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Interview: Kylie Morgan
Hi Kylie! Thanks for taking the time out to chat today. First of all, congrats on the release of the new single, ‘Cuss A Little’ with Walker Hayes! Has this been in the works for a while, or did you write it recently?
This was a lot different to my other songs, because I wrote this when I was 19 years old, and I’m 25 now. I wrote it with my buddy Walker Hayes, who’s been a great component in my life and my songwriting - he started writing with me when I was 15 years old. It took a long time for me to get everything together, like sorting out the label, publishing, my management team, etc. But I’m really glad that through all that we never forgot about this song. People kept asking me again and again, ‘When’s it gonna be out?!’, so it’s great to finally be able to say, ‘It’s out!’
‘Cuss A Little’ is very uplifting and playful, and the message it has at its heart is one of accepting your flaws. I love the line ‘I don’t care what people think, ‘cause that’s what makes people think I’m cool’.
(Laughing) Yes, it’s very honest! I think it’s definitely true to what I’m trying to do, which is finding a balance in everyday life. I want to have fun, enjoy a cocktail, etc. but I also of course want to take care of my body. I’m very big into bettering yourself and centring your mind. This song is about constantly striving for balance, and just coming as you are.
As an artist, where you have to think about your brand, your followers, how your music is received, etc. is it difficult not to worry about what people think of you?
Yeah, because technically it’s my job to get people to like me and like my music, so it’s pretty hard not to think about that constantly. I started this all at a very young age - I started playing guitar when I was 12, but started professionally touring when I was 14. Especially being so young, I had too many people trying to weigh in and too many ‘cooks in the kitchen’. I just finally realised that there’s no way I’m going to please everyone. So now, I just try and make sure I’m happy with my music, and that I’m creating something that people can relate to. I’ve tried to stop worrying about what people think, and just say what’s on my mind with no filter. I feel like this is what ‘Cuss A Little’ is all about.
Your song ‘Break Things’ is similarly very honest and encourages listeners to not see what would typically be called a ‘flaw’ as a ‘flaw’. When you’re writing a song, how much of the process is starting with a message that you think ‘Okay, this is what I want to get across to the listener’, and how much of it is just seeing what fits musically?
It’s different every day, and it depends on my mood. If I’m coming in after a bad day, then I’m like 'I have to get this out and get it down on paper'. But there’s other days where I’m happy and the sun’s shining and I’m like ‘It’s fine, I just want to write a banger about how we’re not perfect but we’re gonna embrace it anyway’. Other days, I just walk in with a title in my head, like ‘Cuss A Little’, and we start from there. It’s different each time, but generally I want my music to be a light for people, or a shoulder for people to cry on, or the reason they roll their windows down and are happy. I just want to give them every emotion they’re feeling and for them to have a song to turn to for that.
You’re signed to the SMACKSongs team, which means you get to pick the brains of Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne. It’s hard to find a Country song that’s in the charts right now that hasn’t been co-written by one of them. What’s it like having this kind of mentorship and what have you learnt from them?
Even as I’m getting older, I will forever realise that I don’t know everything, and I can be doing something new every day that’ll make me a better artist and human. Whenever I was going on tour with major artists, I watched their every step because I was so keen to learn. So when literally the biggest songwriter in Nashville, Shane McAnally, was like, ‘I believe in you, I want you to be a part of this team’, it was the ultimate honour. He is the Madison Square Gardens of venues! I’ve learned so much from him, and he’s one of the only people I’ve worked with that has been completely in my corner in the sense of ‘I’m not going to tell you what to write, what to wear, etc., I want you to be you, because that’s what the fans fell in love with'. That’s something I try to encourage through my music, because comparison is the thief of joy. I spent so long comparing myself to others, and I still do it sometimes, but I now take a step back and realise that trying to be the best version of myself is really all I can do. Shane was the biggest proponent of that and that’s why our relationship works so well.
Like many up-and-coming Country singer-songwriters, you relocated to Music City. The scene is incredibly competitive, so sustaining a real sense of self-belief must be crucial. When you do experience setbacks, how do you keep yourself motivated?
