- www.rickemerson.com - Which brings me to Morgan Grace.
Morgan and I have a few friends in common, and I've seen her play guitar with Kleveland once or twice. That being said, I knew (or perhaps know) precious little about her. So it's without explanation that her name popped into my head this weekend while I was searching for new music online.
I'd been told about her, of course---she was yet another artist on the ever-growing pile of Things I Really Have to Listen to When I'm not So Motherfucking Busy or Distracted.
I typed "Morgan Grace" into Google, and voila---there was her MySpace page, featuring a couple of finished recordings and a handful of demo tracks.
I let MySpace randomly pick the first selection, and it was a track titled "Eyes in the Back of My Head."
To say that I was shocked is an understatement. I don't know what I was expecting, but the song that emerged from my speakers was like a warm breath of billowing, aching fog...made all the more perfect and painful because you can't quite touch it.
I've been lured in before by a groundbreaking single, only to experience disappointment with the follow-ups, so it was with some trepidation that I clicked on the next song, "Valentine," which was apparently posted just a few days ago.
And that, my friends, was that.
"Valentine" is about as flawless as pop songs get---a driving, seemingly effortless rhythm, an immediately memorable hook, and a melody so perfect that it's both instantly familiar and dazzlingly new. And it's a demo. A well-done demo, to be sure, but it's not even a finished recording and it's better than half the crap currently filling the Portland airwaves.
I spent the next few minutes tracking down her two full-lengths, The Rules of Dating and The Sound of Something Breaking. They run the gamut, from heartbreaking songs of loss and mistreatment to full-tilt, bravado-soaked rave-ups.
What's most important about these songs (and her others; with two LPs and a fistful of demos, she's clearly got something to say) is that they're not just a vehicle for self-aggrandizement and free drinks. She's clearly someone whose life and work have been touched by music, and this is What She Does. I don't think there's any choice in the matter. Just as writers must write and painters must paint, the inescapable conclusion is that Morgan Grace must make music. It's the language she speaks...maybe the one she speaks best.
I say all this as someone who has shared perhaps fifteen words total with Morgan. I have no vested interest in her career, fame, or financial success. But, like all of us, I do have a vested interest in music. It's what brings us together...while easing the pain of solitude. It makes us feel normal when we've gone mad, and makes us crazy when we've gotten too complacent.
It's around every corner and lurking in every shadow. Some of those nooks and crannies are full of miraculous surprises---songs and sounds just waiting to be discovered. I'm glad I discovered Morgan. I wish I'd done so sooner. I wish there were more hours in the day, more days in the week, and simply more time for doing nothing but listening.
- top -
- www.ectoguide.org -
Morgan Grace's record is good old-fashioned rock in the nineties alternative way. She's got a keen melodic sense and her voice is capable of both sweetness and rage. "Your name" is a poppy gem that's reminiscent of Veruca Salt. "My Name" is calmer and has a touch of jazzy introspection despite the sexual jealousy it describes. "It's Only You" is eerie and haunted as befits a song of romantic obsession. Grace escapes easy definitions of rock singers and emerges as an artist with a unique voice on this record. stjarnell 2006
- top -
- www.1340mag.com -
Punk influenced New Wave and Rock never seem to go away and Morgan Grace is one of the reasons that makes me happy. The Sound of Something Breaking is part Siouxie and the Banshees, part X, part Demented Are Go, and part, well, part Morgan Grace.
"Thin Lizzy" kicks off the album in riotous way and at 2:43 it wastes no time getting to the point. As a matter of fact, the first half of this album follows much the same formula, which is as much desirable as it is undesirable really. Regardless, the first half of this CD is fury of sound, it starts to stand out though with the haunting sound of "It's Only You". Grace will absolutely chill you on this twisted acoustic number. From there on out the album takes on a more rock oriented approach that, honestly, seems much better suited to Grace and her music. "Clean" is another standout in my opinion. The guitar work really creates a sort of controlled chaos around the songs skeleton that completely sucks you in.
Overall this is a good listen. You can definitely appreciate elements of the early songs but it's the album's second half that truly shines. Morgan Grace could very well be a rock act that you want to pay close attention to. Mark Fisher May 2006
- top -
- www.collectedsounds.com - Wow. This record is filled with punky jumps and starts and lyrics that will have your grandmother blushing.
Morgan Grace's voice is a blend of sultry and screaming with lots of 'come hither'. Or maybe I should say 'come here-go away'. Either way, it matches the music wonderfully.
This is another band that I know would be cool live.
