For This Moment, with Katey Morley

Artisans Exposed Projects presents: One Flow: A series of short interviews with uniquely passionate performers and artisans.
By: Jojo D

When we speak of passion; passion regarding anything one deems worthy in life's journey, we should also consider side-plating it with a fair helping of 'drive'. I believe passion can become an emotionally void word unless there is decisive and consistent action expressed towards it. 
Katey Morley pursued her passion with vigor and constants. 
From a young age, Katie had the fortitude to envision a life filled with creativity & as a well known veteran of the live entertainment circuit, Katie has proven to peers & fans alike that she is the real deal. She is a triple threat in the music world with flowing talents in song, writing & musicianship.
This is Katie's FLOW......

Katey Morley
So long ago! I started singing and banging on the piano when I was a toddler, and wrote my first song as after my first heartbreak, at about 14. Music- both listening and creating- has always been my obsession, my escape, my therapy- it occupies every layer of me.
It feels as necessary as eating or breathing. When I’m not making music, or at least listening to it regularly, I am at my most sad, unfulfilled. Writing is how I tell people I love them, or they’ve hurt me, or how I explain the world or difficult things to myself. Life gets complicated, and music is like an equation or formula for me to sort it out.
I am a singer, first and foremost. I also write a lot of songs. I also play a bit of piano, autoharp and dulcimer, as a means to writing those songs.

By Definition: existing, acting, or considered as a single unit, entity, or individual, 
being a particular, unique, or only individual, item, or unit.

Were you born in Canada and if so, in what neighborhood did you call your playground?
Yes! I grew up just north of Toronto. My parents were separated and I lived with them both, in two equally safe, lovely and boring towns, Thornhill and Markham.

Has a career in music always been at the forefront of your life's vision?

Yes. Doesn’t every musical kid want to grow up to be a rock star? Reality kicked in in 2001 and I went back to school for design, which has been great, as it allowed me to get a grown up job. What I didn’t know--all those years struggling as a musician and DJ-- is that if you’re lucky, you can have a day job AND pay your bills AND have enough left over to make an album! I’ve been taking music more seriously in the past 2 years because I can finally afford to. Almost.

Did you study music at any level of education? if not, what did you study and why?

I sang in the choir and studied music (trombone and voice) throughout high school. I had an amazing music teacher, Andy Rush, in middle school. He gave me my first solos, and treated me like a real musician, even though I was this super awkward, weird looking kid. In high school, I had another great teacher named Dawn Caswell, and my voice coach Elaine Overholt, who both really made me take my talent seriously and challenged me musically. I studied music in university, but I hated it. It was not the place for a vocalist, and I lost a lot of confidence there, surrounded by these brilliant young jazz students who knew ALL the chords, and ALL the theory. I kind of wilted there and would have died, but I left after 2 years to join my first rock band. 

You are a singer, songwriter, and musician. It takes a considerable amount of talent, balance and the ability to produce to accomplish what you have. Tell us a bit about each aspect and how it all came together for you.

 The singing always came easily, and the songwriting sort off just spilled out, but I have never been confident in my skills as an instrumentalist. It took many years until I was brave enough to perform with an instrument, instead of just singing lead. Now I feel naked without an instrument in my hands! I still get a huge amount of stage fright and still fumble sometimes, but with each show, it gets easier.

You also maintain a full-time job as a Visual Designer; a most often demanding position. How do you balance work and play, giving 100% of your energy to each?

I had to quit DJing to work a day job, but surprisingly, I have found that adulting does, in fact, leave enough time to go out and play or see music most nights. I try to go to bed by midnight on the weeknights, but it’s sometimes hard. I’m tired a lot, but it’s totally worth it! To quote another hardworking/playing Canadian musician: YOLO

Although you are always thinking creatively; in work and play, there must be times when you just want to do nothing at all. When you begin to tire while in the creative process what steps do you take to get your Mojo back, motivate and set you back on the creative path again?

Seeing great music live is the most effective. I am fortunate to be surrounded by a fantastically talented community of musicians here in Toronto that never cease to inspire me. When I’m really brain dead, and trying to write, I give myself creative writing challenges or pull out old songs to work on. If that doesn’t work, I hit the couch and watch a movie or an entire tv series.

Where do some of your inspirations come from? Musically or otherwise.

