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Feature Intro:After having won the Musician of the Year award at this year’s Folk Awards and playing with almost everyone from Jon Boden and Eliza Carthy to Hannah Ja


Feature Interviewer SF: Question

Feature Interviwee BH: answer



Sam Sweeney















Jess Morgan

Jess Morgan Interview

‘I think, I hope, this is me in my thirties’


Here at Shire Folk we’ve been impressed by singer-songwriter Jess Morgan for some time now. Her new album, Edison Gloriette, is probably (no, definitely) her best yet. On the eve of its release we talked about glamour, books, art and the place of eighties classic, Moonstruck, in her personal litany.


SF: Your new album has an intriguing title. What (or indeed where) is an Edison Gloriette?


Jess Morgan

JM: Both ‘Edison’ and ‘Gloriette’ are cinema names. (I mention ‘the shining lights of the Gloriette’ in opening track, ‘The Longest Arm’.) In the time when the songs were coming together I’d been on a visit to Somerset House in London to see an exhibition of unseen drawings by Hergé – the artist behind the adventures of Tintin. In amongst the drawings and exhibits were newspaper cuttings – with cinema/theatre listings visible in columns on one side. I was quickly fascinated by the names. Something about seeing all of those lovely words listed together jumped out at me. I began to note them down. Then after that, every time I saw one, it got added to a running list I kept on top of my piano. The album is to me so inspired by things like old movies, romance, old glamour, faded glamour, character and purpose. Using these words just seemed to fit. Also, I like two-word titles.

SF: The album marks something of a change in style from Langa Langa to more of an Americana feel. Was that deliberate or a natural progression?

JM: Funnily enough, I’d say almost the opposite, in that I think sonically it follows on from Langa Langa fairly well. Langa Langa was a record where I felt like I hit upon a style of writing that I think feels good – though granted, not in every song. I spent a lot of time trying to find a style that I can really wear and that I can love enough to keep honing. I really wanted to build on, I suppose, the strongest bits of Langa Langa. I think it’s the balance of truth and fantasy and then within those two categories, how much you take from your own life and how much you take from outside of yourself.

One of the biggest inspirations for the record was a certain set of aspirations, life’s yearnings and a love that is free-falling – which I feel belong more to the expectations lender to Americana records than perhaps to folk music. I’ve been inspired also by a lot of modern texts – like movies, books, and art – which is often something found within Americana. For example, I was really inspired by the disconnect in the cafe and bar scenes painted by Edward Hopper. Tom Waits has also paid homage to the same with his Nighthawks at the Diner.

SF: You chose to finance the production of this album via Pledge Music – what were the benefits of taking this approach?

JM: I think the biggest benefit is that it allows you to make a plan. There are a lot of things to pay for once the record has been made and setting a goal on Pledge of an amount of money you can expect to have by a deadline means you can come up with a promotional plan, or a plan for a certain type of presentation, or a video or a tour – and work at it with a positive approach. For me, I genuinely enjoy the making part. I love the fact that I can offer some cool merchandise to celebrate the record’s release but that it is limited to one time only. It’ll be a manic few weeks making the stuff, turning my home into a production line – screen printing in the kitchen, hand-making vinyl in the bathroom, and addressing stamps in the hall. Then when it’s all done you kind of just go back to normal. You clear out, and let somebody else have a turn. It’s a nice eco-system. I’m a big fan of pop-up shops for that reason. This feels kind of similar.

SF: Did you have any heroes in mind for ‘Don’t Meet Your Heroes’?

JM: I suppose what I meant to say with that song really was – don’t turn people into heroes! We’ll often cut people in our lives the most slack – even though they treat us badly. That song is really about cutting free and trying to see things clearly. I think, I hope, this is me in my thirties.

SF: There’s a fantastically conversational style to ‘Skate While You’re Skinny’ – where did the various phrases in the song come from?

JM: That was the song that got written in my little AirBnB room in Norway the night before I went into the studio. I’d been out for a few expensive Norwegian beers with my friend Dermot and we’d been talking for some reason about The Catcher in the Rye – and how Salinger’s protagonist describes a girl as being ‘Roller-skate skinny’. It’s a mix of being young, fit and carefree that is enviable – but also something to be, with just a hint of caution I would imagine.

SF: Cards on the table – I love ‘Come to the Opera with me, Loretta’. What was the inspiration behind the song?

JM: Moonstruck. I will out myself – I am a massive Cher fan. I fell in love with her music as a little girl, but it was her films that I loved the most. My sisters and I loved them. I don’t know where it came from – but I was just hammering about on the piano playing the only four chords I know and what came out was a love theme for a film that came out in 1987.

SF: You’re touring now – what’s next after that?

JM: Yes, that’s right, I have a fair bit of touring to do – first it’s UK dates, and for the first time ever, these are all band dates. It’s a short tour and I’ll continue touring with the new record into 2017 – mixing solo dates and band shows. I also have some really interesting things in the diary involving writing with other people – so who knows what projects might come out of that.

The new Jess Morgan album, Edison Gloriette, is out now.

Jonathan Roscoe


Shire Folk Album of 2018

Moore, Moss Rutter