Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Matt Oliver
We had kind of a rough morning with Matt Morris, at the breakfast hour on this day during the midst of a long South By Southwest festival week this past March. With two other accompanists with him, the knitted stocking-hatted Morris, was working through three of his newest songs - all of which appear on his just-released new full-length, "When Everything Breaks Open." He was unaware that, the night before, the new patch bay on the console at Big Orange Studio was being a real bitch and a half and despite some late-night detective work, things were still being ironed out when he arrived. And though the kind young man, who the week or two prior had appeared with his best buddy Justin Timberlake, performing Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," on a nationally televised telethon benefit for Haiti, had brought us all oversized muffins from Starbucks, the gesture couldn't sway the tempermentality of the old analog equipment. It was at its worst for his session as the talk-back was messy, feeding back occasionally and blowing up their ears every once in a while - enough to create a tension in the room, a kind of contempt in the studio. We all struggled and struggled until we just said, "Fuck it," for the betterment of moods and for the hopeful completion of the session. We tossed the cans and just went at it au natural. It's how Morris should be heard - without speakers or assistance. He's great with only his own volume, when he sings softly and we're forced to get closer to him, and when he belts, exposing himself and all of his rawest and most true emotions. He adjusts the mood on his own and what you'll find here, in "Love," "Live Forever," and "The Un-American," is a stirring stroll through the deepest and darkest fears of someone who treasures the simplicity and fragility of love. It must be his favorite thing to think about and just about his favorite thing to speak about, for the way he sings about the subject is with reverence and with complexity. He respects that it's easily spooked and yet, sometimes, all it needs to grow is sunlight and adequate water. And that's where the confusion seems to begin setting in: when we hesitate in deciding whether we're going to smother it with what we think it needs or if we're going to play the safe hand and potentially miss out on it altogether. Morris addresses both of these tracts, believing that loving someone as if they knew that they were going to live forever (and therefore their love would as well?) and loving someone in a way that language cannot iterate are essentially the same thing. It's almost as if Morris - with his dynamic voice, sounding like the under-appreciated Jude of the late 90s - doesn't care which action needs to be taken, an action, any action should be taken or all of the good that comes with a healthy love will be lost. And that is a tragedy - the greatest tragedy that ever could be.