Whether it’s art/design or music, I have figured out that all of it comes from the same place, and it’s usually about the “story”. If I’m happy or sad about something, or angry, or worried, that’s what comes out in my work. Sometimes I give myself a topic if I’m feeling less inspired, for example: "today I’m going to write about that house fire we had a few years ago". I don’t pressure myself-- sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to dream a song, or have a whole line pop magically into my head on the bus. I think after so many years of listening to music so much, it just bubbles back out of me, unbidden.

The music I listened to in highschool has remained a part of my life and will always be my 'go to' for life's movements and standstills. What kinds of music did you listen to in highschool and do you still listen to them even as your own musical talents develop?

There’s SO much! Ok, to name a few, from the high school era, only: Sinead O Connor, Deeelite, Soul II Soul, Sarah McLachlan, U2, The B-52s, Kate Bush, Led Zeppelin, The Eurythmics, Harry Connick Jr., David Bowie, Chris Isaak, Sarah Vaughan, Cole Porter, Depeche Mode, Sade, Peter Gabriel.... These are the CDs you would have found in my Sony CD Walkman!!! And yes I do still listen to them, though some not so much anymore. I feel fortunate to have grown up in a time where pop radio was quite diverse.

A well grounded artist usually has the backing and support of family and friends. What part does your family/friends play in your journey?

They play a HUGE part! My mom is the person to thank first, because she’s the one who the piano in the living room when she discovered I was musical, and made me take lessons. She bought me the best keyboard she could afford when I went away to school, and has been making a scrapbook of my accomplishments for 20+ years. She is the first person to listen to new mixes when I get them, and always has an opinion on them.

My dad is equally supportive, in a totally different way. He’s not much of a music guy, but he believes in me 100%, and my talent. He didn’t freak out when I left university to join a rock band, and when I told him I was going to spend a huge amount of money on making an album last year. He has never pressured me to get a “real” job, and has been known to “sneak” me money here and there over the years in order to allow me to keep being a musician.

My stepdad Fox exposed me to the best music. He was a huge music lover, and had a zillion albums. I was under strict instructions not to touch them, but then he’d leave key ones out when he wasn’t home, knowing I would. At least, that’s what I like to think he did. I inherited his collection and his ipod a few years ago when he passed away.

My partner Steve is also a musician, and the reason I made this album. He pulled me into a music community so vibrant and strong, and introduced me to Tom McKay, my producer, and basically demanded to know when I was making an album. I told him I’d been working on one for about 12 years, and he said, well time to finish it or make a new one. He helped me regain my confidence in myself, which was low after being out of music for a few years.

Finally, my Poppa, who passed away almost 3 years ago left me a little bit of money, and I decided to put it towards making this album. He was also a music lover, and I knew he’d understand. It’s the first time I’ve made my own album, though I’ve done tons of recording for other bands and session work. I like to think he’d be proud of me.

By Definition: A mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. To move or progress freely as if in a stream.

How would you describe your music and how do you think it fairs against the many?

The older I get, the more I realize I’m not pop, although I have loved it forever, and I write pop melodies! I don’t think my tunes, or my “look” would ever have gotten me on pop radio. I’m more of a Ron Sexsmith, or a Bon Iver or a St. Vincent- someone a little more timeless, hopefully? It’s more of a folk-pop, with a hint of country/Americana and jazz. I get comparisons to Tori Amos, Linda Ronstadt, Karen Carpenter, Kate Bush, Alanis-- all over the map.

The lyrics of most of your songs (in my opinion) are filled with emotional sentiment. Are your words, at all, a reflection of experiences you've had?

Usually, they are quite literally an experience I JUST had. That’s how I sort through my shit. But sometimes, like with Lady Cop, it comes from a dream or my imagination. But those times are very rare. I usually write when I am hurting, or really happy about something specific.

You've been a constant player in Toronto's Music Scene for many years. How many years and list some of the venues you've played. Any favourites?

I played my first Toronto show at Sneaky Dees in about 1993. There are a lot of good venues in Toronto, and there are a handful of great ones. It’s a combination of a great stage, great gear, great sound-person and an audience who is there to hear music. Here’s my top ten:
Hugh’s Room
The Piston
The Painted Lady
The Music Gallery
The Burdock
Lee’s Palace
The Rex
Free Times
C’est What
The Dakota (technically, I haven’t played there yet, but I’m hoping to!)

