For many fans and critics, Sara Morgan brings back what many consider to be "true" country music. Morgan is a country music storyteller in the spirit of Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire and Loretta Lynn. Her voice not only echoes these forebears but also builds on them with a style that is distinctly her own. Morgan is an accomplished musician and songwriter whose most recent album, Average Jane, has been called "cleverly written and sung with spunk, moxie and verve." We are delighted to share an interview with the artist about what inspired the album, her advice for younger songwriters, and recommendations.
Talk about your latest album, Average Jane. What are you most proud of with this album?
I’ve found that most of the time, average isn’t average at all. Quite the contrary. Most of the people dubbed “average” are actually quite extraordinary. <- That is the record.
To break it down, this record was about a few things: hard work, being willing to do things your own way…but for me specifically, this album was me growing into myself and being proud of who I REALLY am. I used to sit at radio interviews and try to hide my accent for fear of being judged and called a hick or something…I don’t care about that anymore. This record was me no longer being afraid of long vowels or my background. This record was me realizing that no matter what label or category society tries to put me in based on my looks or my zip code or the car I drive, I am, in no way, average.
I’m the most proud of the songs. I wrote them alone (granted, writing alone means nothing if the songs aren’t any good) but I think they are. At least I really hope they are good. I am a songwriter first and foremost, so the song is everything to me.
What were some of the creative challenges that arose while recording Average Jane? How did you address them?
The creative challenges with this album were really just trying to get the songs tracked right. We had a few songs that we cut three times in different places trying to get them right. We would re-arrange them, change time signatures…but nothing would fit. Some of those songs eventually ended up getting the ax, while some we finally got right (or as close to right as possible). To address is we really just kept going and trying new things. Sometimes it would work, sometimes it wouldn’t.
How long have you been a songwriter? Who were some of your earliest influences?
I’ve been writing songs for eight years, but I wouldn’t really say I became a songwriter until a couple of years ago…maybe even the last two years, maybe not at all. There is a difference between writings songs and being a songwriter. Writing songs is fun. Being a songwriter requires discipline, work, time, dedication. I didn’t realize there was a difference until I decided to go at it full time. I still feel pretentious calling myself a songwriter though…I feel like other people who are better than me are “songwriters” and I’m still just kind of trying to get to the level of even being a songwriter, if that makes any sense.
My earliest influences were definitely Boston, The Eagles, The Doobie Brothers, Alan Jackson, and Elton John. Weird mix, I know.
Do you have any advice for younger songwriters who want to do what you’re doing?
As a songwriter: WRITE WRITE WRITE. Your first song is not a hit. Your 50th song is not a hit. Your 100th song is not a hit. You will be lucky to EVER write a hit song honestly. I hope I have a few under my belt that will have lives of their own in the future, but I have no idea. And if what you were doing was better than what was on the radio, it would be on the radio. Arrogance as a writer will get you nowhere. Be open to learning and instead of ignoring people in the business who are older SEEK THEM OUT INTENTIONALLY. They’ve been around longer so they know when things are good or bad. They can help you in so many ways that people your own age cannot.
As a performer: Early is on time and on time is WAY late. Be annoyingly early for EVERYTHING. CALL PEOPLE BACK AS SOON AS YOU CAN. Be genuinely friendly because friends help friends. Give it your all, expect nothing, and have a good time.
What inspires you about original folk and country music in Kansas City?
There are so many artists and bands who play sold out shows here because the people who live here love their original music. Kansas City showed me that I could actually have a career in music without playing covers for four hours every night (it’s fine to do I just personally just don’t like performing enough to do that). Original music is supported here in a way that it is not in many other places. That said, KC has some really GOOD original music (from folk and country to hip hop and alternative rock) and watching the artists that make the music make the jump from their day jobs to playing full time inspired me to do the same thing.
Sara Morgan's recommendations from the Johnson County Library catalog:
Harry Potter (every book in the series)
Augustine's Confessions by Garry Wills
Coal Miner's Daughter by Loretta Lynn
Boston by Boston
Candle In the Wind by Elton John
Are You Ready For The Country by Waylon Jennings
Coat of Many Colors by Dolly Parton
Coal Miner's Daughter by Loretta Lynn