How channelling Elvis and bluegrass lyrical influences have helped mould a personal music style.
Morgan Wade’s music is country pop but with an indie attitude. Her major label debut ‘Restless’ has exceeded all original expectations managing to enter the American country charts and helping her to sell out her first UK headline tour. The album also made Americana UK’s Best Americana Albums of 2021 list. Americana UK’s Martin Johnson caught up with Morgan Wade over Zoom as she was about to soundcheck at The Garage in London to discuss ‘Reckless’ and the challenges that come with a higher profile due to the album’s success. She shares the fact that she had a childhood crush on Elvis Presley who has been a major musical influence. As a native of Virginia, she grew up with bluegrass music and while the sounds of bluegrass haven’t influenced her own music, the detail that can be found in bluegrass lyrics has influenced her own writing. ‘Reckless’ may be a success but Morgan Wade explains that it had a very organic development, including how she got to work with Sadler Vaden and Paul Ebersold.
How are you?
I’m in London at The Garage in Highbury, getting ready for my sound check. This is my first headlining tour over here, but I played C2C back in March.
What is on your set list, is it all of ‘Reckless’ or will there be some new songs?
We will be playing ‘Reckless’ in its entirety, and I will be playing a couple of new songs we haven’t put out yet. We are starting to record next month so we can start on record number two.
Have you been surprised at the level of critical success ‘Reckless has had?
I certainly didn’t expect it to do as well as it has done. I thought I would sell a couple of records and be able to book a couple of shows off the back of it, but it definitely exceeded my expectations.
How easy was it working with Sadler Vaden and Paul Ebersold, and how did all that come about?
I just met Sadler Vaden organically, we were playing the same festival and his guitar tech heard my set and he told Sadler about me. Sadler contacted me a couple of days later, and we ended up chatting and I went up to Nashville and we wrote together a little bit and I didn’t have a producer at that time. We just meshed very well, we had the same vision for these songs so we just blossomed. We worked for a year and a half just writing these songs, and Sadler is good friends with Paul Ebersold so we did everything at Paul’s studio, The Bakery, and so Paul came on as co-producer as well. It was all very organic, and we all just meshed together really well.
You make it sound very easy, but I’m sure it wasn’t.
Looking back on it it probably seems a little easier because it is done now, but I think it really was a bit easier back then because I’ve got so much going on now it is hard to keep getting into the studio.
Why re-release ‘Reckless’ and why cover ‘Suspicious Minds’?
I’m a huge Elvis fan and it has always been one of my favourite songs, and we started playing it at some of our shows. Randy Goodman from Sony Music Nashville came up to me after a show and he said that I should really record it because it sounds great and he thought we did it great. I liked it, and it was kind of my version of it and so we did it and put it on the Deluxe version of ‘Reckless’ and everyone seems to dig it.
It can be risky covering Elvis, can’t it?
When you are doing a cover song people are always going to compare, you know, but up to now everyone has been really supportive of it. But, yeah, that is always at the back of your mind, and the critics might have something to say but they always have something to say, haha.
You’ve explained how long ‘Reckless’ took to write and record, are you the same person now who wrote the songs on ‘Reckless’?
I’m definitely a different person, we recorded ‘Reckless’ two years ago and I was writing those songs one and two years before that, so it is about four years old for me. I think I’ve grown a lot from that, and it is kind of nice to look back on those songs as memories but not to be in the same place.
You are from Virginia, and I can hear it clearly in your voice, how much has Virginia influenced your music?
Where I grew up bluegrass music is very big, and a lot of folk music is also very big there, and that is what I grew up hearing and it was my first live music. So I would say it has influenced me in a way, obviously, I don’t play bluegrass music but a lot of those writers are very detailed in a lot of their music, so lyrically I took a lot from that.
You’ve also got pop and rock influences in your music, who are your own musical heroes, who made you want to become an artist yourself?
I have to go back to Elvis on that. I was like eight years old and I was just completely enchanted with him. I thought he was the most amazing thing I had ever seen and he seemed really authentic and he stayed true to himself, and I was really drawn to him, and I still am. I going to see the new movie and growing up Elvis is all I wanted to listen to.
Elvis has had a number of phases in his career, which one is your favourite Elvis?
I have got to say the ’68 comeback special, around the time he wore the black leather outfit, but I would have taken Elvis in any form, I had a big crush on Elvis so I would be happy with any era.
The album cover for ‘Reckless’ is very striking, how much were you personally involved in its design?
We had a photo shoot with a guy called David McCusker, he came out and he is actually the photographer for everything I do now, but that was the first time we had met. We got to know each other that day and he took a bunch of random photos, and we weren’t like we are going to use these for the album it was just to have something for promotion. We ended up filtering around and Sadler saw it, and my manager saw it, and everyone was like that is a really good album cover, and they made it black and white and it just worked. They had a few options they put out for me, but I was like, no this is definitely it for me.
It is a hell of a cover to have to follow for your next album.
Yeah, I have thought about that, haha, and I don’t know what I will do, haha.
Is your new album going to be ‘Reckless 2’ or are you going to do something different?
It is obviously a new era for me, but I will definitely work with Sadler, he will produce the next record and he is my go-to guy. Lately, I’ve been thinking about names, and I’ve got all the songs written for it and it is just about finding time to get in there and get it done.
That is part of the price you pay when you become successful, your time is no longer your own.
At AUK, we like to share music with our readers, so can you share which artists, albums, or tracks you are currently listening to?
I’ve been listening to a guy called Role Model, and he has a new record out, ‘Rx’. Jack Harlow has a new record out, ‘Come Home The Kids Miss You’. I’m a big fan of Jack Harlow, and he grew up not incredibly far from me, he’s from Kentucky, and things have really blown up for him in recent years which has been great to see.
Finally, do you want to say anything to our UK readers?
I’m really grateful for all the support I’m getting over here, I’ve been able to sell out every show I have played, so as long as people keep listening I will definitely keep coming back.
Morgan Wade’s deluxe version of ‘Reckless’ is out now on Sony Music.