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Eliot Morris



Way Cool Music first had the pleasure of chatting with Eliot Morris nearly two years ago. Since that time, Morris has been working hard on his major label debut CD, What's Mine Is Yours, that is due to drop this August. Besides working on his new creation, Morris has been finding varied opportunities to showcase his talent, including performing at SouthBySouthwest and playing benefit concerts for Hurricane Katrina victims. This summer, you might have caught Morris at the Bonnaroo Festival, and still have time to see him as supporting talent on the Counting Crows/Goo Goo Dolls tour. While in Vermont, Morris sat down with us to discuss his new CD, his creative marketing plans, and the importance of familial support for an up-and-coming musician.



Way Cool: 

You have a new CD coming out in August…



You guys have listened to it.  Are you OK with the changes?  My concern is that, in this gap from releasing the Parker’s Back CD to this CD, people that have the old record have gotten used to hearing the songs a particular way.  I’m sure a lot of people who are fans of particular songs are going to be shocked at the changes.



I think that the changes that are on the CD, we’ve heard live so many times that we’ve already incorporated them into the way we hear them.  The best example is the lyric change in ’Anyway.’  We’ve heard the new lyrics live so many times that it’s the way the song is ”supposed” to be.



I’m glad that ‘Anyway’ comes to mind most prominently.  ‘No One Has to Know’ is a lot straighter and maybe a little slower in general.  We tried to make it a little more intimate.




But, if you didn’t make changes, it would be the same recording.





That’s always my response to those kinds of remarks (like)  “Oh!  I miss the lick on ‘Infancy of Us’!”  That was a great lick that Ilya (Toshinsky) played, but in the context of this record, it didn’t quite work.  And that’s what we wanted to do.  We wanted to make a record, not just a collection of songs.  Plus, that other ‘Infancy’ exists already.  I’ll put it on iTunes so people can have it if they want.




Once CD is released, what’s the plan?

Well, we’re working with a strategic marketing company. And we decided that the best thing to do is rent a bunch of station wagons and big horns and go through downtown areas and blast it out.


That’s fantastic!




We were also thinking that there will be local elections going on at the time so we could co-brand something.  Just find the most popular candidate and go with that.  You know that’s how they get their information out, driving around with a big horn, so that’s what I’m going to do, too.




You could also co-brand with Good Humor.  People always know where the ice cream truck is and they’re always on the lookout for it!




I’m kidding, but it’s actually pretty interesting.  I’m sure there are laws preventing it, but it sure would be a good story!

Seriously, I don’t know what the plan is.  We have to figure out a way to get people to hear the record and that’s a big challenge.  I think that if people can hear the record, at least we’ll have that.  A lot of people don’t get to hear music, you know.  But how do you break through every other artist and every other avenue trying to get to peoples’ ears?  There’s a finite amount of space for an infinite number of artists.  We have to figure out how to get to the listeners.  Hopefully, that will include a lot of great tours or some magazine and newspaper coverage.

We were in all the goody bags at the Tribeca Film Festival.  We put a sampler in all those bags.  We’re trying to get to different radio outlets, primarily non-com (non commercial) and some other radio that isn’t Top 40. I’m trying to reach people in a unique way.  So, people will be able to hear it on radio, but there will be other ways, too.    There are a lot of other avenues to get to people now.  It’s just a matter of figuring out what works best and take advantage of those.  We just don’t know what that is now and we may not know until the CD has dropped.  There’s a learning curve, I’m sure, but hopefully we’ll be able to get people to listen to it.




You’re on Myspace, so you have a way to get the word out.




Right, I’m on Myspace and I have ‘This Colorful World’ up there along with ‘Fault Line,’ both from the new record.  I think people are liking them.  That’s definitely an avenue we are going to use…connecting with people through the Internet.  There are a lot of ways to get to people.  But even though there are a lot of avenues, it’s hard to get to them and get their attention.  There’s a lot of noise out there.  How do you be the one to make them stop and pay attention?  I don’t know.  Hopefully, the songs and they way the CD was made and the musicians on the CD will make them stop.