The record gives it a slightly live feel, in that it's produced sort of lo-fi sounding. The only thing I would change is just to mix it higher (louder) in general. I had this playing on rotation with a bunch of other records and it was much quieter volume-wise than the other things I had in there, even though it is much louder in style. But if you're listening to it all on it's own, it will sound just fine, just crank it up. Or better yet, use those headphones!
If you're looking for something to party to, you've found it in Morgan Grace's latest. Amy Lotsberg May 2006
- top -
- www.addreviews.com - Really entertaining Joan Jett-esque punk with grooves, atypical melodies, and great vocals. Love it. May 2006
- top -
Willamette Week May 2008 by Jay Horton
Newly solo Portland artist Morgan Grace releases her third album, Valentine, this Sunday—intimate and darkly-beautiful indie ballads that indulge formerly restrained songwriting talents. WW sat down with the local chanteuse to discuss American Idol (Underground), recovering rockerdom and the benefits of bedroom recordings.
WW: Where did you record the album?
Morgan Grace: In my living room. Self-produced with a stolen copy of Cakewalk. Self-released. Well, Lady Lush Records—which is pretty much me in my bedroom on my laptop. Our minutiae of success is nearly unmentionable. Of Lady Lush, that is. This album’s a total testament to what DIY’s capable of.
Yeah, it’s sort of a new direction. I parted ways with Sam Henry [of Wipers fame]. We’re still friends and everything, but I was really frustrated the last couple years always trying to write music for the bands I played in. I was a solo act for a looong time, just playing solo acoustic, and, around 2003, I figured out you can get a lot more attention if you have a band and if you dress and act like a big slut—so I did that for a few years. Then, I just got really tired writing for a band, especially a trio, cause not every song I write is going to translate to a heavy rock trio thing. Me and Sam had a falling out in October, and I started demo-ing all these songs. First on this crappy 8-track, and, then, eventually, after Idol hit, I upgraded with some nice microphones and everything. The rest is history.
Explain how the American Idol Underground contest came about?
Well, number one—I’m a big fucking dork. I entered the thing for $25, uploaded my song and kinda forgot about it. I uploaded two songs – one in the rock category which tanked and “Rules Of Dating” in the pop category which was a big hit on the site. I’d get these weekly chart reports saying ‘you’re 77 out of 1,300′ and, then, all of a sudden, ‘you’re like number 8 out of 2,000′ and I just consistently stayed in the top ten. Round two was the voting round, and I hit up every person I knew. I’d run into people I know, total hardcore punk-rockers that were like ‘this is the lamest thing I’ve ever done and I’m doing it for you’. It was adorable, it was awesome, and, turned out, I won. I won ten grand and a bunch of cool shit. I also won a duplication package so I was able to press my first album for real instead of just burning copies at Kinko’s. I also won a really nice condenser microphone. I bought a two thousand dollar Gretsch and a nice Musicman amp. It set me up for a while.
Strangely, no. It was actually just affiliated with American Idol, it was American Idol Underground, and, I don’t know what happened, but they lost their affiliation. I logged in to check, and it’s now called Artist Underground and the prize packages were, like, karaoke equipment and free subscriptions to Billboard. So they’re not…succeeding. Nothing really came of it aside from the prizes—and I did get an interview in, like, American Idol proper magazine. The issue that I was in had Katharine McPhee, the season five runner-up, on the cover, so that’s kinda cool. SOO DORKY, but an absolute Godsend.
This album’s all me. I recorded it, I played drums, bass, guitar, sang—everything is me. Sam plays drums on one track, but, other than that, it’s my vision. It was a very, very cool process. Some songs came about literally just as I was watching tv, sitting on the couch, watching the Kardashians or some shit, and I pick up my guitar and go to the computer and just let the momentum take me to the finishing of the song. Awesome, you know. Each of the ten tracks is just inspiration seen through from beginning to end.
And what was that vision?
The songs are mostly about love, I suppose—one muse in particular that really struck a chord in me the past year, almost every song is about him. It’s a lot more personal, even down to the vibe of recording because I wasn’t in a studio surrounded by people I don’t know that well—I was in my bedroom up til four in the morning laying down vocals all by myself. The recording is obviously only going to capture what’s there, and if that’s someone themselves deeply embedded in the belly of inspiration and that moment…that’s what it felt like it captured. Just really dark and honest.
I think it sounds a lot more like the kind of album a songwriter would make than the kind of album a band would make. The last album I wanted to sound like a rock band and, with the help of Sam Henry and Howard Gee, we translated all my songs to the rock format—heavy drums, heavy bass, heavy guitar. I mixed this new one by myself, and I didn’t have to accommodate a drummer or a bass player saying more drums or more bass. I had people that I would send these demos out to and the most common criticism was: ‘turn the vocals up!’
