Prizm News / February 4, 2018 / By Daniel Myers
‘I was afraid I would be alone forever with these thoughts and the way that I feel about the world.’
By Daniel Myers
“Vital” is the first album from morgxn, a queer singer/songwriter originally from Nashville. Just a month after his national TV debut on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” he’ll perform this Friday, Feb. 8, at Top Cats in Cincinnati.
I had the chance to talk with morgxn (pronounced Morgan) about it over the phone. The hustle of Los Angeles traffic in the background didn’t compromise the hard-won serenity in his voice as he opened up about the themes of love and belonging, as well as pain and loss that he explores throughout the 11-song release.
Thanks for taking the time to talk, and congratulations on the success of “Vital.”
Thank you, it’s definitely been an adventure, and it’s been a bit of a discovery process on how to write a record, as well as release it.
What was that process like?
I never said to myself, “Now I’m going to make an album.” I just wanted to write, I wanted to see what would happen. It would be inauthentic to say you know what you want to write about before you start writing. I didn’t know what was in my heart until I put pen to paper.
A lot of my process is a discovery process. … Everyone says things happen for a reason. It’s easy to hear when you win the lottery; it’s not so easy when you lose someone and you don’t get the chance to say sorry, I love you, and how do I be a man?
Much of the album documents your experience with the loss of your father. Has the process of writing, releasing and now touring with this record provided you with any healing?
I remember “Roots” was the first song that I wrote that made the album, after my dad passed. It’s really raw, and that song had 20 different versions and what ended up on the album was essentially the original demo. Nothing else captured the moment. I was angry and confused, and I didn’t even know what I was trying to prove.
Then you have “Me Without You” on there, which came shortly after what would have been his second birthday following his passing. I really struggled, because it felt like everything I was writing was only about him. What I was trying to do was find the words. When I got to “Me Without You” I felt like I lifted a weight, finally said it, made peace with moment. It’s not like I knew there would be a finish line.
Can I ask you about your relationship with your father, or does that bear on the message of the album?
What I will say is that my father was a man brought up in a generation with really specific ideas of what a man should be. He would understand me saying of him that he didn’t know how he was supposed to be a man in a lot of ways, and I think that was the question I asked myself when he passed.
What does it mean to be a man? Especially being from the South, do you have to hold the door open for people? Do you have to provide for people? You had to be able to fix things, have all the answers, and he wasn’t that way, and he was embarrassed by that. And that’s OK. I wish I could tell him that. I hope he knows, and part of me knows he does; it’s OK.
Do you think that “Vital” is a way for you to tell your father those things now?
Now I’m getting emotional, but it’s in a really good way. I know he’s proud of how I’m able to say these things now in a bigger way, and to say it to more people. The idea that a man has be any kind of way just doesn’t hold up anymore. I don’t need to tell men how to act, but they have permission to soften and be emotional.
That’s a great segue into my next question. You end the album with a really cool version of The Cure’s “Boys Don’t Cry.” You penned an essay regarding that, saying that “boys don’t cry…/boys actually weep./it is ok to show how much it hurts/it is okay to feel unmeasurable pain.” How has that message of emotional honesty being integral to masculinity been received?
There will always be people who don’t understand the things that make them afraid or that challenge some kind of construct that they’re holding on to for dear life.
It seems like the whole process of getting this album to where it is now was an exploration of trauma. You said you didn’t start out with a finish line in mind, but now that you’ve arrived at this point, what would you say you’ve taken away from this exploration? What have you discovered?
It’s such a gift to be able to talk about the album with you right now, to have it out in the world, being able to talk about it makes the journey worth it. The joy, the pain, the sadness, they’re are all just colors along the way. Vital was the word for me that I held up in my life for a while. What is vital to me in life? What is not vital? That became the prism through which I filtered my life. I won’t ever stop exploring what is vital.
Your single “Home” is performing well, what do you hope listeners hear in it?
Yesterday I got a tweet from somebody—an older man—who said he didn’t listen to music much, and he often feels like giving up, but “Home” makes him feel like he belongs. That’s the whole point, and nothing more.
Tell me about your activism.
There are a lot of youth kicked out of homes for who they love and who they are, and there are organizations like Covenant House, which I’m involved in, that take a lot of kids off the streets, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Covenant House makes sure these kids have a safe home and feel that they belong. Their work is so vital, right now especially when we’re seeing trans rights attacked.
Is there anything you’ve wanted to say about your music, but haven’t been asked yet?
Just thank you. A lot of these things are ideas and beliefs that I’ve held tightly for so long because I was afraid I would be alone forever with these thoughts and the way that I feel about the world. The music is connecting in a real way, but also the real-life connection that is happening through this journey is the greatest thing on this planet.
morgxn performs in Cincinnati at Top Cats on Friday, February 8th in support of Robert DeLong. Tickets are $17 and available online at ticketweb.com