Television and movies are fantastic ways to get to people and I’d love to be able to use that avenue.  It’s just one more way to get people to hear the music.

It’s amazing that, with the amount of information that’s out there, there are still musicians under the radar.  And maybe that’s the catch.  With so much information out there, you have to wade through so much to get to the good stuff. 




What are your favorite tracks on the new CD?




‘This Colorful World’ and ‘Fault Line’ are my two favorites.  I’ve been living with the CD for such a long time that it’s hard to pick.




Nickel Creek contributed to ‘Fault Line.’  How did you hook up with them?




The producer we ended up working with, the third guy… after four years and three producers, the final guy…  They are all fantastic producers, but the right producer for this record was Tony Berg.  It took some time and effort and money to find that out, but we eventually did.  He happened to also be co-producing Nickel Creek’s Why Should the Fire Die with Eric Valentine.  That’s one of the reasons the CD took so long. He was working on both CDs at the same time.  I took a month or two off at one point because he had to do work with them. 

That’s how it happened.  It was chance or fate that he happened to be working with them.  I think I might have said, “Wow!  They’re great.  Is there a chance you could ask them to come in and play?”  And he said he’d give it a shot.  They were very kind and generous and came in and helped out.  As a result, we’ve become friends and keep in touch.  We’re both playing Bonnaroo and I put a bug in Chris’s (Thile) ear and asked if they wanted to come up and do a song with me.  We’ll see.  Either way, I’ll have a good time.




In the downtime between finishing the CD and releasing it, what has kept you motivated?

I think the fundamental part of my motivation is my family.  They are terribly encouraging. I think it’s also because I love music.  I’m always an optimist and I’m excited about where I am right now.  I’m writing and creating and getting ready to release a new CD.  If people hate the record and no one wants to work with me again, I’m still going to make another record.  This is what I do.  Coming into that understanding and belief is really important.  It’s not just what I do, but it’s what I get to do.  That realization and understanding has been what’s kept me going along with my family.

I’m trying to rely on the belief that I have a purpose and that this is part of where I’m supposed to be.



You once told us that you were a terrible self-promoter.  What are you doing to improve upon that?



EM:Every morning when I wake up, I look at myself in the mirror and say, “Today is the day.  You’re going to do it.  You’re going to sell yourself.”  And that’s made all the difference.
WC:Great!  I have picture of Stuart Smalley in my head… and a gigolo.
In all honesty, I don’t know if I’ve improved at all.   I’m trying to keep up with fans a little more.  I’m trying to be more involved on Myspace and that’s not an easy thing for me to do.  It started with when I skipped typing to be in the chorus when I was in high school.  This is the root of a deep problem.  It enables me to write and sing songs, but it prevents me from being able to keep up with people!  As things continue to be slow for me, I think, “Why?!  What’s going on?”  One of the things I can do to stay in control of something is stay in touch with people and appreciate them for being fans who continue to support me.


How have you been able to capitalize on the opening slots you’ve gotten over the past couple of years like Marc Broussard and James Taylor and Anna Nalick




I think it’s just a matter of trying to connect with people, and once you connect with them, not letting them go.  I try to do that night after night.  Just being there and playing in front of people is important because not many know who I am.  Every opportunity like that is important.  And once the show is over, maintaining that contact is important.  Hopefully, people hear the music and like it and tell others about it.




You don’t have a permanent backing band.  When it comes time to play a full-band show, who plays with you?





Because the new record is coming out, I definitely want to prepare people for the sound because it’s different.  First off is finding someone who can play the instruments.  The hard one was the pedal steel (guitar).  I’ve got a couple of guys I work with, and if both of them are busy, I’m pretty much screwed.  I’ve been playing with the same rhythm section for a while now.  It’s a real juggling act actually.  At this point, they are all doing me favors. 



You’ve played some Hurricane Katrina benefit shows.  Tell us a little about that.