Can you shed a little light on your creative process when it comes developing a song? Do the lyrics come first or does the composition of music come first? 

It depends. Usually, a short line will pop into my head, with lyrics and a melody. For example, “Didn’t You” came to me on the bus, with the line “I’d rather be writing a love song about you”, so I sang it into my phone. When I got home that night, I laid some chords under it and tried to figure out what I was trying to say. Then the rest of the chorus came, and then I had to go back to the beginning and write the verses. Other times,  I’ll be fooling around with some chords on the piano or autoharp, and a melody will just materialize. Then I have to go digging for a topic. Usually, there’s one not too far off!

You just released your first album named 'Now & Then'. Congrats again! Explain the vision behind this tender album.

Thank you! I had been writing a bunch of new songs and decided to record them with Tom and go for a Factor grant. When I got the grant, I realized it meant I could finish up some of the songs I’d been writing with my friend/producer Scott Currie for the lat 13+ years. He has a home studio with great equipment, and we had about 15 songs in various states of completion. I chose the best 5 and we finished them up, Hence “Now” and “Then”. They didn’t quite fit together as one album, but they work well as companion EPs.

Tell us about some of the obstacles you encountered with the self-production process of the 'Now & Then album?

Money and time, mostly. It’s expensive, and it’s really hard work. It’s the hardest I’ve ever worked on something, though it was also the most fun. Next, I’d say is knowing what to do with it when you’re done. I feel like I am botching the whole thing, sometimes, but I keep plugging away, hoping the right person will hear the tunes, or see me play, and that magic SOMETHING will happen...
Lastly, it’s the fear that you won’t do the songs justice, or you won’t know what you’re doing and get it all wrong. That fear went away as we got deeper in though. I feel a million times more confident now about my skills as an arranger, producer, instrumentalist, band leader, singer... it was an intense process!

Is there a song you've written that you identify with the most?

I have a new one called “Fits and Starts” that makes me cry a little every time I sing it, because the insecurity that inspired the song is always hiding around the corner. Also, Soon, from the “Then”  EP, which is hard to listen to because it’s about a friend who passed away.

Can you describe your audience? Who are your fans? 

Seems to be from late 20's to 60's folks who like my voice and my stories. I seem to have a lot of musician fans, but that’s probably because they’re all friends. A bunch of good looking, friendly folks who should come to my next gig! haha

Where would you like your creative journey to lead you?

I would like to place my music in tv/movies, and I think they are well suited for that; I’d like to write songs for a living; I’d like to go to Nashville or LA or any music city and collaborate with some established singers who need songs! I’d like to make a bunch more albums- I have so many songs that need to be recorded. I would even love to produce music for other people. I really enjoy it. I would enjoy some more radio play, on a larger scale.

Who are some of your favorite Canadian Artist inspirations?
Almost all of my faves are Canadian! Here’s another top 10: 
Rose Cousins
City and Colour
Joni Mitchell
Ron Sexsmith
Rufus Wainwright
Sarah McLachlan
Marie Pierre Arthur
KD Lang
Alanis Morrisette

You sing/play with a talented band named Mercy Flight, headed by Steve York, another uber talented mainstay on the music scene. How did that collaboration come to be, how is it all going and what's in the future for you and Steve's band?

Oooh, Steve's gonna be so embarrassed if he reads this: I saw Steve playing at a tribute night at The Piston and comically, clumsily, fell madly in love with him instantly. It took about a year to actually get the nerve to speak to him, and then miraculously, he fell in love with me too. Playing together started right away. I had learned a few of his songs from his “Into The Night” album and got him to play them for me one day, and I started harmonizing, and our voices had this magical blend. Now, we back each other up in our respective bands, and occasionally write tunes together. “Blood Red Moon” is a collaboration with him. He has an album coming out later this year, so we are both all over each other's albums, too. Hopefully, this continues for a very long time!

Have you experimented with other genres of music and/or incorporated any in your work?

