In Session: Josh Morris

GLENS FALLS – Following up his successful debut single, “Ready For Your Love,” Josh Morris has just put out another release with “When the Night is Over.” Harkening back to the new-wave pop aesthetics of yesteryear, “When the Night is Over” features wonderful synth, guitar, bass, and drum arrangements that all serve as a bedrock to the extremely sardonic, and self-referential lyrics. It’s a banger, for sure!

I had a chance to sit down with Josh to discuss not only the release, but his current path in music. We also dive deep into the state of the industry at this moment in time. Read all that and more, below.

Josh Morris. Photo credit: Kiki Vassilakis.

Lucas Garrett: How’re you doing, Josh?

Josh Morris: Good, man. It’s been a while. How’ve you been?

LG: I haven’t talked to you in about four years. It has been a while. Doing well! Your music seems to be really taking off, lately. The last song, “Ready For Your Love,” last time I checked, has over 100,000 streams. How does that feel?

JM: I was not expecting that to happen. It feels good, man. I’ve put out a lot of music – I’m 26, now – and my first release was back in middle school. It’s changed so much over time. It feels good; I’m grateful people are listening.

LG: But unlike those other releases, it’s just your name on it, now. It’s all you.

JM: It’s definitely a different thing: releasing music by myself. I still collaborate with people all the time, but it’s very different. As opposed to Hasty Page, with Zane (Agnew) and James (Paolano), it’s a solitary process.

LG: Do you like it?

JM: I do. The music is coming from a different place?

LG: Do you feel you’re able to be more artistically true to yourself, now?

JM: It’s hard to say, man. It’s tough. You know as much as I do that working in a band is such an immense responsibility for everybody involved. At least it should be. I was very fortunate to have Zane and James because they took as much responsibility as I did. Most certainly for the songwriting process. I miss that process. I really look up to bands like The 1975, Pearl Jam, Kings of Leon… everybody has a hand in the music.

I like the collaborative process; I wouldn’t be getting all that stuff on my own. I think it is more representative of me, now, but it’s also more confusing. Literally, just before you called, I was trying to write a song. As a songwriter, I’m sure you’ve felt this way, but you’ll have all these musicians and bands that you look up to and admire, and are like, “Dammit. I want to write a song like that.” I don’t think that’s dangerous to do, but I think the only danger in that lies is that you’ll let yourself down.

I always go back to this one song by The 1975, called “If You’re Too Shy, Let Me Know.” It’s one of those crazy bands where every two years they release an album; they’re very prolific. That one album has 22 songs on it. When that song came out, I went up to my cousin’s house during COVID and built a gaming computer. We were driving through upstate New York with the windows down in the middle of summer. It’s such a good song, and I remember going, “God, I wish I thought of that.”

LG: Yeah. But to circle back to what you said a bit ago about releasing an album every two years… people aren’t used to that these days. Think about the 1960’s, though. There was a new album every eight months.

JM: Right.

LG: Now, these massive stadium-level acts might release a new song – not even an album – every four years!

JM: Right. There’s a lot of limitations for some people and freedom for others. It’s up to the artist, in a way, to decide how prolific they want to be. There’s a lot of factors to go in to it. I had a long talk with Jimmy Woodul, who’s one of my closest friends. He said something to me when I was younger that really stuck with me, “Don’t be precious about anything. Don’t treat these songs as if they’re your children, as if they’re your babies… The first time you play these songs out, it’s not your song anymore. It’s a dust trail of what you are and what you have been, and now it’s a part of you that’ll float off into the ether until you die.”

Even when you die, your music is going to be here – especially if you record it, or if anyone records a video of you in public. You’re not doing it because you’ll be doing it forever. You’re doing it because of the effect it’ll have on people. That’s a good lesson to learn as a musician, as a songwriter.

Josh Morris. Photo credit: Kiki Vassilakis.

LG: Part of that permanence though, I feel is really hurt by TikTok. I don’t think musicians and songwriters growing up should have to worry about what content they’re making, and just focus on writing.

JM: It’s crazy, man. A lot of artists that are in a good spot don’t have to do that. Taylor Swift doesn’t have to use TikTok.

LG: She doesn’t have to do anything!

JM: Right! It’s complete autonomy. What could be better than that? But again, how prolific do you want to be, what legacy do you want to leave behind? This music I’m releasing is me trying to cultivate all the influences I have, and the music that I love, and distill it down to something that I’d want someone else to enjoy.

LG: Absolutely. I don’t know about you, but when I learned how to play instruments, I learned along with the vinyl or CD. I listened to the whole damn album!

JM: Yeah!

LG: No one listens to albums anymore! I have way more favorite albums than I do songs!

JM: Oh, yeah!

LG: I feel that the only people that listen to albums these days are musicians themselves.

