Rae Morris signed to Atlantic Records at 17, and has since released multiple EPs and two albums, the most recent of which, an energetic electronica exploration of identity, was released only last month. I sat down with her before her gig at Portsmouth, cup of tea in hand, to talk about the her recent release, Someone Out There.
So first off, congratulations on the new album!
I know you did a Twitter listening party on its release, how did you find that experience?
I find Twitter listening parties actually quite stressful. I was doing something wrong, I didn’t realise you could refresh from the top or something, so I kept scrolling through and feeling like I was missing them. I’m one of those people, I really want to reply to everyone, or it stresses me out if I’ve left someone out, so I find them quite stressful. But it was nice to hear people’s feedback!
I’ve seen you continue to retweet a lot of people’s feedback as well, which is lovely. From the way you’ve talked about the album it feels quite personal – it’s very much based on you finding your voice and identity. How does it feel releasing that to the public or performing it live?
I used to feel really quite weird about that, particularly on my first album, because again the songs were personal, but I think I wasn’t quite as confident – I definitely wasn’t as confident, so it felt quite a lot like revealing my true self. I was a little bit nervous about that quite a lot of the time, whereas now I’m way less bothered by what people think. I care about what my fans think, and it means so much to me that they like the music, but then in terms of self expression on stage and stuff I feel way more comfortable and I just want to give the best performance and tell the story in the best possible way.
Talking of stories, it also seems like you’ve structured the album in a particular way. With the rise of streaming culture, and less people buying and listening to albums, how important is it to you that people listen to your album in the right order?
It’s true [that less people are buying albums]. I think, you know, I do really care about the order but I don’t mind if people jump between certain songs, it’s really natural. I do it with my favourite records – one day I’ll just really feel like listening to that one tune, and then I’ll go ‘I fancy that one but I don’t feel like I’m in the mood for that one’. I really think that a record is for that, it’s to kind of give you a taste of all sorts of different tones so that depending on any day you’ve got a companion. But I think it was important for me for that album to have an opening, and a middle, and an end, just kind of like how a story would, and ‘Push Me To My Limit’ being the first track felt like it did that because it was kind of bridging the gap between the first album and this one.
As well as being quite personal, you’ve also described this album as ’empathetic’. It seems that a lot of modern media is reaching for empathy, and I feel like this is maybe a reaction to the lack of it in today’s politics, perhaps. Do you feel like this is true for you?
I think today’s climate is definitely making me more aware of other people, like you said, and opening eyes to the lives of everyone and the different circumstances that people live within. I guess it must have some sort of impact, just in the way we’re all having conversations and the way that we’re all discussing things. I didn’t really think about it at the time of writing, but it is interesting to kind of discuss it now.
I think with songs like ‘Dancing With Character’ I really enjoyed looking outside of my own little bubble and telling the tale of other people, which is really a hard thing to do because you want to make sure you do them justice and obviously feel like you have permission to write about somebody else’s world. And so I always do it from my own perspective and add my own little flavour. But yeah, I think it’s important to not just be completely within yourself at this time, because there’s a lot of stuff going on!
You’ve talked about telling someone else’s story in ‘Dancing With Character’, but I know also with ‘Wait For The Rain’ you were telling an original story from a character’s perspective – is writing in a role something you’d like to do more of?
[‘Wait For The Rain’] took a few different turns – it began as a really emotional, soundscape-inspired thing and then it was a bit mad, actually, it was a bit crazy. And, like you said, it was my first exploration into playing a role and telling a story that wasn’t necessarily my own. But then I kind of toned it back a little bit, because obviously you’ve got to make things work within an album, but I think it is something I look forward to exploring more. For this next record, which I hope I get to make, I haven’t even thought about it yet, I’d like to just spend some more time at the piano, just kind of doodling around. I think that’s always a really good way to begin, just to get a vibe and try new things and there’s no pressure that way. So I’m excited to do that this year along the way whilst I’m touring and just play with new ways of writing.
You’ve discussed in the past how your first album stuck you behind the piano a bit, while this one is more electronic, so is the next album maybe going to attempt to compromise the two?
I don’t know what it will be yet, and that’s really kind of what happened with this record – you just go with what feels good at the time and hope people will like it.
And they do! So lastly, for someone who hasn’t heard your music before, how would you describe this album in three words?
I’d say it’s colourful, energetic, and… fun, maybe. Well, I was going to say happy but then it’s not entirely happy, but I think there are twinges of happiness in [every song]. I’ve said a few times that I’ve always had a problem with this thing around pop music in particular that you can’t be happy, you can’t be in a good place, in order to write, and in order to produce, things that are important and serious. And I just don’t think that is a good way of promoting music to young people who are writing it, who are making it, and kind of telling them that they should actually be really miserable, I think it is a breeding ground for bad, negative things. And it’s not necessary because music is directly for celebration and good things, and so I think this album is predominantly a happy one.
Someone Out There is available on CD, Vinyl, and to stream via ATLANTIC.