Kevin Cook

Q&A with the tremendously talented Morgan Mabry

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Multi-modal artist Morgan Mabry unveiled a third stunning single, ‘Tables Turned’, on November 30, 2023. The track follows ‘Willow’ and ‘Hurt People’, and precedes her debut EP, Arrows Into Flowers: Part 1, set to drop in early 2024. The New York-based singer-songwriter, actor, painter and professional makeup artist has been harnessing her skills as a creative powerhouse, forging new paths for herself in the wake of escaping a tumultuous and abusive relationship. 

Set the tone for us. Why the arts?

The arts always were the place where I naturally gravitated towards and felt the most comfortable. As a young student, it stimulated me in ways that traditional classes didn’t. As an adult, I’ve made it my life and career. I feel the most present when I’m creating and I never tire of artistic expression; the creative possibilities are endless and it’s a direct line to the most sacred parts of us.

Do you have any non-musical inspirations that might surprise people? 

Travel inspires me more than anything else. A new song or lyrics come to me almost every time I’m on an airplane! I wrote more songs than I ever have in 2022 and it’s no surprise to me because I also traveled the most that year; visiting Disney, California, Portugal, the French Riviera, Paris, England, and Alaska. I’m also incredibly inspired by nature so I spend a lot of my free time enjoying the outdoors and taking long walks. The freedom of exploring nature and seeing the world brings me unparalleled joy and inspiration. 

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?

Yes! When I was around 4-5 years old, I watched The Sound of Music for the first time and was mesmerized by Julie Andrews. My parents were shocked that I would sit through the 2-set VCR tapes, fully engaged the entire three hours long. I watched this movie countless times; it was my absolute favorite. I remember clearly that I was analyzing everything that Julie Andrews was doing and how she was doing it, which sparked something inside of me that never went away. The same thing happened with Wizard of Oz and Mary Poppins. These leading ladies made a foundational impression on me, which eventually led me to the stage. I grew my passion for singing and acting, performing professionally in the musical theater industry for a good part of my early career as an artist. 

You grew up writing and singing, and finally decided to merge the two while going through some life-changing experiences during the pandemic – what made you realize that you wanted to merge these two forms of artistry?

It really wasn’t a decision or a realization – it just happened. After spending time with a songwriter, my mind was open to it and little by little, I started to channel music. I recall doing this as a very young child but it got buried inside of me and was dormant for a long time. Pain was the catalyst in recent years for some of my first original songs. Emotions have to be expressed in one way or another and at the time they manifested into music but it wasn’t something I sat down and tried to do. The songs would present themselves and I would do my best to capture them.

What gets your creative juices flowing? Is your work flow spontaneous, or do you have any particular rituals?

Nothing has propelled my creativity like living alone and cultivating my home has. I find that connecting spiritually in my quiet time is the best thing for my creative practice. I spent most of my life with roommates or in relationships, so I didn’t have my own space or the alone time that I have now; it truly has been a luxury that I didn’t expect but am deeply thankful for. I have many daily rituals that fuel my overall wellbeing but yes, I do have specific ones that get the creativity flowing. In the morning I sit with a hot matcha latte on my couch and journal, followed by a meditation… sometimes I switch the order and start with the meditation before the journaling. Either way, I feel amazing afterwards! My daily walks are like soul medicine and often where I am the most creative. The majority of my initial ideas come spontaneously but I try my best to intentionally set myself up in order to receive and expand upon them. 

Do you have any non-musical hobbies? In a parallel universe where you’re not a musician, what would be your vocation?

I get lost for hours in a flow while painting and drawing. Sometimes I sit down to paint or draw and look up, only to realize that the whole day has flown by and I haven’t eaten anything or even gone to the bathroom! Haha! I’ve always loved the visual arts, ever since I was a kid and in school I had a natural knack for it. I’ve been taking continued education art classes online for the past few years, so I want to continue learning as well as creating and selling paintings. Parallel to this, I’ve built a career in NYC as a professional makeup artist and that has gifted me with a phenomenal community and a freelance lifestyle that I am very proud of. 

Can you describe an ideal setting or scenario where you would want your listeners to experience your music for the first time? 

