Rae Morris is a rising star in Britain. The singer-songwriter from Blackpool has been working her way up in the music industry for a few years now with the release of a few EP’s, but in 2015 she finally released her first album Unguarded. Rae describes this record as her diary, because of the many personal stories she shares. A summer full of British festivals is waiting, but in April she toured in the Netherlands as part of the Songbird Sessions where several singer-songwriters performed all over the country. I spoke with her about the recent success, the making of her record and her future as an artist.
When was the moment you realized you wanted to be a singer? And the moment you knew you could actually succeed with this dream?
When I was 17 I started to explore songwriting, but before that I wasn’t into singing at all. I realized I wanted to sing when I performed my own songs. The realization that I could actually do this as a career came around a year later. I had been performing in pubs a lot and then suddenly a record label started showing interest and everything started.
Earlier this year you released your debut album Unguarded. What does this record mean to you?
For me Unguarded is almost like a diary. It is a personal documentation of me growing up between the age of 17 and 22. That was the time that it took me to write it and make all the elements come together. When it was almost ready I realized that every song was documenting the different stages that I was going through in my life. It was me laying bare my feelings in these few years.
When were you sure the album was ready?
When I recorded the EP’s I didn’t feel I knew enough about working in the studio and I wasn’t sure about the sound that I wanted to create. When I started out, all I knew was piano and vocals and I needed time to explore all the options. An album hopefully lives forever so it had to be absolutely right for me. Pretty late in the process we still felt like there was a tone missing in terms of sound and I was writing with Jim Eliot. We were trying out stuff and wrote ‘Under the Shadows’ that turned out to be the missing piece that Unguarded needed.
The production of ‘Under the Shadows’ almost sounds like a modern day ‘Running Up That Hill’ by Kate Bush. Were you inspired by her?
I am generally really inspired by Kate Bush as she is one of my favorite artists of all time. I am also fascinated by music from the eighties because it has a great energy and atmosphere and I love the boldness. It wasn’t like I was consciously creating this song with Kate Bush in mind, but the deep rooted love affairs with your favorite artists might influence you as an artist.
You just described the album as a diary. Is it hard for you to share all those personal stories?
I never really experienced it as a hard thing to do because it comes naturally to me. I write about topics that I want to talk about. It is a way to go over something again within yourself, maybe to help you deal with it or get over it. Playing the songs live for the first time can be hard as you see people exploring what it’s about. I would rather have people knowing the truth than that they read into it the wrong way.
Would you say your emotions dictate the mood of your music?
Overall I am a happy person, but this happiness also provokes thoughts for me and does not always translate into uplifting songs. I am always asking questions and looking for a deeper meaning when writing. For example the song ‘For You’ was written during a particularly happy time, but that provoked me to think about why this happened. ‘Love Again’ was written at the end of the process and has this cheerful vibe as I am excited about the future and ready for a next chapter. The production just needed that euphoria and uplifting atmosphere and that turned out to be very poppy. If I will write more cheerful songs like that, I will definitely further explore this sound.
‘Do You Even Know’ is about being misunderstood. Do you ever experience that as an artist?
Now that I have my own album out people have a reference point, but when you only have a few songs out, sometimes this is difficult. When you start out with mostly just piano and vocals, people see that as your thing and when I started to experiment with different sounds, something I was very excited about, they thought I changed and didn’t want to do the piano songs anymore. Not everybody understands that there are different moods, tones and feelings to the music of one and the same artist.
Were you ever annoyed when people compared you to other female artists?
I wouldn’t say annoyed, but it is interesting to see how humans instinctively compare. It can be helpful for people to understand your music though. In the United Kingdom I get compared to Ellie Goulding often, but I honestly think our sound is very different as my songs start from piano and she plays guitar. But if that comparison is a way for people to first hear my music, that’s great!
Which current artists are inspiring you?
At the moment I am really into electronic artists like John Hopkins and James Blake. What they do is interesting as they are pushing the boundaries of what we have already heard. I would love to explore that sound myself, but you need expertise, the right equipment and people around you. It is also great to have musicians around me in a peer group, because you see what they are doing creatively and how hard they are working and that helps me to give my very best as well.
It is almost summer and you are playing a lot of festivals, even Glastonbury! A dream come true?
It really is! I didn’t even give myself a second to think about it. I was maybe taking it for granted a bit until it was announced and everyone who followed me from the beginning was really excited. Then I realized that it is actually a big deal! I was there last year with Bombay Bicycle Club and Clean Bandit and while it was a great experience it was also frustrating as I was so close, but I didn’t have my own show. It feels great to go back and do that this year.