still consider them heroes in my life because some of the people that have hurt me the most have made me a better person and have gotten me to where I am today. I think I really write about a lot of them in my EP.
8- What're two things you just can't live without?
My relationships, my loved ones —that's the most important thing to me. The relationships in my life are the most important things to me, above everything. I love being outdoors, so I feel like that's something that I need more of —nature.
9- Anything you're super excited about, or really looking forward to in the coming weeks?
I'm excited for some more music to be out in the world. It's been a long time coming. And it's funny because I'm writing everyday, and making music.. there's so much stuff that I've written recently that feels so fresh in my life. And also I feel like every time I make a song, I'm not sure if it's just my relationship to it, but I feel like I'm already there.. and now we're releasing stuff that happened in the past, and I have to perform all these. [Feels like déjà vu] a little bit!
I'm my own toughest critic.
I'm excited for that music to come out. I'm always looking ahead. Really looking forward to performing and collaborating with other people. Even if it's just in fashion or photography..or musically.
10- Anyone of your radar that you'd love to collab with?
I mean, I'm so new. I could dream right now but there are so many people (an endless list) that I admire and I would love to collaborate with, but we'll see. Stay tuned!
11- What can we expect from you in the future?
Definitely a lot more music. I would love to really delve into music videos —which I love the idea of.
Hopefully a lot of live performances, I think that that's what I really enjoy the most.
Just going to keep making things, and I hope that people can connect with it. At the very least it helps me get stuff off my chest. The biggest goal is to keep making [music] and fulfilling myself.
12- One thing people don't know about you.
There are a couple of things. I feel like I have a 'go-to' list.
I'm originally platinum blonde. I dyed everything [including my eyebrows]. I'm very blonde. I didn't dye my hair until like 3 years ago. I used to have long blonde hair. That's one that always shocks people.
I'm addicted to chapstick. My lips need [it].
I have a younger brother (about 2.5 years younger than me), and a sister that's like 2.5 years older than me. So I'm the middle child. That comes with its challenges. The 'middle-child syndrome is definitely a thing'. My brother's really protective [though], and my number one fan. [That's] really sweet.
13- Resonating quote or words to live by.
I think something I remind myself everyday is just to not be afraid to be 100% yourself. I know that sounds cliché but it's important, and I think the world in which we live, it's sometimes challenging to be courageous enough to be yourself. To like what really appeals to you, not what you think would appeal to everybody else. Enjoy what you want to enjoy, and love who you want to love. For me, so much revolves around love. Love and acceptance are so important.