Morgan Evans on isolation, Nashville and creating music that lasts

2 July 2021 | 12:29 pm | Mallory Arbour

We catch up with Australia-born, Nashville-based artist Morgan Evans on isolation, Nashville and creating music that lasts like 'Love Is Real.'

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To say Morgan Evans has been kicking goals in Nashville is a HUGE understatement! Since he moved from his hometown in Newcastle to Music City in 2016, he has married fellow country star Kelsea Ballerini and released his debut US smash hit single, Kiss Somebody off his self-titled EP and his ARIA Award winning studio album, Things That We Drink To. He’s about to take his latest single Love Is Real (his first song in nearly 18 months) on the road with a full band as he tours the US on Brett Eldredge’s Good Day 2021 Tour.

Hey Morgan ... It’s been a while since. How have you been holding up during this pandemic?

It has been a while … it's been a while between everything! I feel like I've been cryogenically frozen for the last year and a half, and I'm just thawing out this week [laughs]. It's a strange and amazing feeling. It's been a rough year and a half, for sure, especially over here in the States. But talking to people this week and getting to put this song out, it's really starting to look up for the rest of the year. I'm stoked to be back on the road and playing and feeling like real life again.

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You have described the first two years of living in Nashville as “lonely” and most people have felt isolated during the pandemic. With both times being away from your family and friends in Australia, how does those two instances compare for you?

They're not that dissimilar actually for completely different reasons. I have some good friends here now and I'm obviously married, but the isolation still happens but with the other way around – with my family and mates back home – so that part of it has been really tough. I miss them all. I miss the Australian culture and I miss getting in the water in [Newcastle].

Moving over here was tough; I say that to everyone that I meet over here. I stand by that that's for sure the hardest thing because you get here and you're on the outside and you're looking in at everyone having a great time making music together. Thankfully, I really feel like I'm part of the community here now – which is my favourite music community in the world – and so I’m lucky to be a part of it.

Was the pandemic the reason you haven’t released a new song in the almost 18 months?

Kind of maybe indirectly, I guess. I just didn't feel there was an urgency to put out music last year. We couldn't go on tour and couldn't go play it live – and, to me, playing live is the endgame – that's why I do this. So, I just didn't feel a rush with COVID.

I remember how the last record started, Things That We Drink To was made just writing a ton of songs and to go into the studio every day. Then, the day that we wrote Kiss Somebody, I remember that being a moment of, “This is a special song, but this is also the start of something” and I wanted to have that feeling again. When we wrote Love Is Real at the end of last year, that moment to me was like, “Okay, I'm ready to go record this and share it with the world.” It feels good to be coming back.

It’s interesting you say you didn’t want to push music out with so many artists during the pandemic taking the opposite approach. 

Absolutely, I've seen lots of people putting out a lot of music. And, depending on where you're at in your career, I think that can be a great thing. I think for me, I'm just so protective of the next thing I put out, because I feel like if I'm gonna play it, I want to put stuff out that I want to play for the rest of my life. That's the bar for me. People obviously feel differently about that. Maybe in a couple of years’ time, I'll just be putting a new song out every week or two [laughs]. At the moment, I feel really good about this one.

You’re relatively quite early into your music career in the US. Considering the amount of talent in Nashville and America itself is arguably vaster with more people putting out more music. As there is that higher calibre, does that mean you need to work harder for your success?

I feel like in Nashville, you're surrounded by so many of the best people in the world – whether they're writing or producing songs, playing guitar or singing the songs  – and so that can be inspiring and intimidating day to day. You get to choose what it is, and, when you first get here, it's intimidating. Then, it graduates to inspiring. Most days, it's really inspiring to me and it inspires me in a way that makes me want to be the best version of me that I can. That's maybe that's why I'm holding myself to such a higher bar on the music and maybe being a little overprotective of it [laughs].

Have your inspirations changed since moving to America?

Definitely in the last year and a half my inspiration has gone towards music that is played by humans. I say that because so much music is programmed and made that you can make great records now that never actually have anyone play on them. I've been through periods in my life where I'm into that.

I think in the last year and a half, you just long for that human connection [and] for the live show so much that I've kind of gravitated more towards that – stuff from the early 2000s, the late 90s, that was stuff that I grew up on, surf music too, a lot of almost folk music to like the Avett Brothers and The Doors and stuff like that – it's been a wide range. I've had a lot of time to listen to music in the last year and a half – a lot of new stuff. This new record, I wanted to make it sound like a band playing in a studio – and I think that is a result of all that new music.

Your latest single, Love Is Real was co-penned alongside Jordan Reynolds and Parker Welling. The press release describes it as a song that “embraces the simple but beautiful moments that stitch life, and people, together.” What inspired you to write the track?

We wrote it out in the desert, at Palm Springs and we wanted to capture that feeling of that moment when everything is right in the world. That's all we were caring about when we were writing it and when we made the record. We chose those little moments to talk about in the verse’s, little pictures, and then just tried to make a takeoff and explode in the chorus. Hopefully that's what people feel when they hear it.

You’re about to hit the road with Brett Eldredge on his Good Day 2021 US Tour. This is the first time since you moved to America where you’ll be joined by a full live band, whereas you used to only play with a guitar and loop pedal. Is having that extra production team backing you a matter of growth within your music career in America?

It's a few factors. I didn't have enough work to keep the band together when I moved over here – that's the honest answer to that – and then we made that first album with a loop pedal. Then the world tour we did in 2019, I had some time to think about it and I just remember when I wanted to get into music, I wanted to be a guitar player in a band. That's what I wanted to do. I just missed that energy. I missed that feeling of a drum-kit and bass behind you, noise and just dudes playing [laughs] … as simple as that sounds.

We put a whole show together at the start of last year. We've rehearsed for months and had the full big screen show and lights and everything. Our first show is meant to be CMC rocks and then, of course, that was the week that the world shut down and we never got to play. So, I've got the band back together now. We did our first show a couple of weeks ago and it’s given me all those feelings I had when I was 13 starting to play guitar – and that's definitely the feeling that I was looking for and what I want to take on the road with Brett.

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