My voice is kinda high and sweet. It’s nice that I don’t have a rock band to try and be heard over. I don’t have a rock voice. I’m not a growly, yelly sort of singer. I sing in my high voice a lot which doesn’t project to be heard over a loud rhythm section. For a long time, I was afraid to play beautiful songs because you get a lot of rock shows where we were opening for Dead Moon or Hell’s Belles where you have to deliver the fucking R A W K, and, if you don’t, people aren’t going to like it From a songwriting point of view, that’s kinda frustrating because there was only this small window of my repertoire that I brought to the band. Now, I have a small rotating community of players that I recruit for shows as I need to. The CD release show’s going to be half solo, and half with Michael Carothers and Sam Henry.
We’re actually playing for 2,000 teenage girls at the convention center. It’s for an organization called Girls Incorporated. It’s just this weird thing. I contributed a track to the Deep Roots project this year. It’s a non-profit, this is their tenth or eleventh year, and they’ve had so many musicians—Stephanie Schneiderman, Lewi Longmire, Richmond Fontaine, all sorts of people. They team with the high schools or organizations like Girls Inc., get kids to write lyrics, they hook them up with local musicians who write the music, and they’re doing the release as part of an annual summit—I was told there’s going to be 1,500 to 2,000 screaming girls. I’m going to pretend I’m Frank Sinatra. Should be fun.
How were the lyrics?
It was a little hard to connect with them because I’m always coming from this place of darkness and tragedy and her lyrics were actually really inspirational—it took me fucking forever to get into that happy mindset…I ended up sounding like Avril Lavigne.
Did it make you happy? Temporarily?
Gazette Times Oct 2006 by Jake Tenpas
I don’t think it’s possible. Not for this jaded songwriter, anyways.
The Sound of Stereotypes Breaking
Morgan Grace a rising star on the Portland music scene
Portland — Morgan Grace plays a mean guitar and she writes songs that range from angry rock to smoky jazz to beguiling pop. She also happens to be a woman, but that’s beside the point.
Oregonian A&E Sept 1,2006 by Lee Williams
All you really need to know is that she kicks ass. Everything else is just details and lazy writing.
“I wish that not so much attention would be placed on gender,” she says. “We’re not all trying to be Joan Jett, P.J. Harvey, or Liz Phair.”
Grace is referring to the tendency of music critics to attempt to squeeze every woman performer they see into Jett’s leather pants, while at the same time making very explicit that they’ll never quite fill them.
Maybe it’s because women rock stars are a somewhat rare breed compared to their male counterparts, and the unimaginative are forced to draw on the handful of comparisons they can summon to summarize new female artists. Grace doesn’t really care. She just wants it to stop.
“I think as a songwriter, I take a lot of liberties with genre,” she says. “I can write whatever the hell I want to.”
Evidently her commitment to defying the stifling categories that many modern rock acts wear like bling of honor has paid off. In August, she took first place in American Idol Underground, an online competition where more than 600 songs vied for $10,000 in cash and a comprehensive CD pressing package.
Grace’s winning song “The Rules of Dating,” a cynical slice of rock, serves up lyrics such as:
“Rule number three, take it from me, don't drink too much/it only leads to saying all those stupid things that make you cringe the next day/Rule number four, try not to stalk him anymore, it only pushes him away and leads to desperation just like saying/ Please don’t go away, I would never be the same if you went away.”
Many of her songs take conventional pop and rock song topics — love, loss, sex, drinking, death — and give them a subversive twist that renders the original subject matter, if not a moot point, at least one that only begins to explain the complexity of human interaction. Just as no two relationships are exactly alike, in a perfect world, no two songs about relationships would portray love, or the fallout from it, in the same way.
“I don’t use the same rocker girl approach,” Grace says of the sexploitive tactics she might have initially tapped into to help make a name for herself on the Portland music circuit. “Now I just try to sell my music.”
It’s been a long journey to this point for Grace, who spent her early years living in Sweet Home listening to Motley Crue and Def Lepard before moving to Corvallis when she was in middle school. While attending Highland View and Corvallis High School — and listening to The Cure, The Misfits and Bikini Kill — she studied guitar and began to perform at local venues such as the Jackson Street Juicebar and Lakepark Rollerskating Rink.
Playing with her brother, Peter, and a rotating group of other area musicians in bands such as Chaotic Order and Dead Like Elvis, she still recalls the simple joy of printing up her own flyers advertising 50-cent cover charges.
