By MATTHEW MCKEW
There’ve been few things to feel upbeat about in 2020, but one Dunedin-based muso says his new album’s got a cheerful vibe.
Michael Morris has put the finishing touches to an album largely compiled in the garage of his inlaws’ rural French house.
He’d been living in France with his wife and one-year-old daughter until Covid struck and they decided to head home to New Zealand.
Morris’ stint in Europe afforded him the chance to perform in front of crowds in Paris and Berlin.
“It was wonderful, it was a bit nerve-wracking, worrying if they would understand the deeper meaning of the lyrics.
“But they were actually really receptive – in Europe there’s a fantastically deep arts and music community.
“They have such a huge population and I think music is ingrained in the culture on a deep level and there was quite often a really warm reception.”
He says his time overseas had an affect on his songwriting, but he’s never quite aware of how until he reads back over his musings.
“It definitely made me write differently, I don’t know why or how, but with the new songs I can tell a lot of them were written because of that change of scenery.”
Morris goes in for producing psychedelic, pop rock ‘n’ roll and says he’s probably most inspired by the likes of David Bowie, having grown up listening to him.
“Anything under the ’60s and ’70s rock ‘n’ roll, popular music umbrella, guitar music – singer-songwriters stuff, too – but particularly anybody who was pushing the boundaries.
“I live Queen and anything glam rock.
“I also like a bit of heavier music, like Soundgarden.”
Perhaps it’s his love of Queen, who notoriously pushed the limits on song lengths and style, that led him to pen the nine-minute Not Space Nor Time on his debut album.
There’s nothing quite so long on the new, more conventional, release, perhaps showing a maturity in his craft.
“I am far more focused now on trying to get to the essence of a good song, rather than making an artsy, experimental track.
“I heard an interview once with Neil Finn (Fleetwood Mac), who I think is just an amazing songwriter, and he talked about the songwriting process being like an instrument that you learn over time.
“The attraction of simplifying things comes from wanting to connect to audiences.”
He ponders how much he was holding out on the audience by being overly complex on the first album, but now sees “beauty in simplicity”.
Nonetheless, he says he’s not about to produce a standard radio hit and will “express something” in his songs “no matter how ugly it is”.
When Morris appears in Queenstown on December 29 at Loco, he’ll be joined by his new band, The Slow Loris.
That means Ryan Finnie will hit the drums and Benton Glassey will hold down the bass line.
Finnie’s been involved in the production of the new album, although everything’s been written by Morris, who also recorded the other instruments.
Having that level of control came with good and bad points.
“You do get to sign everything off to your own satisfaction, but sometimes that allowed too much time to over-think things.”
He says he’s not sure how long he’ll last as a solo performer because of the isolation factor.
What he is sure of, though, is the album shows progression and that’s one of the reasons he went for some cheerier lyrics.
“I wanted to explore something new, I like to try to progress with each new project.”