Interview: Kevin Morby

by E. Ryan Ellis

We speak to the Los Angeles musician about his newest album, spirituality, and Dorothy
The first two lines of the first track of Kevin Morby's new album Singing Saw is, "Birds will gather at my side/Tears will gather in my eyes." It's simply put, but also ambiguous and relatable. This is probably the essence of music itself, but it's certainly the essence of Morby. The Los Angeles musician has released three records since 2013 and shows his music oscillating between steadfast road songs and soft-spoken hymns. Singing Saw--released in April on Dead Oceans--finds Morby resting in a wonderfully palatable spot between those two ideas. For the record he teamed with producer Sam Cohen of Apollo Sunshine--seemingly adding a hazy sheen to the tracks. We spoke with Kevin Morby on the eve of the release of Singing Saw.

Tell me about the progression over the last 2-3 records you've made. How has your songwriting changed? My songwriting has always been very touch-n-go. I don;t edit myself too much, but in the past I've written with a band either on the road or in the studio, this time I wrote by myself--so there was really no editing involved especially on the lyrical content. I ended up stretching verses, hitting sour notes, probably making the songs way longer than they need to be--but in the end I believe I have created something that is very "me."

Does L.A. or southern California contribute to your sound? The lifestyle? The scenery? The weather? I believe that no matter where you are your environment will influence your work. So yes, absolutely Los Angeles, at least my little corner of it--contributes to the sound.

What is your favorite way to listen to music? In my car over the stereo driving nowhere, on headphones while on a walk, or on a record in my living room.

Who is Dorothy? She’s my guitar.

"I Have Been To the Mountain" feels like a southern gospel hymnal of your own variety. Reminiscent of baptismal lyrics, i.e. "take me to the river, wash my sins away." Is there a spirituality to the song? Do you consider yourself spiritual? Absolutely. I am very much inspired by anything spiritual. There’s passion in those things, I find myself very moved by them. So yes, I do consider myself someone who is spiritual.

Do you consider your songwriting to be honest? As a songwriter, do you consider yourself more of a storyteller or a truth-teller? I like to believe that I'm somewhere in the middle of fiction and non-fiction. Life would be no fun if you didn't exaggerate the scene here and there. Something, or someone--that I've always related to is the author Gabriele Garcia Marquez. He story telling style is that of--heres the story, believe it or not--whether its true or actually happened should be of no concern.

Does vinyl actually sound better? Yes.