“Living in Corvallis was great,” she says. “That was before that huge wave of neo-punk really hit.”
In those days, letting your freak flag fly was both fun and easy, she recalls. MTV and other media outlets hadn’t saturated communities across America with faux-punk rock styles mass-marketed at a Hot Topic in a mall near you.
“In those days, everything was word of mouth. You’d literally knock on people’s doors on your way to the show.”
In 1995, she moved to Portland with an acoustic guitar and a bag of songs with the idea of performing solo shows in coffee shops. Eventually she traded in her acoustic for an electric and formed the band The Suicide Race with her brother. A few years back, that band gave way to her most recent group, which features Sam Henry, former drummer for legendary Northwest proto-grunge group The Wipers.
Before recording her most recent album, “The Sound of Something Breaking,” in late 2004 and early 2005, Grace came to the realization that she was drinking entirely too much, and quit in August 2004. Transforming herself from a self-described “wretched drunk” to a responsible student and purveyor of the great musical tradition was no easy task, but by immersing herself in the recording of the album, she simultaneously got clean and created an indelible work of confessional rock therapy.
“Right now, I’m finding the places life takes you when you’re leaving your 20s and partying behind,” she says of her new direction, which includes studying classical guitar at Portland State University. These days, she’s listening to everything from jazz to classic punk rock, and it shows in the array of songs on “The Sound of Something Breaking.”
She also continues to kick out blistering live sets at such venues as The Laurelthirst, the Doug Fir Lounge and ACME with both her regular band and Gimme An X: A Tribute to X.
She recently learned that her band will open up for Exene Cervenka, John Doe’s powerful partner in X, and her band the Original Sinners at Dante’s Inferno.
“I think it’s going to be like being on another planet,” she says of sharing the stage with one of her heroes.
Right now, Grace is in the midst of writing songs for her next album, which will be produced with the funds she won in the American Idol Underground competition. Even though she’s been creating music for roughly 15 years, the process remains a mystery to her.
“Sometimes I wonder where a song came from,” she says. “You get into a weird, meditative blackout.” Still, she doesn't seem any more eager to unravel this mystery than that of the relationships she explores in her songs. “I try to acknowledge the rhythm of creativity.”
Along with that, she tries to keep alive the simple, joyous grass-roots spirit of playing music even in an age where the Internet connects us and isolates us from one another all at the same time. While she appreciates the opportunity afforded her by her recent title, she also thinks music is best experienced live.
“Some of the best things about music are only going to be present face to face,” she says.
And if you’re lucky enough to catch one of her concerts, just remember one thing. Don’t call her Joan. --Jake Tenpas, Gazette Times Entertainer Corvallis Oregon
- top -
Move over, Kelly Clarkson: Oregonians have their own "American Idol." And ours actually writes music, plays instruments and sings.
Late this summer, 29-year Portlander Morgan Grace won first place in the pop category of "American Idol Underground's" songwriting contest for her song "The Rules of Dating." The cash prize for her catchy pop tune? A cool $10,000. In her basement practice space, Grace recently spoke about the contest and performed the winning song.
O: How did you hear about the contest?
MG : The contest sent a mailer to CD Baby (a Portland-based online music store) asking for independent artists, and I thought, "Oh, that might be cool," and then forgot all about it. A year later, I saw a link for it on MySpace and uploaded my song and forgot about it again. In June, I was taken out of this huge reservoir of songs (about 1,800 entries) and placed in the top 10 for voting.
O: What was the inspiration for your winning song?
MG: I was trying to date this guy, and it just wasn't working. So, I was brainstorming with a friend, who said, "Well, why not just write a song about all of the things you do wrong?" So that's what this is, kind of a play-by-play instructional piece on what to do and not to do, and to maybe take a lesson from me because I did them all wrong. (Laughs)
O: How was the voting done?
MG: The contest has an online radio station, and as the songs stream through you can rate them, zero to five, how much you like them. The higher the ratings, the more the song's played. . . . I entered at number eight and I started posting bulletins on MySpace, "Please vote!" and after a few weeks I started to break: number seven, number six. . . . The official results were going to be posted Aug. 1, which was my birthday weekend. I logged on at midnight on July 31 and I couldn't believe it: There was a little picture of me that said first place.
O: Some independent artists might think "American Idol" and not want to enter. Did it feel a little weird or cheesy?
MG: Oh, I know it's cheesy! And a lot of local musicians I know around town said, "This is the lamest thing I've ever done, but I did it for you."
O: What do you plan to do with the money and prizes?
