Tumbling Bones

Quick Q and A with Kyle Morgan

Kyle Morgan’s music is like potpourri.  It offers up a variety of electrifying vocal influences along with some rather strong and impactful music that takes your breath away.  When mixed all together, it’s quite memorable – it’s a style that sticks to one’s soul.  Kyle’s Appalachian roots have indeed flourished in New England as he has traveled the area and sung his songs and, fortunately, there is more to come—real soon.  He’s made Portland, Maine his home and is often seen and heard at venues in the area.

To learn more about Kyle Morgan and to see where he’s playing, check out his website.

Here’s a video by Starcrossed Losers for NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest

Starcrossed Losers went from being the title of your solo CD to the name of your new band.   What did you discover about yourself and how you wanted to best express your music since you released the record?

Names are important.  “In the beginning was the Word.”  First, the spirit moves; only then do we speak.  Language creates and shapes the way in which we encounter life, and this obviously includes music.  A listener will have a very different experience of a song depending on whether they are told, “this is Kyle Morgan” or “this is Starcrossed Losers.”  In the former case, they imagine an individual, a particular person, and most likely will make the assumption that the views and beliefs expressed in the songs are his views and beliefs, which is not necessarily the case!

I chose to go under a band name, because I wanted to create distance between Kyle Morgan and Kyle Morgan’s art.  I wanted to establish a musical entity into which I could pour my creativity, rather than being the musical entity, and having my gifts so intimately connected to my self.  I do not own my gifts any more than the breath I breathe.

And while the music of Starcrossed Losers is in fact the music of Kyle Morgan, I also collaborate with many incredibly talented musicians and so it feels wrong to call the finished product, “Kyle Morgan.”  I would always cringe when someone at a show would say, “you guys are great, what’s your band called?!” and I would have to respond with something lame and passive like, “well, we just go under my name…”

I had considered going under the name “Starcrossed Losers” back in 2013 when I released the album, but I thought then that it was perhaps too self-deprecating.  But it seems perfect now.  It embodies just the right combination of Fate, Poetry, Irony, and Pathos.  There is something of absurdity of the striving of the human intellect, the disillusionment of Shakespearean love and its perpetuation by Hollywood.  There are echoes of the spiritual wheeling and dealing of Faust, and the purgatorial determination of Sisyphus to persist in rolling the rock up the hill, despite the inevitable work of gravity.

Your vocals make the listener sit up and listen.  It’s as though you’re steeped in Appalachian soul and have lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains your whole life.  Is it me or does anyone else ever tell you that?  (It’s a good thing!)

I love that you put it that way because that is exactly my intention: making people sit up and listen.  There is Something/Someone at work in me beyond my conscious awareness, and I try to surrender myself to its Will.  I don’t seek to entertain people, though that does happen incidentally.  I first aim to stir myself from slumber, and even if I don’t wake up, hopefully someone in the audience does.

The influence of the Appalachian voice came to me in a roundabout way.  I grew up singing in the evangelical church and school choir where proper tone and open vowels were highly encouraged.  But rock’n’roll caught my ear and infected my spirit.  I fell in love with Radiohead in high school.  This experimental brand of rock lead me to Wilco, which then lead to country and folk.  When I heard Hank Williams, I felt that quality of “sit up and listen” and strove to make it my own.

Tell us a bit about your songwriting process.  Do you set appointments with yourself to write or do you only write when the muse comes calling?

Both, haha.  Generally speaking, I think there is initially a spontaneous spark of inspiration that comes without my bidding when I’m sitting at the piano, playing guitar, or taking a walk.  But to make that first spark a full on fire requires much stoking and blowing.  You must come back again and again.  Much of my songwriting process is sitting and staring into nowhere putting different combinations of words together, getting lost in phrases and then asking myself, “wait, what am I trying to say?”

I go through periods when I try to be disciplined and set aside time to write, and then there are large periods of time when I write nothing.  I’m learning to recognize that that is ok.  I don’t need to write, I don’t need to be prolific.  What is more important is having a correct orientation to your truest self, to God, to nature, whatever you want to call It.  Only by resting in the greater Will is there freedom, and all true creativity naturally springs from the fertile soil of freedom.  You don’t need to try.

Is guitar your instrument of choice?  I’ve noticed that you have music credits on your CD for piano and organ.

I’m most accomplished on guitar.  But I love playing piano as well.  It was my first instrument, I took classical lessons from age 8 to 17 and I still love to play it.  I’ll definitely look forward to playing the beautiful grand piano at Me & Thee!  I dabble on a handful of other keyed and stringed instruments.

Do you have a song of yours that you’re most proud of?

I don’t think so.  There are many I’m quite proud of.

Do you have any incredible tales to tell of your exotic travels as part of the State Department Music Ambassador program that you participated in as part of Tumbling Bones?

One show sticks out to me.  It was in Zestaponi, Georgia (the country), in a crumbling Soviet “Palace of Culture,” one of thousands of theaters/community centers built during the time of the U.S.S.R.  As a small, out of the way industrial town surrounded by the wine-growing country of western Georgia, the people of Zestaponi didn’t get much live entertainment, much less an American band.  As a result, the entire town turned up in the dark, musty theater that afternoon.  People swarmed the hallways and continually tried to get backstage into our makeshift green room.  When we went on stage, we saw a sea of people, mostly young people, spilling into the aisles and out of the back doors.  The room roared with Georgian conversation and enthusiasm and we could barely hear ourselves singing over the noise.  It was a little taste of being a rock star.

What’s up next for you and your music?  Any new recording or touring plans?

I finished a record this past December, and I’m waiting for the right time to release it, probably late spring or summer.  It is called Bind Us Anew and includes 11 original songs, some old, some new.  Like my first album, it draws on a diverse array of influences, from classic, old-school rock’n’roll to very stripped down acoustic ballads.

I do not plan on touring extensively.  I’ve learned from these past few years of intense traveling that my contemplative nature is not equipped for it, and I’m much happier remaining in one place, for the most part.  I plan to continue my spiritual investigation, possibly going to grad school or seminary to study religion/mythology/spirituality, and to obey the muses when they beckon me to be their scribe.  Beyond that, my future is a mystery.