Perhaps the sweetest person in the industry, I commend Rae Morris not only for her stunning debut album Unguarded; but also for graciously putting up and playing along with my silly questions.
Rae Morris is a 23 year old singer and songwriter from Blackpool who has lent her vocals to the likes of Bombay Bicycle Club and Clean Bandit. Now she is touring her debut album, Unguarded, and comes to Southampton’s Engine Rooms on November 15th. We talk about angry wasps, touring and advice for hopeful musicians.
Rae speaks of her hometown Blackpool very affectionately, labelling her humble roots as a contributor to her success; “when you’re out of the way there’s more of chance that people are going to notice what you’re doing. I was making a big noise up north. Sometimes I wonder if I was doing that in London, whether or not I would’ve been noticed”. I point out how like Blackpool, Southampton is an ugly coastal town and not exactly a cultural hub, and what advice did she have for aspiring musicians who live outside of London and aren’t willing to sell their souls to Simon Cowell’s reality TV germ. “I just kind of used the surrounding areas, I would go to the nearby cities and actually just get a great variety of experiences. Sometimes the funniest experiences happen in these funny little places and are the ones that stick forever.”
She also puts her success down to those she surrounds herself with, “I’ve got the most amazing band, I love them completely and they are the most important thing first.” She goes out of her way to heavily praise her lighting designer who she has worked with since supporting Bombay Bicycle Club on tour. Rae Morris is overlooking the blindingly obvious factor that the reputation she has built for herself is down to her incredible talent. Her gentle talking voice is misleading as it is her huge soulful singing voice that soars through this album of electro pop ballads which has propelled her to success and currently propelling her round the country on a non stop tour since February. The emotive album is titled Unguarded, and she sings about coming of age and of vulnerability.
She tells me she also sings about courgettes, “I recently wrote a song about a courgette and it’s actually really good.” She finds the song writing process to be hard, but asserts that it is important for the words to be natural, even if it is a silly song about a vegetable. “I do write some comedy songs about carrots and courgettes”. Disappointingly she quickly adds, “But I don’t think they’ll make it onto the next record.”
Vegetables aside, we chat about who inspires her. Her current iPod ‘Recently Played’ playlist includes Sun Kil Moon, an acoustic ballad singer from Ohio, and, in anticipation for her own set at Shepherds Bush, the track list from Bjork’s 1997 show at the same iconic venue. She promises a taste of her eclectic playlist for those that attend her tour.
She talks a lot about how happy she is to be touring, that people are coming out to see her. Her priorities with her live gigs is a focus on a seamless connection between her and the band. So I challenge her with a nightmare tour scenario. We both agree on underestimating the power of the ‘Would You Rather’ question and she audibly lights up when I ask her that during the upcoming gig at the Engine Rooms in Southampton…
Would you rather be harassed by an angry wasp for the entire duration of the gig, or, would you rather a slideshow of your most horrendously embarrassing childhood pictures be going on in the background whilst you perform?
Rae: I had an experience with a wasp at Latitude recently, I did like a little session in the woods and a wasp was trying to get into my mouth and it was the scariest thing ever! So there’s no way I’d ever want that again. I think a slideshow could be quite funny anyway. People do that, so maybe its not too bad. I’ll go with that one.
We naturally end the conversation by discussing dogs and I finally I ask poor Rae what dog breed she identifies most with. She answers confidently that she is the human version of her dog, Alfie, a Bichon Frise, because he is “easy to get along with and likes to sleep all day”. Google tells me that the ‘Bichon Frise’ is a curly haired dog, with a gentle mannered, playful and affectionate temperament. From my 15 minutes on the phone with her, it is a very accurate self assessment that I wholeheartedly agree with.
Rae Morris performs at the Engine Rooms on the 15th October. Unguarded is available via Atlantic Records.