MG: The prizes included $2,000 in karaoke equipment, and I was actually researching to see if that was enough to launch a business, rock star karaoke: White Lion, Motley Cre, all of the really hard-to-find hair-rocker bands. But I do have a little "to-buy" list of boring stuff I really need: a new guitar, a new amplifier. And after I graduate from PSU (where Grace is studying classical guitar), I'm hoping to tour, and it will be nice to have gas money! - Lee Williams The Oregonian A&E Portland Oregon Aug 2006
- top -
Church Of Girl Interview
CoG Interviewed Morgan Grace August 31, 2006
It would be easy to compare Morgan Grace to other female fronted rock bands of the mid 90’s, however, this artist has proven she can stand on her own through her skillful combination of angsty moodiness and pop sensibility. Provocative lyrics delivered through sweet and sultry vocal melodies are what makes Morgan Grace stand apart from other rock goddesses of her genre. Her charm is memorable and captivating but do not be mistaken, Morgan isn’t an angelic acoustic crooner by any means - she is a rocker who demands your attention, respect and hell-yeahs. Church Of Girl had a chance to talk with this bright individual at Portland's rock 'n' roll downtown dive, Kelly's Olympian.
CoG: Icebreaker Question #1 : If your music could be represented by a fruit what would it be?
Morgan: In the fruit genre my music would be a pomegranate. Misunderstood, often looked over maybe unappealing to the layman but once opened a bountiful treasure of colors, textures and many pleasing thing to the palate.
CoG: Describe your music in only three words
Morgan: Swampy, shuffle, swing
CoG: Now we’re going to go to some more official questions. When I was reviewing your albums, The Rules of Dating, and The Sound of Something Breaking, I noticed that you have a couple of music styles you mess around with and some of them sound sort of jazzy. So I was wondering if you have any sort of musical background training?
Morgan:Academically, my instrument is classical guitar and I’ve been playing since I was 14. When I went to school at Mt Hood the whole world of jazz was completely opened up to me. When I got there I was 18 and I heard all these kids talking about jazz and being really into it and I was like, “Jazz?…My mom likes Jazz, you know, we’re kids we’re supposed to be listening to rock n roll. But then I started to DJ on Jazz KMHD, one of the only jazz stations in the country, and I learned so much about jazz and I love it. Sam Henry has a real strong jazz background. His drum idol is Buddy Rich. I made this joke to Sam saying we’re both stuck in the middle.. We’re too jazz for rock n roll and kind of too rock n roll for jazz. So I think our two styles really complement each other and we have this jazz infused punk rock backbone. It is a driving swing with a punk rock aggression. I’ve definitely made it my life to study music and get a degree in music. It’s what I love.
CoG: Why do you think it’s important to have a basic understanding of how music works?
Morgan: I think when you love something you just want to know everything about it that you can. I really love music theory and I’ve learned a lot taking classes on music history. I love to perform but I also have this nerdy academic love for it as well.
CoG: On your website you have often referred to yourself as a nerd or dork so tell us about your ultimate achievement in dorkdom which was winning first place in the American Idol Underground songwriting contest. What possessed you to enter in the first place? Do you have a secret passion for the televised American Idol?
Morgan:I do. I watched every episode last season and when we were practicing I taped it. I was really , really hopeful about Elliot making it [She then delves into a 4 minute monologue describing her viewing pleasure of American Idol].
CoG: It seems like American Idol Underground is based more on the music as opposed to the TV show, American Idol, which seems to focus more on a squeaky clean image in a very mainstream sort of way. In the mainstream people don’t necessarily write their own songs but in this contest your original song was the one that won the grand prize of 10 Grand.
Morgan: In American Idol Proper there is a promise of mainstream accessibility, mainstream achievement, success, signing away your life and agreeing to maintain an image for television, for radio and a promise of mainstream label affiliation. What I liked about American Idol Underground is that it‘s not like that. It’s for people who are doing things on the independent track rather than a bunch of hopefuls who want to sign away their artistic privileges to someone who thinks they can mold them into something that the rest of America will buy. What I liked about American Idol Online songwriting contest there was no promise of major label affiliation. I don’t have any interest in signing to a major label. Zero.
CoG: Besides artists losing respect and control why wouldn’t you want the accessibility a major label can offer?