You name it- I have sung it. I love all music, and have done a lot of session work: reggae, funk, adult contemporary, gospel, jazz, triphop, country. I even had a club hit in 2002 on a friends’ track, called “Invading Privately” by Mach 747. It was released by Paul Oakenfold's label, Perfecto. That was exciting! Dance music is a huge part of who I am, though I never get to show that on stage, or in what I tend to record

You live in a pretty culturally eclectic part of the city. Do your experiences in the community influence or inspire your art? Absolutely! I try and observe as much as I can everyday. It helps me in both my music and my art/design. There’s so much material to dig from, just from riding a bike across town, or getting on a bus. Also, living in a city with great clubs, galleries, museums, design shows makes it possible to thrive as an artist. I can’t imagine trying to do what I do in a town where there is no music/art scene.

Music has a profound way of encouraging, enhancing and evoking the riches or despair of humanity. For every emotion, there is a song that translates. Which emotion/s do you want your audience to experience when listening to your music?

It’s not so much the particular emotion I seek, but when they tell me a certain song really meant something to them because of something they’ve gone through themselves, that’s when I feel like I’ve done a good job of connecting. Often I get told “that song made me cry” and it’s not that I want people to cry, but I do want them to connect to the music, so in a way, that feels good. Sorry! I just think about how I’ve connected to other people’s music, and times when music has made ME cry,  and I think, wow, if I had that effect on someone else, that is the ultimate compliment.

"Good writers spend a good amount of time reading." Do you agree and what kind of literature are you most attracted to or inspires you?

Good question! Yes, I agree. I have been an avid reader my whole life, though I have noticed in the last few years I have been reading less, because I am never home, and also my eyesight is getting terrible! I prefer writing that is not flowery, that is poignant, and makes me think about what I have read for a long time afterward. Here is a top ten list for you:
What is your opinion of the Canadian Music Industry and its place on the world stage?
I think Canadian music is some of the best in the world. I might be biased, but I really don't think I am! We have such high caliber of talent, great recording studios and producers. We have such diversity in our sounds, yet we often have an earnestness about our music that, to me, somehow feels so uniquely Canadian. I listen to a lot of music, from all over the world, but my favourites have remained Canadian musicians over the years. This is not just because I am Canadian. We are fortunate to have a great support with agencies like CAC, OAC, Factor (who helped fund Now/Then), and TAC. It makes a huge difference. I would like to see more support given to good artists, in more areas, and especially with figuring out how to get that support in the first place. I would also like more support given to venues who keep our music scene alive, and to small festivals and residencies that encourage communities to come together for culture.

Is there anything you would like to change within Canada's music scene that you think would be beneficial to up and coming artists?
A lot of people complain about CanCon. I think it’s wonderful, in theory. Canadian radio stations have to play 35% or 40% Canadian Content, which is a great idea, and I'm sure has helped many artists in the past get heard! I just wish it meant we were hearing a more diverse selection of upcoming talent, not just more Celine Dion and Justin Bieber (no disrespect to my homies). I would love to fix that system so it does more of what it was intended to do. As I mentioned above, I would also like more support for musicians and venues. A city IS it’s culture, and we can’t afford to have our galleries and music venues closing down. Oh! And I would like more people to go to see live music. In the 90s when I was just starting out, a good night at a club was 100 people. Now it's 30.

What advise can you dispel to live venue owners that you think would have a positive impact on production value for live acts in general?
Don’t skimp on gear. Don’t hire bad/mean sound people. Be kind to the musicians and pay them fairly. Feed them if you can. Create rooms for sound. Don’t- for the love of God- put giant tv’s in the same room as your stage. Or at least turn them off when someone is performing.

What advise can you provide for up & coming artists?
Perform as much as you can. Go to open Mics, meet other musicians, workshop your tunes. Connect! Practice! Shine! When you’re making an album, do it right. Don’t skimp on mixing and mastering, and HIRE someone to do marketing for you. Release it properly. Most importantly- please don’t try to sound like everyone else. Be YOU!

This is our first video “Noah”.
Released on May 13, 2017
@thePaintedLady, TO    

The last words are yours.....
THANK YOU JOJO!!! What a great interview! Thank you! So thorough and so thoughtful! 

Know this......
Take a solid stance in your life's endeavours because as you just read Katie is living testament to the developing success of the pursuit of happiness. As we breathe, walk, talk play, experience & grow, we journey through life with subjective hesitation but we must always continue to move forward. Forward with what makes you whole, with what makes you live with uninterrupted passion & drive. Forward march!

Thank you, Miss Katey, for sharing with us your abundance and love for what makes you whole. Continue to enjoy the journey and I'm looking forward to listening to more of your wonderful work.