My next guest is a an artist by the name of Nodd Morris. Nodd was born & raised in Martha’s Vineyard, MA. His latest release, ‘The Movie’ is a follow up to his debut ‘Burning Bridges.’ The album was produced by Marc Frigo and it is a nice mix of indie, folk, and rock. Besides being a musician, Nodd also attends Penn State where he studies economics. Nodd speaks his mind and he has lots to say. Join us as we talk about the new album, musicians partying habits, Penn State, Barack Obama, and so much more. Did I mention the album cover art is pretty cool too?
Stoli: Is Nodd Morris your real name or a stage name?
Nodd Morris: It’s my stage name… my real name is Brian Alexander. Before I released my first album I tried to get a MySpace URL with my real name, but it was already taken; and when I typed it in on Google and got about a million matches. I knew what the business is like and I knew I had to be different if I didn’t want my name and music to get buried behind everyone else. So, I started thinking of aliases. I was going through names systematically in my head and I got to “Todd” — no — “Nodd”…? Is that even a name? So I typed it in Google and there were absolutely zero matches so I thought, “It’s ballsy, but it just might work.” Now I get anything and everything Nodd Morris whenever I try to register – first try. I guess I changed it for marketing reasons, and it’s fun being the only one.
Stoli: How long were you working on your new album, ‘The Movie’?
Nodd Morris: That depends. If you count ‘work’ as in writing the songs themselves, then I guess it took me a few years, but there’s really no definite project or album I write a song for. If I really like it then there’s a good chance it goes on the upcoming album. If I still need to work on it and it’s not ready then I put it on hold for a later record.
With this album, I got into the studio for a day with a couple friends in late April ’08 and got the bones (guitar, bass, drums, vox) of the album down. Then I came back to it a couple weeks later and took another day adding electric guitars, percussion, keys, harmonies, and everything else that you hear with my friend, Jason O. We were so pressed for time and on such a tight budget that we’d bang something out and then just keep going; we wouldn’t even re-listen to what we did because we had so much to do in so little time. After that someone that worked at the studio burned the files for me so that I could take them to State College and work on them at school.
For the next 5 months, the CDs sat in my glove compartment until I got access to Pro Tools and could get working on them again. It was amazing listening to the songs then because it had been so long since I’d last heard them, and really it was the first time I was able to hear everything we’d blown through that last day. Remember, we couldn’t actually listen back to the songs while in the studio because we had to get out of there. It was just like listening to someone else for the first time. The whole session I was just surprised by everything that came up and I remember thinking, “Oh shit, yea that’s cool… I don’t remember doing that, but awesome.” From there it was from around November ’08 to April ’09 that my producer, Marc [Frigo], and I were mixing and mastering it. And finally it was sent out, pressed, and in my hands on May 19th ’09. So if you’re counting “work” as writing the songs then it took me a few years; I’m not sure. As for the actual production of the tangible record “The Movie”, it took close to a year with a 5-month break in the middle. Sorry that took me such a long-ass time to get to the point.
‘The Movie’ On CDBaby:
Stoli: Were your parents supportive of you when you decided to pursue music?
Nodd Morris: My mom is always supportive of everything I do…except for a lot of things. What I mean by that is she’s not “supportive” necessarily but she tolerates a lot and doesn’t let anything get in the way of our relationship. My dad, on the other hand, is a financial advisor who’s pretty conservative, so he definitely wasn’t on board at the beginning with the whole ‘pursue music’ thing. He’s come around though with the release of “The Movie” and now is always kind of trying to keep me going when I’m feeling down. He believes that I have the talent but is skeptical when it comes to me being able to make a living at doing it. He thinks that the music industry is overstocked with capable musicians and that I’m just another one of thousands that ‘could’ do it but ‘most likely’ will not be able to.
Stoli: How did growing up on Martha’s Vineyard help shape you as a person & a musician?
Nodd Morris: Well, the island itself didn’t do too much except make me want to experience a bigger place where they have delivery pizza and shops that stay open past 6 p.m. But the people there definitely helped shape me. The island’s so small that everyone always knew everyone’s business, so it was really hard to keep a clean reputation and just be left alone. In high school I had some issues with a few kids on the football team, and those problems basically followed me for those four years. I developed a swagger as a defense mechanism to hide in, even though it was really getting to me a lot of the time. I came off as cocky to a lot of people. I really hid inside that swagger so much that it developed into a persona that I’ve been trying to break out of, or at least certain aspects of it, for a long time now. Since being a musician is basically just putting your moods, emotions, thoughts, and past into a form of audio then you can guess how all of that helped shape my music. That’s mostly why I titled my album “The Movie.” It’s a compilation of thoughts, feelings (scenes, if you will), of my life up until this point.
Stoli: You study economics at Penn State which is an excellent school. Can you use your college education to better your music career?