Morgan: It’s just not for me. A couple of years ago we signed on with a manager and as our time with him progressed he didn’t think of me as a songwriter he thought of me as some rocker pin up doll that he could market and program. Suddenly I was some commodity that he could make money off of. He put us in the studio and we recorded this album that sounded like crap and all he wanted at the end of it was a product that he could sell. As a songwriter and the band leader I wanted a product that I could put my name on and feel good about. When we were finishing it and doing the mixing I realized the album sucked and I told him I wasn’t going to put my name on it. Then he told me that he had done so much for me and that I am really lucky that he didn’t ask me to suck his dick. That was the end of that involvement with him as a manager. I don’t ever want somebody telling me what I can and cannot put my name on. If the success of winning this contest leads me to a place where I have to consult with somebody else about what I can and cannot do is somewhere I don’t want to go at all. I’m really lucky that I won the contest. It has given me money and other prizes that allow me to continue what I’m doing as an independent artist with complete control over everything I do. One of the other prizes I won in the contest was a complete CD duplication package for 1,000 CD's. Just that the [additional] prize was included shows me that this is a contest that supports independent artists. For me, as someone who is very passionate about remaining independent, that is a concept I can feel good about entering. The American Idol affiliation is what it is. It can be perceived by some as being kind of corny but for me I won a contest that appreciates me as a songwriter and appreciates me as an independent artist.
CoG: The persona that comes across in your music is one of a very powerful woman. Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not?.
Morgan: That’s a good question… one that must be answered delicately. I took a class at Portland State taught by the wonderful, wonderful Sarah Dougher and that class changed my life completely. The textbook was She’s a Rebel: A History of Women in Rock N Roll. That book completely changed my life. I believe in women 100%. I want to support other women in rock in roll. I definitely write from the women’s perspective. My life has changed dramatically in the last two years cause I quit drinking two years ago and before that I was perceived as a drunken floozy in the local scene. A lot of the music on my two albums was written from that place. In the last two years a lot of things have changed for me and the music I’m writing now is coming from more of a place of feminist oriented idealism. It feels really good to come from that place. I can’t tell you how many times playing in a rock n roll band and the male stage manager or male bartender or the male sound guy talk to my band mates like they’re the band - cause they’re guys - and when I chime in they just look at me like a groupie band slut. I have definitely experiences a lot of disrespect from men in rock n roll and I would love to be someone who opens doors for other women to do whatever they want. I’m tired of playing in a music scene in a world where women are still perceived as novelty in rock n roll. I’m tired of being categorized as a “female musician” rather than a musician cause that’s what I am. We’re just musicians, goddammit! If my music appeals to women that’s awesome! That’s what I want. But if my music also appeals to men and makes them understand more about what women are going through even better. I don’t want to ostracize or alienate a potential fan because of who they are.
CoG:What is your experience with other feminists?
Morgan: There were a lot of feminists and lesbians in the women in rock n roll class I took and some of them were really mean (laughs)
CoG: Well you know, lesbians and feminists are always really uptight and mean. HA! I’m just kidding…
Morgan:Some of them are really scary! I mean, I just want to love women and support and come from a really nice and nurturing supportive place. Sometimes I feel really alienated by feminists because I’m not a lesbian. I’m sorry but I’m just not gay….but that doesn’t mean I can’t support gay culture or the gay community.
CoG: Well yeah, feminism isn’t about being a lesbian. I think that is what draws people away from feminism sometimes because there’s that stereotype. I mean, even men can be feminists!
Morgan: Oh yeah! Definitely! I’ve met some [male feminists]!
CoG: Feminism is based on equality yet some people go the extra mile and are rude to help themselves appear better than others which is kind of missing the point…and unproductive. Women shouldn’t be tearing other women down.
Morgan: That’s funny you’d say feminism is based on equality because a lot of people think feminism is based on superiority… that women are superior to men….and I’m not one to be an activist or have a political agenda or anything but…man, it’s really important to support something and I really believe in women. I don’t want to come across as a man-hater but I certainly prefer dealing with women. I’m really glad you’re a woman interviewing me and that Church of Girl is a female based website.
CoG:You mentioned you quit drinking two years ago…why did you decide to stop?
Morgan:I had a wonderful epiphany one morning - waking up drunk - that life is only going to get better when I started making decisions that took control of my life. Every moment provides you a new opportunity to make a new choice that can make your life better or worse. So I had this epiphany saying I know what I want: I want to have a life in music and a life in academia and a life that brings goodness to people and I can’t do that if I’m getting drunk every single day of the week . Luckily it really stuck. I’m really lucky. Now I think of all the time I wasted being kind of a hag drinking all the time, being selfish all the time, not thinking of other people and just being arrogant and egotistical and thinking “I’m so great” when maybe I’m the only one that thought that. [In regards to music, fans and promoters], if they are trying to believe in you and they perceive you as not believing in yourself it is going to stick in their minds as “maybe it’s not such a good idea for me to put this person out on the road with money I’m giving them to do whatever they want with.” It’s just really hard because I was starting to get this Courtney-Love type of reputation of just being out of control and wasted all the time. Now I feel like people take me more seriously and the only reason that is possible is because I started taking myself - and my life - seriously by not drinking anymore. It was just very, very necessary and I’m really glad that I did it and I’m really lucky that I’m able to continue to do it everyday.
