Rae Morris is the “fiercely capable” pop star we need today

Rae MorrisBlackpool’s pop darling Rae Morris has enjoyed a rapid rise to the top over a few short years, since first gaining recognition with several high profile support slots for the likes of Lianne La Havas and Noah the Whale, culminating in the release of her debut album Unguarded in 2015.

Where her first album was relatively stripped back – "predominately acoustic with a few ‘soundscapey’ additions," as she puts it – her sophomore record, Someone Out There, is a glorious explosion of sound and colour. From the bright and optimistic synth tones that open "Push Me to My Limit", the album pulsates with positive energy. We snuck in a chat with her about the inspiration and process behind the record, before she hurried back into the studio.

So if she could have sung guest vocals on any album in history, what would she choose? "Just because it would make my dad really happy - I think if I could sing on a Steely Dan record, he would be over the moon. So maybe Aja… I think he would love me so much more!"

Onto Morris' own album, we talked through, from her perspective, how it differs from her previous work. "It’s first and foremost about the songs," she tells me. "It’s energetic and colourful, a feeling of vibrancy. But there’s something different that comes from each track so there’s a lot of variety. I’d say they’re snapshots into my little world, and they each represent a different mood and a different time."

There is a pleasant array of styles, all bound together by the richer production more expansive pop sound. Pushed on the meaning behind "Rose Garden", my personal favourite and one of the more ‘leftfield’ tracks on the album in her opinion, Morris reveals the powerlessness that inspired the lyrics: "It was inspired by a friend of mine who has been living with an illness for a long time, and I guess it was my response to how boldly and incredibly she had dealt with that - how as a friend or a loved one of someone who’s going through something tough, you want to help them and do something physical to make a difference, but a lot of the time you can’t. All you can do is have an opinion and have a voice, but you can’t actually do something to help. So "Rose Garden" is about being fiercely capable of getting through everything."

Her own favourite, however, is "Wait for the Rain", partly down to the context she wrote it in: "I remember when it was written and the way I felt at the time - looking out of the window in California on a really stormy day, which I think is quite rare there - a whole story transpired from that one feeling, about being overwhelmed by nature and not being able to contain it."

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This brought us onto her general songwriting process – as a budding songwriter myself, I was intrigued by how her process might have changed between the two albums. She revealed how the songs on Someone Out There were the product of a more structured and collaborative way of working with Fryars, her sole co-writer on the project: "We’d make sure that everything had been thoroughly discussed and worked through, and decide exactly what it is that the song is saying, before putting lyrics down, and really know what it means. That way you really make sure it has a purpose and a direction". It can so easily work the other way round – the lyrics that pop into a writer’s head direct the meaning of the song. Here, Morris has a point to make or a message to convey, and crafts her words around it. This clarity of direction is really carried through into the album polished production.

Of course, she’s not new to the notion of concerted song writing, having teamed up with Bombay Bicycle Club on several tracks on So Long, See You Tomorrow, after very organically building a relationship of "dual appreciation" with the band, touring with them before being invited to sing on the album: "Learning from people like Jack [Steadman, Bombay Bicycle Club’s lead vocalist] has been really helpful for getting to know how to be in the studio – I was really honoured to be part of the record."

I wanted to know how she developed her voice, and how she maintains it throughout an intensive touring schedule (prospective touring singers: note the importance of booking in rest days!). "On the first album singing was quite a new thing, which sounds very weird, but I hadn’t really done it from a young age," Morris explains. "It was all about piano and I didn’t think I could sing in a way that was something that people would want to listen to…" (I should add here, Rae comes across delightfully modest.) “Touring that first album really helped with being able to explore different things – I was on stage the whole time so it was very confidence building, and when it came to writing this new one I think I had a better idea of what I could potentially do with my voice, I felt a lot more adventurous”.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, her favourite place in the world is Blackpool. The happiest moment of her life (that she was willing to share with me) was the moment she met Patti Smith. And, in her opinion, the most beautiful thing about being human is the ability to communicate: "I guess other animals and non-humans can do that too, but I think that’s fascinating: the ability to learn from people and the art of conversation is really valuable and wonderful…"

And with that, I breathed a deep sigh of relief...

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2 Responses to “Rae Morris is the “fiercely capable” pop star we need today”

  1. Dree Paterson 02/03/2018 at 8:50 am #

    What an amazing artist, and article. I am so glad I stumbled upon this, shes now all over my march spotify playlist.

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