Oh, what a great question! It really depends on the song. Half of my upcoming EP is for getting in-touch with some tough stuff, like pain or heartbreak, so I think in solitude or stillness would be good for songs like my current singles, ‘Hurt People’ and ‘Tables Turned’. The other half of the songs I hope will bring more empowering feelings, so maybe in a situation where someone needs a confidence boost or spark of inspiration! The EP has a song for a variety of different moods, so on the road or commuting would be a nice way to pass the time and experience all of them. 

Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.

My intention with my music has always been to connect. Connection is a huge part of my authentic code as a person, whether that’s in connection with myself, my spirituality or others. I’ve never been as vulnerable and open as I’ve been with writing, recording and sharing this music; it can be scary at times but it’s also freeing to move past those fears and unlock new parts of myself. I hope when people hear my songs or see me perform, they too feel connected in some way.

Do you have any “comfort” songs, albums or artists that you keep returning to and can listen to over and over again without getting sick of them?

Oh gosh, there’s a lot! How can I answer this question without going on for hours!? There is something in almost every genre of music that I return to over and over but I will try and give you a condensed answer. I grew up on 90’s country so that whole era and genre of music is nostalgic and fun for me to go back to. Shania Twain was a massive influence in my most formative years. The Woman in Me and Come on Over albums are etched in my DNA and always put me in a good mood. When I hear Tom Petty, The Eagles or Bob Dylan it is comforting because it reminds me of my dad (who plays my personal favorite version of ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’). 

Anything by Sara Bareilles, always. Emily King in general but I specifically adore her Scenery record. Two young, female artists whose debut albums really hooked me for a long time were Maggie Rogers’ Heard it in the Past and Katie Pruitt’s Expectations. My Americana queens like Brandi Carlile, Dolly Parton and Bonnie Raitt are all brilliant, so anything they write, I love. Oh, Joni Mitchell, the folk legend! The Beach Boys and The Beatles never get old for obvious reasons. I can always go back to certain voices: Julie Andrews, Judy Garland, Connie Francis, Elvis Presley, Sam Cooke, Eva Cassidy, Karen Carpenter. As far as contemporary pop goes, Harry’s House might be the ultimate pop record in my book. 

A few songs that I can listen to on repeat: ‘Texas Sun’ by Leon Bridges, ‘Lover, You Should’ve Come Over’ by Jeff Buckley, ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You’ by Lauryn Hill, ‘Fix You’ by Coldplay, ‘Better Than’ by Lake Street Dive, ‘Love on the Run’ by Broken Bells, ‘Dawns’ by Zach Bryan/Maggie Rogers, ‘Gimme All Your Love’ by Alabama Shakes, ‘Tennessee Whiskey’ by Chris Stapleton, My Girl’ by Otis Redding, ‘Harvest Moon’ by Neil Young, Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ sung by Judy Garland, ‘Look at Me Now’ by Emily King, ‘Desperado’ by the Eagles but also sung by Linda Ronstadt, ‘Let Him Fly’ by Patty Griffin, ’Songbird’ performed by Eva Cassidy or Fleetwood Mac… do I have to stop? 

Ok, I know I need to stop and I will but I really don’t want to! I love music. I have go-to favorites from so many different genres and eras that I haven’t even scratched the surface with here but I’ll save that for another day. Wait, one last thing… If you catch me at a wedding reception and Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’ comes on, please watch as this becomes my entire personality and I leave everything on the dance floor.

What’s next on the horizon for you as an artist?

I’m gearing up for 2024, which is going to be a pivotal year for me! My debut EP, Arrows into Flowers: Part 1 is set to release in February of 2024. My collaborator/producer, Meg Toohey, and I have already started work sessions on the second EP (the Part 2), which will complete this collection of songs and be recorded/produced next year. A live show might be on the horizon sometime next year as well! Another big change will be a move from NYC to California, which thrills me to think about. I’m in the very early planning stages right now, so I’m staying open and waiting for that to come to fruition when the time is right. 2024 will be exciting as I continue to grow as an artist, evolve more as a human and continue to live a life that I love. Even with things on the horizon, I put a lot of effort into staying present and being content with where I am. I’ve had to overcome a lot to get here and right now is a very special, happy time in my life. As cliché as it may sound, I’m just so dang grateful. 

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