CoG:What sort of themes are you addressing in your music now?
Morgan: I’m definitely of writing of a place of more depth instead of writing the ‘breakup song‘, or the ‘I want you song’ or the ‘I got so drunk last nite’ song. I’m writing about things that have more bearings in life, more thought provoking than “I miss you so much” or “Why didn’t our relationship work out?”. I feel really good about the deeper sort of things I’m writing about now. I’ve always felt as your life progresses your art progresses and life is definitely progressing for me coming out of drinking, coming out of the twenties, coming out of being a kid. I’m going into my thirties and I’m writing about things that are important to me now.
CoG: A lot of your lyrics on the Rules of Dating or The Sound of Something Breaking seem to target individuals who have done you wrong and are very confrontational. Has anyone been so vain to assume a song was written about them?
Morgan: If in the process of creating art you can’t allow yourself to let other people’s approval effect what you’re creating. You have to just create whatever feels right and go to whatever place the inspiration takes you. I’m sorry but if people have a problem with what I’m doing because they’re close to me it’s not my problem - it’s their problem. So…sorry.
CoG:Care to name drop anyone who has had an influence on you musically?
Morgan: I grew up in a small town and there was no way for me to access music besides mainstream radio and MTV. So in the late 80s when I was getting into music as a kid hair metal was exploding all over the place so the first thing that grabbed me as a young aspiring musician was the butt rock. Man I loved Def Leppard and I loved Motely Crue and I loved Guns N Roses. I think it’s funny because what I’m doing now with music doesn’t even suggest that I would have this history. Later on I got into Liz Phair. Exile in Guyville is one of my favorite albums. I love the Violent Femmes and the Cure, the Go-Go’s, The Misfits, some riot grrrl stuff like Bikini Kill and Bratmobile and Heavens to Betsy. When I moved to Portland when I was 18 I started listening to a lot of jazz and was starting to get into Bosanova and I fell in love with Elliot Smith. It was a lot of really weird kind of contradicting artists but I just loved all of it.
CoG:Did you listen to the Wipers before you met Sam?
Morgan: No. Not at all. Which is kind of good because If I had known about the Wipers and Sam Henry when I was a teenager I think I would have been way too star struck to even talk to him. Because I love the Wipers. Getting to know their music has been amazing. I’m really lucky to be able to play with such an incredible drummer as Sam.
CoG:You mentioned you are graduating from Portland State University with a Bachelors in Music and Performance. What do you plan to do with these credentials?
Morgan:I would really love to teach. I have some ideas of doing some music theory workshops. I think it would be fun to get into the music department of a university and having a curriculum or maybe developing an ensemble….but the other half of me wants to live in a van for a year and play as many rock shows as possible. I’ve romanticized the two potential futures and either way as long as I am doing something with music whether it is performing or teaching or whatever a heavily music saturated life is a good life for me. --Em Brownelowe, Church of Girl Aug 2006
- top -
May 2008 - In the three years since Morgan Grace last recorded, she’s won the online competition American Idol Underground ($10,000 plus equipment and untold gutterpunks registering online to Paula Abdul’s direction), disbanded her trio (though Napalm Beach/Wipers legend Sam Henry contributes a drum track to the new album) and parted ways with Kleveland (about which no more shall be said). Above all, Grace realized she no longer wanted to be in a band. Tonight’s release, Valentine, informed by rock but not beholden to the dynamics, allows our carnivorous songbird space and limitless freedom—self-recorded and produced, thanks to Mr. Cowell’s largesse—to indulge ever-captivating confessionals. JAY HORTON.
