Her introduction to the piano came with a group class above a music shop and she realised she wanted to sing after hearing Amy Winehouse sing on a tape of Radio 2 that her dad had made, Rae Morris’s early musical education was as humble as she is and now we get to reap the benefits…
At 22, and riding high on the release of her debut album ‘Unguarded’, Morris is probably most well known for her vocals on Bombay Bicycle Club’s uber-single ‘Luna’ but now she is out on her own. However, the increasing levels of attention at such a young age don’t seem to weigh too heavy on her shoulders; “I guess I’ve never really thought of it that way, I mean I’ve always felt quite old – or a lot older than I am!” So those shoulders carry a mature head, and it seems to be fending off any ego and the call of stardom admirably, “It feels like a natural progression [to the next stage of what I want to do], it all feels exactly the same as it did before but with kind of less stress. For example, this gig selling out is a weight off my mind because it means people wanna come!”
Morris’s whole approach is surprisingly measured. When I first caught sight of her bounding out from backstage to talk to me; all smiles, hair and eager handshakes there was little hint of deep controlled ambition underneath, “I’ve been waiting for this ‘relief stage’ to come for a long time. I’ve been working towards getting people to hear my music, and I’ve had a close-knit following around me, but it was being able to get that wider [audience] that I was scared of.”
It looks like the hard work is paying off and the transition from “normal person” to rising star is going smoothly but the beckoning hand of fame and fortune is being kept at a sensible distance, “I still feel like a normal person, I feel like my album coming out is the starting point, this is where it all begins.”
Could the new rock n’ roll be rooted in behaving responsibly, making the correct, calculated moves? Will we never see another musician land a motorcycle in a hotel pool? I’m not sure this particular songstress would be inclined to attempt such automotive aerobatics anyway but it does seem that generally the business end of the music biz is less concerned about showing its face these days, something that is clear when you look at this new wave of acts coming through.
“There’s a kind of small community of people who have gone about it in the way that decisions are made for the right reason. For me, I just wanted to be very realistic – Atlantic [Records] were very realistic.”
That said, you will never be able to change the fact that music works because it connects with the human side of people – it can never be all about the business and Morris seems keen to make the point that this album was all about the songs and the music the way she created them, as close to her original vision as possible, “People only want to listen to music if it’s legit and that’s why people like Clean Bandit and George Ezra are successful, because they’re being true and the general public have cottoned on that you can see through something when it’s not genuine.”
This doesn’t appear to just be rhetoric that this young woman has learned from an A&R man; in the majority of her songs there are frank disclosures and personal revelations. This theme also bleeds into her videos which she sees as “artistic expressions of each song”. We see Morris as just a head and shoulders carved out of a marble block for ‘Skin’ and in crime scene photo-type poses for ‘Do You Even Know’ – all striking images and considerably more memorable than a lot of “industry standard” music videos.
“I did a few early on that weren’t very interesting and just realised I wasn’t taking advantage of the fact that you get given free-reign to do anything you want creatively”
The overall impression Rae Morris gives is one of somebody who is just doing what she is good at and making a career out of it. These songs, partly just an extension of her obsessively-kept diaries, began life when she was in her late teens and were never really intended to find an audience. When I ask her, Morris doesn’t seem to think there is anything too miraculous about her song writing ability, “I think anyone can do it, it’s just like recalling a story or telling a tale.” It is a delightfully simplistic and wide-eyed way of describing her process that will have struggling writers who hear it head butting their desks.
Instead of worrying about writing it seems she is free to focus on getting to the point in her career where she can play her dream show which would come in two guises; the Hollywood Bowl – “We were recording in L.A. and I was in the Hollywood hills and we could hear Sigur Ros playing the Bowl and this sound was drifting around the mountains” – and a hometown gig at the Blackpool Tower Circus.
Rae Morris is a woman on a mission. She is also a musician who, at the moment, seems to be sliding through the music business shielded by her own natural talent and steady promotion. The next few months will see her complete a sold out tour before she starts recording again. After that there are some winter outings on the horizon and let’s not forget the festive circuit (“I honestly don’t know about Glastonbury yet!”) is thinking about having a stretch and putting the kettle on as well so expect her to grace a field near you soon. From what she’s shown already and how promising that is, she’ll be around for years to come – but maybe the most promising thing about her is that she seems entirely ready for that longevity.
Rae Morris – “Unguarded” is available to buy now on iTunes.