Rae Morris’ year has got off to an overwhelmingly good start. The singer-songwriter has already secured a top 10 album, been shortlisted on the BBC Sound of 2015 poll and completed a sell-out headline tour. I caught up with her during the proverbial calm before the storm.
“It feels really exciting. I feel super lucky. It feels really crazy how many people are on the list”, Morris tells me when I ask her how it felt to find herself on the BBC Sound of the Year poll. “I can’t believe this many people are releasing albums in 2015. I think it’s generally a breath of fresh air that there’s so much new music coming out.” Unfortunately, she didn’t top the poll, but to be nominated is a huge honour for new artists.
Morris remains incredibly modest, describing how the prospect of winning would be “great exposure”, although she must be accustomed to hearing praise as her music has won the hearts of a good deal of other acts, including Tom Odell, George Ezra and, most notably, Bombay Bicycle Club. Morris’ work with Jack Steadman and co. accelerated her career considerably. She was a backing vocalist on three songs from the band’s most recent release So Long, See You Tomorrow and accompanied them on two UK tours.
When I wrote the title track, ‘Unguarded’, I realised that what it was that I was doing was just so natural. I hadn’t really thought about a theme or anything that was kind of contrived
“It’s really lovely to know that people I respect, and some of the musicians that I’ve grown up listening to, especially Bombay Bicycle Club, are fans of my work. I’m such a massive fan, and it feels crazy to have people like that say they enjoy what you do. An integral part of creating music is knowing that you’re affecting people and changing things. It feels really natural and lovely.”
I love Morris’ contributions to the album, especially on the track ‘Overdone’, and this only bodes well for her career in music, as it has done for her close friend and long-term Bombay Bicycle Club collaborator, Lucy Rose. One can’t help but observe that Morris has clearly been influenced by Steadman’s organic writing style while in her time collaborating with the band. In the same way that So Long, See You Tomorrow was heavily influenced by Steadman’s travels in Asia, the word ‘natural’ often crops up in the interview when Morris discusses how her debut album was formed.
“When I wrote the title track, ‘Unguarded’, I realised that what it was that I was doing was just so natural. I hadn’t really thought about a theme or anything that was kind of contrived, it was just me writing songs from the age of 17. It helped me discover what it is that I want to do and the sounds I wanted to create, so I see it as a kind of a coming of age process.”
Lyrically, the songs on Unguarded are understated and simple, though one may not notice this beneath Morris’s expressive singing style. She emphasises the role of emotion in her songs, adding, “A lot of my lyrics are just the first thing that comes into my head when I’m writing them, I guess I like to keep it simple and try not to complicate it by using bigger words. I just try to be real and talk in an honest way.”
This might even be the best kind of songwriting, as she says so much with so little, and Morris’ fans certainly relate to the vulnerable honesty of her music. Morris cites her initial influences as Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell, before enthusing about her love of electronic music. “I got obsessed with combining electronic sounds with organic sounds and the producers that I worked with also inspired me to do more of that. So I think it gradually turned into something quite unique.” Distinctive influences and sounds can be unearthed within the fusion, especially on tracks like ‘Unguarded’, ‘Do You Even Know?’ and ‘Cold’.
You can’t really gauge whether or not people are aware of who you are
Morris is one of many singers who tweet daily, as well as uploading photos to Instagram. I was intrigued to find out how social media has helped carve her path into the music industry. “You can’t really gauge whether or not people are aware of who you are,” she tells me honestly, “and I think, in a way, social media does that. It kind of gives you more of an indication as to who knows you and who’s talking about you and whatever, and that’s great. I’m really pleased with social media. I feel like the fans I’ve got on there are very real and genuinely supportive, and I get to see the same names over and over again. I kind of know who’s running the fan accounts and it feels like they’ve been there with me from the beginning. It’s been a steady thing – I didn’t suddenly get hundreds of thousands of followers. I appreciate everyone coming on the journey with me.”
Morris is excited to get started on the events of this year. With so much to offer, it’s easy to see why. “I’ve kind of got to that point where everything is ready to go. I’ve spent such a long time making it, I can’t wait for everyone to hear it now. I really can’t wait.”