Nodd Morris: Uh huh. So many aspects of college can and will help me. The simple fact that I’ve been exposed to a group of 45,000 people my age, which is basically my target audience, has benefitted me with priceless contacts that I’ll keep and use forever. The chances that I’ll run into another Penn State alum that can help me down the road are great too. That’s one of the benefits to going to a huge school with a strong sense of pride. You see the same camaraderie with Texas A&M, Ohio State, Michigan, and all those big schools like that that brag of being an aggie, a buckeye, a wolverine. They’re always willing to lend a helping hand even though you’re a complete stranger just because you share that certain piece of history with them. As far as my actual economics degree itself goes, if there’s a demand there will be a supply. That’s all anyone needs to know and that’s all there is. It’s what makes the world spin ‘round.
Stoli: How have you changed as a musician from your first album ‘Burning Bridges’ to the new album?
Nodd Morris: As a musician, I’m going to say not that much. I think I took “The Movie” in a new direction as far as groove, feeling, attitude, and such go. But I don’t think that my outlook on music or my method of creating it took a big turn from “Burning Bridges” to “The Movie”. The area I changed in, or in my opinion, improved greatly in, was my decision-making. For “Burning Bridges” I couldn’t make up my mind about anything. I didn’t know which songs should be on it or what instruments should be emphasized where and when, it was just a complete crap-shoot. I guess it didn’t help either that I was doing it all myself and paying a steeper price while I was at it; I’d bit off a little more than I could chew and it showed in the final product. Looking back, I’d like to re-record several of those original songs one day and put out an EP of what I really intended for them to sound like. But with “The Movie” I didn’t have the luxury, (or the burden I should say), of extra time so every decision had to be made quickly, accurately and definitively. I thought I was being rushed but really it was a blessing because without the extra time, I couldn’t change my mind a hundred times or sit on it long enough to worry if it was turning out the way I wanted it to. Every song was done just the way it was written and envisioned, and I didn’t have the extra time, or the chance, to double-guess myself.
Stoli: How much of your personal life do you put out there in your lyrics and songwriting?
Nodd Morris: I put a lot of my personal life in my music but I don’t know if it’s really ‘out there’ for anyone to clearly understand after just one listen. The song “Lights” is pretty straight-forward, and while it’s based on a touchy subject: faith/spirituality/religion, it’s safe to say that everyone has an opinion, or at least a feeling about it. That’s why I felt it was O.K. to address the meaning head-on and really put myself out there. But in a song like “Julia’s Song” I don’t make it obvious that Julia is in fact a real person that I once loved; there isn’t a verse or line that just gives that to you. You have to sort of find it in the mood and what I’m not saying…
Stoli: How do you feel Barack Obama is doing in his first few months and if you could offer a suggestion what would that be?
Nodd Morris: I think it’s clear in the sheer number of downloads of his hit single “Yes We Can” that he’s doing something right. I guess my only suggestion would be that he holds off from signing with a label until we see what the next generation of deals brings us.
Stoli: How did you link up with Marc Frigo to produce ‘The Movie’?
Nodd Morris: The same way that Obama linked up with Biden: Myspace.
Stoli: You are drug free now which is awesome. Why do musicians gravitate towards drugs & alcohol and do they need that to be creative?
Nodd Morris: Thanks. One reason they do is the same reason that anyone else does: the big ‘peer pressure’ bomb. If all your coworkers are doing something and you’re new to the company, you’re going to want to fit in. I also remember telling myself when I first started out that it was O.K. if I did drugs because I was a musician. That was my argument and how I self-justified it! (Man why didn’t I become a lawyer?) I guess that was the perception I got from the media– that doing drugs is just what musicians do. In every VH1 “Behind the Music” there is a struggle or party with drugs that make the band or person badass. Watching those things makes you want to have an edge like those people; to be cool like them. And if you find out that the band you idolize is doing or has done drugs and it leaves an impression on you. “Do they need drugs to be creative?” Of course not. But you have to keep in mind that these artists are writing about a lot of heavy stuff and don’t necessarily enjoy entertaining their thoughts for hours on end. It sucks when you’re writing a song about something…well…that sucks. It’s not like “Yea, I just wrote this awesome song about how the love of my life broke my heart!” It’s more like you want to curl up in a ball and cry after every line. So I think a lot of musicians use to get away or dull that part. I did. And it’s more like they use because they’re creative. It’s a pretty common trait among artistic people that their minds can get away from them, causing depression in their inability to focus or forget.
Nodd Morris: That for $35 I can have a recording up and available to download for anybody in any country that has a computer; that, and just being alive to experience this day and age. Can you imagine living in the 16th century or something when you had to throw your own feces out of a bucket into the streets? That was their plumbing back then!
Stoli: Where can readers get more Nodd Morris and what is coming up for you?
Nodd Morris: Well, I have a show coming up on the 22nd at All Asia in Cambridge. Come check it out. My music and tour schedule can be found at www.NoddMorris.com and www.MySpace.com/NoddMorris. Basically just search ‘Nodd Morris’ on Google and you’ll find what you’re looking for.