JM: I would agree with that. I think that’s one of the saddest things the new music industry is forcing us to be like, now. It’s a bite-size world; there’s no longevity or the sense of something being timeless. When I think of something timeless, I think of The Beatles! Ten years from now, someone like John Mayer might be timeless. It’ll be interesting to see who’ll become a household name.

LG: I agree. I don’t think there’s ever going to be another Abbey Road.

JM: I agree, and I think people should stop trying. It’s like Disney redoing their movies. Stop with the reboots and let’s get some new ideas. At the end of the day, people love original ideas. When it comes to recording, if someone’s stressing about their take on a guitar solo, or something, the first take is usually the best.

LG: There’s lot of mistakes on my record!

JM: Yeah!

LG: They’re not glaring, but they’re there.

JM: They’re probably just mistakes in your mind, but someone else will hear it and think that’s great. I totally get that.

LG: Your new song, “When The Night Is Over,” is amazing! That comes out on the 17th.

JM: Thanks, man.

LG: Wouldn’t you rather be making an album?

JM: Yeah. It’s funny you ask that, because I am. You’re the first I’ve told besides my immediate circle. I am making an album, and it’s going to consist of the three songs I’m releasing. The second one is the song releasing this Friday. I’m going to put out a ten-song album that’ll have those plus seven more.

LG: Is it thematic, or are they ten different vignettes?

JM: I wouldn’t say it’s a concept album, but it’s a snapshot in time and it’ll be very cohesive. It’s very much what I want my first introduction to the world to be. All the songs are more or less like these two. There’s a bunch of pop ones, like “Ready For Your Love,” on the record. “When The Night Is Over,” is still pop, but it’s more aggressive and forward.

Musically, “When the Night Is Over” is a respectful nod to 80’s pop and new wave rock. Fueled by layered synths and chorused guitar jabs, it makes you feel like throwing your hair up with some Aqua Net and giving in to that primal urge of wearing neon headbands. Fast forward a bit and you’ll see that the lyrical content paints a portrait of pre-COVID college life in the late 2010’s. Social unrest and cultural tensions are at a seemingly all-time high. Words can’t be taken back, relationships can’t be saved, reckless alcohol-driven escapades from the night before can’t be forgiven or forgotten. So, what do we do? For starters, maybe unclench a bit. It’s really not that serious.

The third single, “Sigma,” is a little heavier, in terms of lyrical content. It’s a dark song, and it centers around a very dark subject that’s difficult to discuss. I’m really looking forward to that one because it’s a side of me no one has really seen or heard. I’m trying to not piss in the wind, as they say.

LG: I don’t think independent artists can sit still. You’re making music out of your house; I’m making music out of mine. A few years ago, Billie Eilish made music out of hers, and Charlie Puth out of his. How many millions of people are doing this now? If someone wants to make a record, they can get started with just $300 of recording equipment. Anyone out there that isn’t a nostalgic act at this point is facing a lot more competition. I could look at you and say, “Josh got way more hits on his song, what the hell?” And, similarly, you could say, “How is he able to get into these venues when I can’t?” Social media makes it a competition, even when we don’t want one.

JM: That’s very true!

“When the Night is Over,” single artwork. Photo credit: Kiki Vassilakis.

LG: We talk about our new material – we have to – but it also feels like we’re rubbing it in others’ faces.

JM: It’s such a delicate balance. I feel the same way. I see things on social media with great musicians I know and think, “Man, I wish could do that, or sing like that, or write lyrics like that, or play guitar like that…” Something along those lines. I surround myself with people that are better because I learn so much. Jealousy is a natural emotion that we all feel. I try not to compare myself to anybody. There’s this really great quote – I don’t know who said it – “Comparison is the thief of joy.” You just have to be your truest, best self and show everyone. That’s one of the many downsides of social media. It can be great promoting yourself, and showcasing what you’re capable of.

LG: Musicians before the modern era of music didn’t have to think of their “target audience” or how to market their latest work.

JM: Right. I’ve talked to Jimmy about this. You have all the ability and tools necessary at your fingertips to excel at the industry, but so does everybody! Every corner of social media is flooded with people doing the same shit you’re doing; it’s so oversaturated. It’s so hard to break through.

LG: It feels like now more than ever, it’s all about luck.

JM: Right. I’ve never wanted a lot of money. I just want enough to get by: feed myself, feed my family, buy the things I need, and sometimes buy the things I want.

LG: I think that’s what we all want.

JM: I want at least a few people to look at me the way I look at Eddie Vedder, or Matt Healy, or Jeff Buckley, or Joni Mitchell. They’re just people, but they’re also masters of their craft. They’re so good at what they do and love what they do. At the end of the day, that’s all I want, and I want to keep doing that until I can’t anymore.

LG: I feel the same way, man. Have a good night, Josh!

JM: Thanks for reaching out. I appreciate it. You, too!

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