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Drew Morrison and the Darkwood - Interview

  by John Clarkson

published: 8 / 3 / 2016

Drew Morrison and the Darkwood - Interview


Drew Morrison, who fronts rising London-based Americana band the Darkwood, speaks to John Clarkson about his lyrics, influences and their debut EP, ‘Tales of Love, Sadness and Rock and Roll’

Drew Morrison and the Darkwood have been a regular fixture on the London gig circuit since first forming in 2013. The band, which consists of Drew Morrison (vocals, guitar), Phil Carwardine (lead guitar), Mike Hughes (bass, backing vocals) and Nick Steyn (drums), have been winning increasing acclaim for their lyrical and thought-provoking Americana. Their Country Soul Sessions, which place once a month on Sunday nights, and which serve as both a showcase for themselves and other acts of their choice, have also been drawing enthusiastic audiences. They have just released their debut EP, the four-song ‘Tales of Love, Sadness and Rock and Roll’, which they describe as their “punk effort”, as the first release on Morrison’s own Storm Cloud Agency Records. Drew Morrison spoke to Pennyblackmusic about his lyrics and influences, ‘Tales of Love, Sadness and Rock and Roll’ and the band’s plans for their first album later this year. PB: You describe your music as being “for the lonesome fugitive within us all.” What is the sort of thing that can be found in Drew Morrison and the Darkwood’s collective record collections? DM: Lonesome as sentiment seems to be a prevailing theme in Darkwood tunes, although why that is I don't really know…I have always been loved and loving. In saying that sometimes I hear that old lonesome feeling in a chordal change or some melody line. Yes, I do believe it's in there. As for the 'fugitive' well everyone is on the run or hiding from something but we shan't go into that here. He he… Drew Morrison and the Darkwood's collective record collections? That's a tough one to nail…talking for others may I say that on Monday, it's Leonard Cohen, Tuesday, it's Stephen Stills, Wednesday it's Marvin Gaye, Thursday it's Lucinda Williams, Friday it's Rotifer, Saturday it's the Go-Betweens, Sunday it's Guy Clark and then it's the start of a new week… PB: What is your musical background? Were you in a lot of other bands before forming the Darkwood? DM: I've always been a musician even before I started playing an instrument. I guess my musical foundation comes primarily from my dad's enthusiasm for music and his record collection. Though I'd listened to popular music from a young age, it wasn't really until the Postcard Records of Scotland scene that I thought to myself…hey, maybe I could do that, maybe I could get a guitar and write some tunes. That amazing sequence of songs, style and sheer impudence that was Postcard was and still is a major deal for me…it set me on the path where I'm walking now. I have not been in many bands at all. In fact I feel I've only ever been in one band which through a natural process has evolved into the band that I play in at this moment in time. I've always been there in the background just doing what I do…I''m like the Comte de Saint Germain of music! Just look around and you'll find me there… PB: You have said about ‘Tales of Love, Sadness and Rock and Roll’ that it is your “punk effort”. What did you mean by that? DM: Well, again, I go back to the halcyon days of Postcard Records and other independent record labels of that age…there was a sense of anything was possible, there was rebellion in the air and you were not beholding to anyone. In a romantic way you didn't need anything but a good tune…I always say to myself and musical pals that no one can tell you what to do within your own tunes. Of course, times have changed and new technology and improved communications have certainly made it easier to be more independent to do your own thing whilst reaching out to others and in a rock and roll way to say no to the status quo. I believe the only reason our EP is out there is because it has a 'punky' spirit, and I am humbly proud of that. PB: ‘Always’, the lead track of ‘Tales of Love, Sadness and Rock and Roll’, is about your obsession with one of the great musical icons. Yet you keep it deliberately oblique who that musical obsession is. Is that because it is ultimately a song about all our musical obsessions? Would you be prepared to say who that song was originally written about? DM: A Country Soul pal of mine asked me who this particular song was about, I said to him, “Well, who do you carry around?” As you have already noted in your own recent review of ‘Tales of Love, Sadness and Rock and Roll’ , we all have our own musical obsessions, some of whom have been with us for many a year. When I originally wrote the lyrics for 'Always' I did have a milestone figure in mind, but it is a personal vision and no doubt so far from the truth it's unreal. You sing on ‘Always’ “Vision makers they captured you/but I’m no fool/Nobody could be that cool.” The second track ‘Ladytime’ tells of someone from a carefully “structured world” who is obsessed with “artificial scenes in magazine” and looks like she is from Hollywood. “Is that really you because your face looks mighty strange/The angles don’t fit/Have you been somehow rearranged?” you sing on it. Who was that written about? Do you see the battle between the real world and the illusory world as perhaps the EP’s main theme? DM: Well, you could put a case for that…the narrator on those tunes certainly has a dislike for fakery but you can also find sadness and bewilderment too. I guess in all aspects of our real lives we are bushwhacked by staged imagery and thoroughly idealised people living lifestyles that are all but impossible for the everyday person to achieve. It doesn’t make for easy living emotionally and both sexes are affected by it. But this is where we are at and as a society we seem bewitched by it, despite the obvious flaws of such a model for living. When I was writing 'Ladytime' I had that bored and lonely lady found in T.S. Eliot's poem 'The Wasteland' sitting right there beside me. She was the artist’s model for that particular tune, and a timeless figure surrounded by grandeur and opulence. It is a passage in the work that amongst other things enlightens that a certain lifestyle is no guarantee of happiness and fulfilment. PB: You run, the Country Soul Sessions once a month in the basement of the Spice Of Life in Soho. What does that involve? DM: Well, you at Pennyblackmusic know there is hard work involved in trying to organise anything, but it's what I and few others try to do at the Country Soul. I would say that our main focus is on supporting songwriters and musicians and in turn the music. It really is all about the music. So basically between Sessions we cajole and twist arms to get something on for the forthcoming month. It's non-profit, cheap to get in and everyone seems to enjoy themselves there…it's what rock and roll means to me now and most importantly it brings a smile to the face. PB: You are now working on your debut album. Does it have a title? When will it be released and do you know yet what it will feature? DM: A debut LP…now that sounds heavenly to me. No, I don’t have a title in mind at all but I do have a real vision as to how it should sound and who I need to get on board to do it. It's going to be a real medieval number with a Roy Orbison type troubadour observing the ladies within some fictitious court of love. He,he…seriously though I’m hoping that it will be released sometime this year. That’s the aim. What else am I going to do? One thing I am certain of is that the tunes have all been more or less written they just have to be recorded. PB: ‘Tales of Love, Sadness and Rock and Roll’ has been released as the first release of on your own label Storm Cloud Agency Records. Do you ultimately, given that the Country Soul Sessions have also become a showcase for other acts, hope to release EPs and records by other artists as well? DM: Of course, at the Country Soul we see many marvellous acts….it’s a high standard of music at the Sessions these days. There are a few unsigned bands who I've seen in London and indeed a couple of them have played at the Country Soul that I could visualise being on Storm Cloud. Promoting and supporting artists is what we do at the Country Soul, so I guess promoting some of them on a record label is a compelling progression. It’s certainly something that holds interest for me. PB: Thank you.

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Drew Morrison and the Darkwood - Interview

Drew Morrison and the Darkwood - Interview

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Electric-Notes Wild (2018)
Superb debut album from acclaimed London-based country outfit Drew Morrison and the Darkwood
Tales of Love, Sadness and Rock 'n' Roll (2016)

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