I’ll be honest - I call my mom! Whenever I’m worried about where I’m going and whether I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, the person that keeps me alive and keeps me grounded is my mom. When I moved to Nashville, she said, ‘I want you to find your family there’. Leaving my family was so hard because we’re so close, so it was really important for me to find a group of people, including my boyfriend Jay Allen, my producer, and Shane. It’s so important to have these people I can talk to just to remind myself why I’m here, and to reassure me that I’m on the right track. Human connection is my biggest thing - during quarantine I started this series called ‘Namaste at Home’ where I would teach online yoga classes, just to maintain that priceless feeling of human connection. So a big factor in continuing to stay motivated is going back to the reason why I started this in the first place.
In one of your ‘Hometown Heartland’ videos, you talk about your brilliant Bullying Prevention Scheme. What made you want to get involved in this and how important is this cause to you?
I came out to Nashville when I was 15, to co-write songs with Walker, Liz Hengber and Rob Crosby. They’re all very established writers, whereas I was very young and new. Liz was telling me about this girl named Phoebe who had committed suicide because of bullying, and I almost started crying because I had experienced bullying when I was young. I’ve always been the opposite of drama, like I’ll straight-up run from it. I think a lot of the time my classmates weren’t fans of that, and they knew that I was just in a different place and that I wanted to leave my small town. So when we wrote this song, it was about Phoebe, but it was also about so many of my emotions and things that I had dealt with. We put up the song with a video and it got 75,000 views in like three days, and so many people were saying ‘This song saved my life’ and ‘This changed my perspective’, and I just felt I wanted to do more. So I started this tour where I would go from kindergarten up to University level and speak to kids about bullying prevention and reform. It was a life-changing experience. I was at a stage where I felt way too young to be performing in smoky bars with a drunk audience, so God truly gave me this alternative outlet where I could go and not only gain new fans, but do the best I could do with the gifts He gave me to change people’s lives, from the perspective of one young person to another, rather than an adult talking at them. I was so passionate about it, and there would be kids crying in my arms telling me their stories. That was a chapter in my life that I will never forget and I will forever be thankful for.
You’ve gained your Yoga Alliance Certification, and you teach regular online classes. What motivated you to take this extra step of becoming qualified as a yoga teacher?
Well I have a Type A personality, so for some reason I can never take a hobby without making it a part of my career! Long story short, I became really sick when I was 19/20 years old, and no doctor could tell me what was wrong with me. Yoga was the only thing that could give me that immediate feeling of relief, so I fell in love with it. Also, it’s great for the mental aspect, because my brain moves at a million miles per hour, but every time I step on the mat it quiets, and that was something I’d never found before. So I just wanted to spread my love of yoga and the mental clarity that it gave me. I did classes three times a week while I was working on my record deal and writing songs, and then I went to San Diego to take my 200 hours yoga certification. I’ve tried to incorporate it into my brand, just like you guys are doing in combining mental health with music, because I feel like in many ways they are the same in that they’re both a kind of therapy. I think it also gives the fans something different. Rather than just doing a meet-and-greet, I want to continue to do yoga classes and build a 1-on-1 connection with my fans.
I think songwriting in Nashville presents an interesting paradox, because a lot of Country music celebrates slowing down and taking it easy, but artists have to move at such a quick tempo by playing shows every night to get their name out there. How do you find that balance between writing music that celebrates a slow-paced life, whilst living a fast-paced life?
It’s not a destination, it’s definitely a journey. I find myself exerting so much energy and never taking time to rest, and I still continue to struggle with that because I want to give so much. But the people around me keep me grounded, especially my boyfriend, he’ll encourage me to take breaks and just go for walks. They really help me find that balance.
I believe you’re currently working on an album. What can we expect from that, and is there a rough release date yet?
At the moment, we’re continuing to release singles. We’re looking at releasing an EP around Spring/Summer 2021, and I’m really looking forward to that because I’ve never released a whole project as of yet. I’m so happy to have all the pieces together and a team I believe in and that believes in me, and that we can also give the fans the songs they can turn to no matter what they’re feeling. The project will be a whirlwind, and it’ll make you feel every emotion - it’ll make you cry, laugh, feel happy. It’s a lot, but it’s a journey just like my life, and I want that to be illustrated on the record.
Kylie Morgan’s Top 3 Songs with a theme of mental health:
1. “Scars to Your Beautiful”, Alessia Cara
2. “Skyscraper”, Demi Lovato
3. “Fight song”, Rachel Platten
Kylie Morgan’s latest single, ‘Cuss A Little’, is available to stream on all platforms now. Keep an eye out for her upcoming EP, which is set to be released around Spring/Summer 2021.
For more information on bullying prevention:
BBC Bullying Support (UK)
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