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MADDIE MORRIS

RGM INTRODUCING – WE INTERVIEW MADDIE MORRIS, WHAT HAPPENED?

Hiya Maddie thanks for joining us in the virtual RGM lounge today, grab a brew and take a seat.

What made you decide that music is a thing for you?

I think I never really pictured a life where I didn’t do music, in some capacity, but I guess I never really expected that music would be my job. I remember when I was a student thinking, “well, I’ll have 3 years to mess about with this, and then I can decide what I do for real”, but I guess I never decided to do anything else for real, and I have the joy of continuing to do this.

Introduce us you / all to the band members (or just yourself) and your musical history?

I’m Maddie Morris, I’m a queer neurodivergent folk musician from Leeds. 

What was life like for you before music?

I don’t really remember a life before music, I think music was very embedded in who I was from quite a young age. I’ve been told I watched the BBC show “spider in the bath” to get to sleep every night, and watch “Joseph and the amazing technicolor dream coat’ on repeat as a little kid. Before I could play any instruments, I would sing, anything I could get my hands on, like all the time.

What was the first song you heard that steered you into a music path?

I love this question. I remember occasionally when I was in primary school my dad would pick me up from school, and I loved being in his car because he used to play all sorts of music. There was a track called “Fairytales” by Anita Baker, that basically tells the story of a woman who’s reflecting on how her relationships are never like the fairytales she was told as a kid.

I used to listen to it in repeat, and ask for it as soon as I got into my dads car. I loved the way she told the story, and the way you could really hear the pain in her voice in some of the lines. It’s definitely super different to the music I make today, but I think it sparked for me the way songs can tell stories and make you really feel something.

Where do you feel you currently sit within the music industry?

I’m not sure actually. I think that I’d call myself a folk musician, but I guess I like to walk the line between folk and singer songwriter, and my new record Skin really walks that line between personal storytelling, and traditional song. Personally, I find this a really fun and interesting place to be, it’s fun not to have any strict boundaries to work within and to have the freedom to do what you want.

What’s the biggest thing you have learned from someone else in the industry?

I once had a conversation with Lucy Ward, where she told me that in this scene we have long long careers. Her exact words were “we will be in this job until we shuffle of the stage of our last show in our 80’s or 90’s”, and I remind myself of her saying that a lot. The industry can be really overwhelming, and it can feel like everything needs to happen right now, and there’s no time to reflect or enjoy, so I find it helpful to remember it’s okay to chill out, and that there will be time to get what I want to say, said.

Tell us Two truths and a lie about you?

I have a tattoo of a rat playing a concertina. I don’t like coffee. I’ve watched the entirety of “Greys anatomy” over 6 times.

(the lie was I don’t like coffee.)

If you could wish for one thing to aid your career what would it be?

This is a tricky question for me, because I do feel really grateful and lucky to be in the position I’m in, and I’ve had so many awesome opportunities through my career.  

All of that being said, I think a big thing that would change my career (and the career of loads of disabled artists) would be proper access and disability measures met at gigs and festivals. I think that loads of times, people do their best to accommodate and I’ve had loads of really positive experiences, but there is that tricky percentage where access isn’t taken into consideration, and it can have such a huge effect.

Do you ever worry about people taking things the wrong way or cancel culture? Discuss….

I do worry about people taking things the wrong way, I think that’s quite a human experience. Especially when I play live, I feel like I say so much and then I come off stage afterwards and think why on earth did I say that? That’s not what I meant? I think that particularly part of being a neurodiverse artist, often we’ve spent our lives being misunderstood or feeling like we’re talking one language in a world that talks another, so its forever a worry that I’ve been misunderstood.

I don’t worry about cancel culture. Perhaps controversially, I think that canceling people (as in dogpiling and stuff) isn’t great, but I do think we should de-platform people who do things that are objectively wrong/offensive and don’t apologize and take accountability.

MADDIE MORRIS

Do you subscribe to any conspiracy theories? If not, why not?

Conspiracy theories is an interesting phrase isn’t it.

 I’m not sure I’d say I subscribe to any conspiracy theories in the sense that they’re discussed in popular culture, but I do think there’s a huge void between the minority that have power and the rest of us who don’t. I think there’s loads of stuff that goes on completely hidden, un-discussed and that is brushed under the carpet. I think the reality of that goes far beyond what we can imagine.

What was the worst experience on stage?

I played an amazing gig at Cecil Sharp house once, it was for the Thank Folk For Feminism Folk Club gig, and loads of really amazing artists were there, so I was just really buzzing. Anyway, I was introducing a song called “the housewives lament”, and I was explaining how I live in Leeds City Centre and I’m really inspired by the way life just sustains itself.

I was trying to say how I see rats scuttering through the streets, and there’s something really magic about that for me, because of the willingness for survival. Anyway, I got my words confused and I ended say “I love seeing rats eating vomit.”

Saying this now, I’m visibly cringing. It was live streamed as well, and my mum and sister had traveled down south for the gig. Absolutely mortified.

Tell us something about you that you think people would be surprised about?

I think people are often surprised when they come to see me live, if they’ve only streamed my music, that I’m always having such a good time and that all the music I make comes from a real place of joy. I think a lot of the content that I write about is heavy, but the process of sharing it is joyful and I feel like that’s maybe a surprise for some people.

I try to describe that by like, how it feels when you’re really pissed off by something that happened at work and you finally see your friends and get to share, and they’re on your side or they’re not, but you get to have a really good chat about it. That’s kind of how being a musician feels for me, I just get to really share and that’s really cool.

What makes you stand out as an artist?

I’m not sure on this one, because there are so many wonderful artists out there and I don’t know what it is that makes me stand out. Sometimes I wonder if it’s representation, I often get told that I remind people of someone, being a friend or a sibling or a teacher, or that they feel comforted by seeing someone ‘like them’ at festivals and gigs.

I think when you’re so used to feeling different theres something nice about someone telling you that you belong and that you matter.

I hear you have new music, what can you tell us about it?

Yes! I recorded my debut album Skin, which’ll be released on No Masters in February.  The album explores queerness, identity, community, shame, and joy. I was really lucky to get to work with a bunch of really amazing artists including Archie Churchill-Moss, Belinda O’Hooley, Bryony Griffith, George Sansome, Janice Burns, Matt Downer, Kath Ord and Pete Ord.

What was the recording process like?

I recorded the album at the Studio at Sunbeams, which is this beautiful recording studio in Penrith surrounded by fields and sheep and hills. The recording studio space is completely accessible, and is also a space used for community music therapy, so it was really wonderful get to be in that space while recording the album.

Most of the process was really exciting and fun, I loved getting to explore songs that I’d been playing for some time, with a completely new lense on. I also loved thinking about the different musicians who might play, and hearing the new layers of music added each time I headed back to record some more.

There were also moments of real anxiety, fear that it wasn’t going to be good enough, but I think that’s just a sign that it was really important to me.

What was the biggest learning curve in writing the new tunes?

I think letting go of the fear that they’re going to be bad. Or at least, that’s been helpful for me. I think I always worry what if a new song sounds like the old one, but I’ve learned to think, well, what if it does? There are definitely worse things for a song to be. I also like to remind myself like, so what if you write a bad song? Nothing majorly awful or bad is going to happen from that.  

Would you change anything now that it’s finished?

No I don’t think so… I mean, I do wish I could go back and tell myself not to stress so much but that’s a universal experience for the whole of my life. I feel so proud of the record, and the work that’s gone into it, and I’m so looking forward to sharing it with people.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?

Just that I’m really looking forward for people to hear skin, and I’m so greatful to have had the opportunity to make it.

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