Katrina was a broad storm that affected the Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana coast.  I felt that I was removed from it, even though I grew up there.  I don’t live in Mobile anymore.  Now I’m in Birmingham, a couple of hours north.  It’s easy to forget what’s going on.  I knew I wanted to be involved with that relief effort.  I decided to go down just to be there and called a couple of friends in Gulfport, Mississippi who work in construction.  I originally was going to be there for a week, but I ended up working for a couple of days and then playing a show.  It was an amazing experience for me to see the destruction.  Towns like Gulfport and Waveland just got destroyed.  You hear about New Orleans because the city went under, but it was only after the hurricane that the levees broke.  It was devastating, for sure, but there was so much more to it. Going down there with someone in construction, we were able to go places you couldn’t get to without a license.  I got to see the destruction and see how fast it was and how peoples’ lives are changing so much.  Public golf courses in Gulfport are no longer open; they are just covered with hundreds and hundreds of tents.  That’s where they live.  I went down in November and we worked on this particular house and I was on the second floor.  The watermark was three or four feet up the wall… on the second floor!  This wasn’t an oceanfront house.  That was the surge!

It makes me really concerned for this season.  My parents are down there.  They had to leave their house three times last year.  We lost the house I grew up in.  The damage was wide spread and lives were dramatically changed.  If this season is as bad, I think our perception of waterfront living will be changed.  I can’t imagine my parents moving out three times again this year.

It was just so big.  Along the Gulf coast, there are 100-year-old houses that are gone and all that’s left is the foundation.  There was a church that was a massive, two or three-story building.  The front wall is ripped off.  You can see the ironwork that supports the structure.  And since the front wall is gone, you can see into the church and the balcony.  Everything underneath it is gone.

It was just so overwhelming.

WC:We know you’re a little bit of a prankster.  What’s one of the practical jokes you’ve played on someone else?


I don’t know.  The first thing that comes to mind is from when we were on the tour with John Mayer and Counting Crows.  We were in Atlanta and I felt I experienced some racism at a restaurant there.  The lady behind the counter was completely rude to me.  Exclusively to me.  Then Robbie Guerin (keyboardist) walked in and she was sweet on him and threw in an extra pie with his meal!  It kinda pissed me off.

He went to the restroom and I took his pie, which came in a sleeve to keep it hot.  I took a bite out of it and turned it around and put it back in the sleeve.  I kinda forgot about it.  There was this old man sitting next to us.  Robbie came back. We were all eating and he went into his pie and sees there’s a bite taken out of his pie.  He was like, “What is this!”  I wanted to see how far I could take it.  So, I was just straight faced and said, “Dude, that’s disgusting!”  He got real pissed and said, “I’m going to go talk to them.”  Remember, this is a free pie!  The guy next to me, this older man, is just laughing.  He can’t get over it and is shaking because he’s trying not to laugh too loud and spoil the joke.  So, Robbie goes up to the counter and he’s pissed.  “Somebody took a bite out of my pie.”  She said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”  He said, “I pulled the pie out and there was a bite out of it!”  Then she asked, “Did one of you take a bite out of his pie?”  He yelled that he knew somebody did…and then I came clean. 








What was your first concert?

Randy Travis.  Isn’t that cool?  I’m pretty sure I was in the 8th grade and I rushed down and he shook my hand.  It was great! 



What's your favorite album cover art?


Sergeant Pepper or Abbey Road.


What book or author has most influenced you?

Thomas Merton “Life and Awareness.”



What was your favorite childhood toy?

Most of my toys were hand-me-downs, but that make the GI Joesä great because they were wounded.  They had been through the trenches.  We had the regular green Army men that we’d blow up with firecrackers, but I think the GI Joesä were better. 



What would be the title to the movie of your life?

To Whom Much is Given…



What is the worst advice you've ever received?

Hurry up.



When was the last time you partied like it was 1999?


Probably New Years Eve 1998 rolling into 1999.  It was a big party. 



To find out more information about Eliot Morris visit his website at www.eliotmorris.com.