Our very own Morgan Grace will be celebrating more than the music of the L.A. punk titans in X tonight. Grace, who plays the role of X siren Exene Cervenka, will also be performing for the first time since winning an online American Idol spinoff called Idol Underground and walking away with $10,000. So, congratulate her and then rock your ass off while she wails through "White Girl." - Mark Baumgarten
- top -
- Her press, her reputation, and her performances all peg Morgan Grace as a foulmouthed rock-'n'-roll harlot , which is why actual albums are so useful. Grace's second release, The Sound of Something Breaking , reveals an incisive songwriter none too afraid of the wow chorus and a theatrical, helplessly feminine voice more Juliana Hatfield than raunch queen. Sex-the having of sex, the wanting of sex-takes its share of the spotlight, but love has a moment rendered cleverly with lyrical cohesion that doesn't fall apart however snottily she says "fuck." Morgan Grace is an also a band that sees Portland punk icons micromanage the rhythm section as dynamics shift effortlessly from tweaked cabaret to '80s indie riffage. It's a genuinely rewarding listen. - Jay Horton
- top -
- One of the coolest things about Portland 's "old skool" punk rockers is that a large percentage of them remain active musicians for decades after their teen heydays. Morgan Grace's band (MG3) features Sam Henry, who has drummed for the Wipers, Napalm Beach and punk stalwarts (now known as Dead Moon) the Rats. Morgan Grace herself pens catchy little power-pop ditties graced with cherubic vocal coos. - Dave Clifford - This anti-VD bash features some charmed pairings: Sweet misanthrope Morgan Grace backs her pissed and poppy girl rock with drums from ex-Wipers, ex-Napalm Beach institution Sam Henry. - Whether she is back by a full on rock band or by her own lonesome acoustic guitar, Portland 's Morgan Grace has class. It took a lotta tears and beers to get there but she has arrived. How she'll be tonight is anyone's guess. - Sam Soule
- Fans of Portland rock mistress of dating distress Morgan Grace have been waiting for a promised new release, while Grace has been sating appetites by playing any club that will have her blush-worthy rock show--and that's quite a few.
- top -
- This past summer, Morgan Grace put together a band that plays what she calls “dirty chick rock”. After listening to her play though, one get's the sense that her tongue is definitely in cheek, even if its' not her own. Grace's vocals are pop perfect the guitar is most definitely clean the lyrics read like the red shoe variety.
- Morgan Grace, like her voice, emanates a friendly but delicate, gothic prettiness. The delicious surprise occurs when she opens that adorable mouth and starts spewing clever, frank lyrics that come off as genuinely naughty rather than coy or posturing. This is the kind of intimate, hilarious performer that Portland needs. Miss her at your peril. - TLB
- Don't miss opener Morgan Grace who welds sweetness to trash painting each song in wicked humor or Tom Waitsy melancholia. - TLB
- top -
- Portland Mercury
- It's a little sexist that every time a girl heads up a band there has to be some reference to "sexy girl vocals" or "hot chick rock," but what are you going to do? Lavishly serenading the audience with catchy rock songs--and not looking too shabby while she's doing it—Morgan Grace pours her voice out for the love of the job. - Katie Shimer
- Morgan is a “hot rock chick” to be sure but she has a solid music theory background, some real chops, and a fantastic voice. She's so good I once saw her hold and entire donut shop full of drunks utterly captive with raw power. - Cortney Harding
- top -
- Pabst Music of the Great Northwest Ad
On her debut, Morgan Grace played vulnerable…But it was all an act. On her newest release The Sound Of Something Breaking with the help of the sonic splenetic assault of her band which includes the legendary Sam Henry (the Wipers, Napalm Beach) Morgan shows her true self as the ice princess in leather, who would cut you as soon as look at you. - Matthew Slessler
Using scorn as a subtext Morgan Grace funnels her seething contempt for the opposite sex into vitriolic punk pop songs that leave no doubt that the other shoe is about to drop. It appears that her guard is never down, and on the rare occasion that it is, she can parlay it into a song like The Rules of Dating , a pop gem that is a staggering lament about showing your cards too soon. - Matthew Slessler
- top -
- Morgan Grace is arguably one of the best song writers in Portland, bringing to life bluntly honest tunes ripe with painful emotions. So when you plug her into an amp, turn up the gain and back her with a full rhythm section, the results are ground shaking. As a three-piece, Grace amasses an explosive punk energy that scorches the hair at the back of your neck, and yet her quirky jazz accents reveal the excellent musical chops of her and her band. Opening for Pierced Arrow, this rocking night at the Tonic should be a great way to counter the shortening days.
- Morgan Grace and her band closed the set in dramatic fashion, with Morgan sacrificing her cotton-stuffed alter-ego on the altar of rock and roll while Husker Du's "Diane" was getting the royal treatment from Morgan's extremely talented band. - Bill Reagan
- Sometimes Morgan Grace has a band, sometimes not. Either way what you'll get is a charming bipolar-esque mix of sweetness and hostility.
- She looks so pretty and nice...until she straps on the guitar. You would not believe some of the things I've heard this girl say into a microphone. Shocking and unpredictable...all in a good way.
- top -