This is an exciting week to be in and a fan of The Kenn Morr Band. I say that becuase I just finished listening to their unreleased new album, ‘Higher Ground’ and it is a wonderful listen. Kenn & the band will be heading to NYC’s Bitter End on this Friday night, May 7th, to officially release the album to the public. We got a chance to talk with Kenn and he was more than gracious on all fronts. He even offers Skope readers a free MP3 of the title track so enjoy!
Stoli: Where are we talking from today and what are you doing today?
KM: I’m at home getting ready to build a portable basketball hoop for my sons and hoping to get it finished before they get home from school.
Stoli: How has the response to your new album, ‘Higher Ground’ been so far?
KM: “Higher Ground” will not be officially released to the public until early May. We’re playing a show at The Bitter End on Friday May 7th to celebrate the release. However those close to me who have heard the album seem to feel it’s my best work to date.
Stoli: Did you know that the album would catch on so well in over eight countries in Europe and any plans to tour there once the volcanic ash subsides?
KM: I would LOVE to tour Europe. “Move On” was the first album I ever promoted there. I was real pleased by response. We’re hoping “Higher Ground” will help open some doors to make a tour feasible.
Stoli: What has moving to the Berkshires done to help elevate your musical creativity?
KM: This is an easy one. I live in Heaven. When each season comes I find myself saying “this is the prettiest season of them all…” regardless of whether it’s the chill of Autumn or the first snow of Winter or Spring’s thaw. Each season is amplified in this part of the world. I grew up on Long Island where the lines between the seasons were a little blurry. In the Berkshiresthere is little doubt when winter ends and spring sets in. Life here is a bit slower than down in NY. Less people. Less traffic. A lot of open roads (and believe it or not I write a lot while driving…) I’ve often said living here is almost “cheating” from a songwriter’s standpoint. I mean from the rivers to the mountains, hills, wildlife etc.. It just makes it easier. Plus we are located in an area that makes getting to New York City and Boston pretty easy. So I never feel cut-off from the rest of the world.
Kenn Morr “Higher Ground” MP3:
Stoli: You are a musician and father of two boys. How do you balance your music passion and being a mentor to your boys?
KM: Funny you should use the word “passion” because that’s exactly what my music is to me. But parenting is a WHOLE other level of passion. Nolan is 9 and James is 6. Being a good dad to them is far more important than whether or not my album sells. I never thought I’d say those words (much-less believe them) but it’s true. And ironically every member of my band has been a stay-at-home dad at one point in their life. Which is probably another reason we all get along so well. There’s a certain kinship that goes with being an “involved” father. I honestly cannot believe how much I love being a dad. It’s the only job I’ve ever had that matters. And it matters in a BIG way. The balance between music and parenting isn’t easy. But knowing my priorities is REAL easy.
Stoli: Can we expect the Morr boys to be getting into music in the future and do you encourage that?
KM: We have this wonderful recording studio at the house where(most of) my last three titles have been recorded. My son James has his little black drum kit in the studio. Both boys have shown interest in music. And there are instruments all over the house. So we make it “available” to them without pressuring them or being structured. I’ve made it clear to them I will do anything to help them learn to play and write etc. so long as it comes from THEM and not me. It’s really the only way. I don’t want to ever take something as wonderful as music and “force” it. So I try to “encourage” in a subtle way because I’d hate to chase them away. I didn’t start playing and writing until I was 19 years old and it only happened because I wanted it so badly. And once I started I couldn’t stop. “The Morr Brothers” have already cut songs in our studio. They love it. They switch off between instruments. James has taken some lessons and Nolan played some violin in school. But it’s all real laid-back. I guess this is a “wait and see”.
Stoli: You have put out 5 albums which is awesome. Do you think that with technology your fans will buy your music digitally right off your website one day?
KM: My CDs are currently available on my website at www.KennMorr.com. There’s a direct link to I-Tunes for downloads and to CD Baby if fans want the CD. So (thankfully) technology has already made it possible to purchase off the site. Which is wonderful.
Stoli: Where can readers pick up the new album both physically & digitally?
KM: Please go to www.KennMorr.com and click the links and the music will be in your hands instantly.
Stoli: You have alot of live shows coming up. What can we expect from a live Ken Morr show?
KM: You can expect to see four guys who love playing music together. And our vibe seems to be infectious to the audience. I also think injecting some humor into my raps between songs is a real important aspect. Much of what I write about is real life things. Real emotions, real situations and real feelings. So it’s nice to balance that with humor.
Stoli: I found your music to be very mellow but melodic which I like alot. Would you say that your music is a direct reflection of your personality?
KM: “Mellow and Melodic”…I like that. And I agree. I never made the connection between mellow, melodic and my personality. But I guess it’s undeniable. Much of the time I’m looking for the funny angles in life. In most situations. But my music let’s me express the more serious and reflective part of my personality. I’ve often said if I spoke about the things I sing about nobody would want to hang out with me. Music lets me express the more serious emotions. I’m able to sneak those emotions to the listener through mellow and melodic music (to use your words.)
Stoli: Have Tom, Dan, & Bob always been with the band and how did you all come together to make music?
KM: I’ve had the pleasure of playing with COUNTLESS musicians. And on Long Island there was no shortage of talented players due to the close proximity to New York City and all the major studios. When we moved to Connecticut to raise a family I started from scratch. And it did not take long to realize what I had been told. This area is literally a breeding ground for great players. I formed a few different bands and kept looking for the “right” players. Then one day I got an email from Bob Gaspar saying he purchased one of my CDs at a local store and he was wondering if I was looking for a drummer. Ironically I was looking for a drummer and asked Bob to come over. He blew me away the first time I heard him play. He plays mostly hand drums and percussion and is also great on a standard kit. I knew I had a vital “new” piece to my puzzle. We played at a coffeehouse and were approached by bassist Dan Hocott. He said he liked the sound and wondered if we’d be interested in jamming with him. He came to the studio shortly after and the three of us grooved like we had been playing together for a hundred years. The final piece of the puzzle came when my friend Ben heard me say I was looking for a multi-instrumentalist. Ben placed an add for a player (unbeknownst to me) and Tom Hagymasi responded. Tom plays fiddle, accordion, mandolin, bouzouki and sings wonderful harmonies. The first time the four of us jammed was amazing. And it’s still amazing to me. It’s the first time in my career where I can use the word “effortless” to describe playing with a band.
Stoli: For those just learning of the Kenn Morr band here at Skope, what is one thing you want them to know about you to remember you by?
KM: I’m hoping to be remembered by the songs and the honest and simple approach we have to the music and the joy we share when we play it. I have a big wooden carving hanging on the studio wall that says “SIMPLIFY”. That kind of says it all.
Stoli: What is coming up for Kenn Morr Band and where can we follow you guys online?
KM: As I mentioned, we are releasing “Higher Ground” on Friday May 7th at the (legendary) Bitter End on Bleaker St. in NYC. The show starts at 7 pm sharp and tickets are $15 which includes a copy of “Higher Ground”. We are also playing a Connecticut release show at the Buttonwood Tree Performing Arts Center in Middletown CT on Friday June 11th. The show starts at 8 pm and admission is $10.