Americana band Morganway, founded by twin brothers Callum and Kieran Morgan, are a Norfolk six-piece inspired by classic 80s bands and artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles. Lead singer Nicole J Terry, a former circus performer and violin-maker, has a similar vocal sound to KT Tunstall so it’s fair to expect you’ll be hearing a lot more from Morganway. Their debut single Frozen in Our Time was released this month and a debut album is due out this Summer. The band speak to Susie Daniels about UFO songs and handstands…
Nicole, you were once a circus performer. How did you make the transition into music?
Nicole: It has always been music for me, the circus thing came out of the blue. I had just graduated from violin-making school and I didn’t really have anywhere to go, when a classmate invited me to go and join a circus in France. The show was to be created from scratch. We hollowed out a huge tree from the forest with chainsaws and built a rig on the back of a lorry. The story was about selling your soul to the devil and there was voltige (horseback gymnastics) silks, trapeze, music, dancing and crazy horses and carts bombing round the audience in the dark with people jumping in between them lit by flame torches.
I played fiddle and double bass. It was all lit by gas and there’s nothing that focuses your mind as a performer quite like seeing the silks blowing in the wind much too close to the flames as someone is high up above you doing insane tricks and you are trying to remember the rhythms of Eastern European folk tunes. I did get hit in the leg with a giant metal pole. It was ridiculously dangerous, I can’t believe we got away with it, it was awesome. Ultimately though I’m not cut out for the circus. Physically I loved the hard work and now have a handstand obsession, but mentally I struggled, you have to be so tough and fight for everything and that’s not me. It was a brilliant experience but all I really want to do is harmonise.
You released your first single ‘Frozen In Our Time’ mid-Feb. What’s that about?
Callum: Well, winter weather puns aside…what the song itself is about is really down to the listener. I feel there’s a beauty in the struggle we all face in coming to grips with the time we are given. And songs, like paintings, photographs, films…whatever art we create is frozen in its time. Jackson Browne has said he still likes calling a record a record, regardless of whether it’s on vinyl or not, because it’s ‘a record of events’. In many ways we’re all doing this and for me, the song holds a mirror to that.
What will your album, due for release this Summer, be called and what can we expect from it?
Callum: This is our debut album, and we don’t really wish to single out one track, so simply calling it ‘Morganway’ says it all so neatly, directly, and honestly too. We have long progressive builds, but we also have three minute pop songs, foot-stomping folk numbers, heavy rock tracks and songs about finding something spiritual, or perhaps UFOs on a hill.
Any particular songs you can tell us about and what the narrative is?
Callum: Extra terrestrials aside, we have a song called London Life, which I think is all about the capital from an outsiders perspective. It follows a young man who initially thinks he has it all figured out, and then gradually loses it. He watches as his girlfriend, his wife, and then his ex finds herself in a city where so much happens, while he ultimately gets left behind. He doesn’t resent her for it, he knows she’ll do well, and he knows if anyone deserves it, she does, but he grows to resent the alienation he experiences in the big city: “Some nights I can’t stand it, I freeze up inside / these people judge you, for all the things you like”. The song is very upbeat sonically, but I think the narrative it tells is one of our saddest.
Kieran and Callum, what first got you into music, how long have you been song-writing, singing and playing music?
Callum: Our dad is a singer, and I’m certain watching him perform in bands gave us the bug. I started writing songs as soon as I could play a few notes. I think the first good one was called “Up My Sleeve”, aged 13. It featured a three-note riff that my guitar teacher at the time thought was good, which to me was divine praise indeed!
Kieran: I started playing guitar when I was 11 and I was very lucky to have an incredible teacher called Dave Morrison, an American living in North Norfolk who is the best slide guitar player I know and to this day, still one of my biggest influences. My next ‘guitar hero’ was John Frusciante, who used to be in the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, his tone and the way he puts so much emotion into the guitar hit me hard; he can play just two notes and still say so much. I’ve stuck to that in my philosophy; it’s as much about the notes you don’t play as the ones you do. I got into music because of how songs make me feel, and I don’t get excited about playing something just because it is technical.
Have collaborations like Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus’s ‘Nothing Breaks Like a Heart and the transition of artists like Taylor Swift helped bring Americana and country into mainstream music?
Callum: I think that song, first and foremost, is a great pop record and great pop records will always bring people together as they enter into the mainstream.
SJ: I was just starting to write songs on my guitar at school when Taylor Swift brought out her first album, she was a big influence on me and got me into many other modern country artists.
I’ve always loved how she tells a story through her songs, and it’s great how country and Americana are now becoming more popular in the UK.
Do you see yourself going down that path or are you interested in doing that if the music takes you there?
SJ: We are always writing together and developing as a band and we’re already excited about getting started on album number two!
Callum: I think you have to keep an open mind at all times. Don’t do something that doesn’t feel right, but don’t set yourself rules if they stop you from seeing what’s out there. Morganway will go where Morganway will go, there’s no crystal ball.