Behind the Music: Interview with Lena Morris

‘The influences on my lyrics could be anything: a book, a political event or something in my personal life.’

Describe your music style in no more than 5 words: Haha that is not easy to do. Let me give you 3 good ones… Number one would probably be “authentic”. We play “real” instruments and don’t use crazy effects. If our sound was a piece of furniture, it would be solid wood. Number two would be “heartfelt”. All of us play music to make people’s lives better, because that’s exactly how we discovered music as kids. I am often told that it shows which always makes me proud. The third one would be “connected”. I do care about how my music is perceived by the audience. And when people relate to what I relate to in my songs, I feel the deed is done.

Having such an eclectic background, how does this impact your tracks? I think being exposed to different cultures and therefore different music and art impacted my curiosity. It also gave me a wider spectrum of inspiration that I mix into my writing. I am French, but I was raised in Asia and I have Russian-Armenian origins. My family and I always listened to a lot of English/American music. It’s a real mixture of cultures, genres and languages.

What else influences your music? The influences on my lyrics could be anything. It could be a sentence that touches me in a book, a political event or something happening in my personal life. The title of my single ‘Never (Is An Awfully Long Time)’ comes from a sentence I heard somewhere. I can’t really recall where but when I heard it, I wrote it on my list of ideas and things that make me want to write a song around.

Later this sentence took it’s meaning referring to my lack of self-esteem back when I wrote the song. The musicians around me also influence me whether it’s because they play with me on my songs or at the gigs I attend. Brighton is such a great city to live in as a musician, there are gigs everywhere every day of the week and that’s a great source of inspiration.

“I’m pretty down to earth. If I wanted to write a hit song nowadays I wouldn’t stick to the blues-rock genre.”

There seems to have been quite a team working with you on your latest track. Has this always been the case? Actually this single was the one that involved the smallest team compared to my previous singles! I had wonderful musicians for the recording: Megan Hill (backing vocals), Lou Bell (lap steel, guitar, back vocals), Pol Mira (guitar) and Peter Goldbach (drums). Steven Bamidele was the producer and they all did a great job playing, recording and mixing the track.

What makes this team smaller than for my previous singles was the fact I did the music video on my own. This music video is a montage of videos with every band member, where we are mostly acting silly haha! I also created the artwork myself. For my other singles, I had a videographer who filmed the music videos and edited it.

How does your song writing process work?  My songwriting process varies a lot. For my latest single, it came from a sentence I heard, so I started playing around some chords, and wrote the lyrics around that sentence and topic. This time it started from a lyric but sometimes it starts with a chord progression on guitar or piano, sometimes with a bass line, sometimes with a poem I’ve written. I’ve recently started using a phaser pedal on my electric guitar and it gave me inspiration directly. The first chord I played made me write a whole song within minutes, and then I wrote the lyrics.

There seems to be a real sense of growth from your debut until now, what has guided this? If you are referring to my first single ‘Cool Cool Cat’ I will have to agree with you haha! This song was written in my last year in high school. I then moved on my own from Hong Kong to Brighton (UK) in order to study songwriting. These 3 – 4 years taught me a lot in my music education and my personal life.

On the musical side, I discovered a lot of musicians who have inspired me with their different genres and personalities and at university, I learnt about music related topics like songwriting techniques, stage presence, business. On the personal side for the first time I was living on my own and continents apart from my family. I had to meet new people, create new bonds, do everything on my own. I’ve grown a lot these last years and this is probably why you can hear such a change in my music.

Each of your tracks to date have a very different feel to them. How important is it for artists to show everything they have to offer? I think as an artist and songwriter it can only be beneficial to try out different styles, vibes or topics. Personally, I’m not the sort of musician that listens to everything but I love experimenting. I always tried to find new sounds – for example I started playing piano, then I picked up the bass, acoustic guitar, ukulele a bit of drums and now I’ve looked more into electric guitars and the effects you can get from them. Different sounds and different feels are a big part of my inspirations and the influences in my songs.

Do you have any releases and/or performances coming up soon? At the moment I’m setting up my band in order to start gigging so we don’t have any upcoming dates. Although, keep an eye on my social media because we hopefully will soon. Now that I have finished my degree, I want to start gigging but also record an EP. I have been extremely inspired lately therefore it’s hard to choose which songs to put on it. But when it is decided – and when I close the financing – the recordings will start!

“As an artist and songwriter it can only be beneficial to try out different styles, vibes or topics.”

Do you prefer performing live or recording in a studio? It’s a tough question for me. I love performing live more than anything but I’ve had severe performance anxiety these last years which has got in the way of me doing it or enjoying it. I love recording sessions as well though. It’s exciting, rewarding and you see your projects going somewhere. Those are two different environments and ways to perform and feel my music.

What can people expect from one of your live performances? They can expect us to give ourselves a 100%! Have some dirty blues riffs, some delicate melodies, some comforting and empowering messages in my lyrics, some beautiful harmonies and some sick drum and bass combos!

What’s more important about being a songwriter: creating a hit song or having a chance to express yourself? I’m pretty down to earth and if I wanted to write a hit song nowadays I wouldn’t stick to the blues-rock genre. What I care about in my music is expressing myself and touching people by empowering them if it’s political, comforting them if it’s relatable, making them dance if it’s groovy, making them cry if it’s sad. It would of course be great to get a song with millions of streams because that would maybe mean I didn’t have to work jobs I’m not passionate about.

But, when I receive messages from people saying my music touches them in some ways, I get what I always wanted and what I will always seek for in my music. Although as a songwriter I am starting to write for other artists, in different genres, so maybe one day this will make mean I can afford rent and food. That’s if my blues music didn’t make me rich by then 😉 !

What do you listen to when you’re not writing, recording or performing? I listen to a lot of rock, pop-rock, reggae-rock, blues-rock. I’m not so much into now music like RnB, pop or rap. If you have a look at my iPod you’ll find the Beatles, Queen, Bowie, Supertramp, the Pretenders, Rickie Lee Jones. Best song ever: ‘The March Of The Black Queen’ by Queen. Best song for a romantic night: ‘The Sea’ by Morcheeba. Best song to dance to: ‘Let’s Groove’ by Earth Wind and Fire. Best song to wake up: ‘Jump (For My Love)’ by The Pointer Sisters. Best guilty pleasure: ‘Chacun Fait (C’Qui Lui Plait)’ by Chagrin D’Amour.

What is your first musical based memory? My first musical based memory is from when I was living in France. I was about 4 years old and we had The Beatles “Magical Mystery Tour” album playing in our car. We lived next to a fire station and when they used to ring a bell we could hear from our house. Because of this, every time my twin and I were in the car we requested to our parents: “Please put on the song with the fire station bell!!” and this was us requesting to listen to ‘Penny Lane’.

How different would your life be if music didn’t feature? Wow… How would your’s be? Well, very different I guess, haha! If music wasn’t in my life I would be somewhere in the countryside running a shelter where I would rescue abused animals. Or on the Japan sea aboard a Greenpeace ship. Animals are my other passion and I remember that working around the wildlife was my little girl dream before really choosing to do music.

And finally… what has been the biggest learning curve in your music career so far?Moving to Brighton, being in a city full of musicians and studying songwriting for 3 years was really the learning curve in my music career. It opened my eyes on a lot of things in the way I work, write and play but it also made me find my sound and genre.

Thanks Lena for chatting with Listen to Discover

Follow Lena Morris on: Instagram and Facebook
Listen to and watch Lena Morris on: Spotify and YouTube
Find out more about Lena Morris’ music at: Track Review: Lena Morris: Never (Is An Awfully Long Time)

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