A self-styled, “old soul”, Morgan Harper-Jones was raised by her Grandparents in Rochdale, Greater Manchester and spent her childhood car trips listening to the likes of Patsy Cline, Otis Redding and Joni Mitchell. While her taste in music might have been different to her peers, “nobody else knew this stuff, but I wasn’t bothered or aware of how odd I was”, in her family she found a string of performers and songwriters who would inspire her to take it up herself. As she recalls, “when I was born, my grandad wrote me a song, and we’ve all got our own song in the family”, so while she perhaps never thought she’d become a professional musician, a musical thread was always there. Morgan moved to Manchester, studying music full-time, working from a home studio, looking over the green park where she volunteers as a gardener. Back in 2020, she released her debut single, Breathe, and following a series of further releases, this week announced details of a new EP, While You Lay Sound Asleep, due out in March via Play It Again Sam.
Alongside news of the EP’s upcoming release, Morgan has also this week shared a brand-new single, Want Me, a track co-written with Adele collaborator Eg White. Discussing the track, Morgan recalls how she was, “super angry when I wrote ‘Want Me’. I felt like I was getting loads of things wrong and disappointing people”. The track reflects on the idea of changing yourself to fit the needs of another, how in relationships Morgan found people were disappointed to find out, “I was a human with flaws”, and that compromise meant trying to force herself into their designs, like a puzzle piece that doesn’t fit. Musically, the track is a fascinating blend of tones, the lithe, fluttering electric guitar and dexterous piano-runs juxtaposed by Morgan’s rich, bassy vocals reminiscent of Aldous Harding or Basia Bulat. With her upcoming EP recorded with the help of the vastly talented Ezra Collective, this already feels like Morgan Harper-Jones growing into her talents, making for a record that’s ready to take her songs to a whole new level.
FTR: For those who don’t know who is Morgan Harper-Jones?
Hm, I’d describe myself as “a cut-throat honest songwriter from Manchester in England who enjoys knitting, afternoon-tea, baking and jumping in lakes. A 50+ y/o woman trapped in the body of a 25 y/o musician”. That’s exactly it.
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
My first show, playing my own music, was on an ex partner’s tour of Germany (I hijacked it for a free holiday lol). I was the support act and they were the headliner. I remember that there weren’t many people, but there was this one lady in the audience who came to me afterwards and said how she was meant to go on a date but was stood-up so she came to the gig instead. She loved my set, which boosted my confidence loads as I’d felt like an imposter sneaking onto this tour, and told me how and why she had related to each song. I had played a very early incarnation of Breathe (the first song I released in 2020) and she was even a little emotional about it. It really blew my mind that she had felt what I had felt when I wrote them, and so strongly that she was tearing up. That was definitely the first time that I was aware of what writing could do / give / evoke in people, that was really exciting. I actually kept in touch with her, we followed each other on instagram at the time and we still chat every now and again.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
Probably because I’m not very good at other art forms hahaha, music has always come very naturally to me and felt fun to explore. I remember hearing Joni’s album Blue for the first time when I was about 14 and I was mesmerized. My family are super musical, and my friends are too – I used to write really weird little songs about Llamas or teachers we didn’t like with my best friend Amelia hahaha so odd. And then I had loads of teenage emotions and didn’t know what to do with them so I was dramatic and sang and cried about it.
100% main character syndrome – I was such a dramatic teenager/early 20s-er.
FTR: What can people expect from the Morgan Harper-Jones live show?
I love using a loop-pedal and making all the different parts live with my voice or my guitar and weird effects. Sometimes when I’m making the initial loops it goes wrong and I laugh and start again, but when it goes right and it’s all aligned it feels so exciting. I hope people in the audience feel that too.
And I end up just taking the piss out of myself, I guess some of my songs are pretty emotional/emotive, which is lovely, but sometimes I need to have a bit of a laugh to break up the set haha.
FTR: What’s next for Morgan Harper-Jones?
The next EP will be out soon, and I’ll be playing my first headline show in March which is mental – I have that fear, like when you’re throwing a party, that nobody will turn up haha.
It still surprises me that anyone besides my mum and best friend listens to my music, so I’m excited to see/meet whoever is here with me at this early point in my music journey. I really want to make party-bags with little thank-you notes and cake for everyone like after my parties when I was a kid haha. I think I’ll probably ugly cry with gratitude.
I’m working on a new project right now (an EP or an Album, I’m not sure yet), but I’m writing a lot for it. I heard Maggie Rogers say how she views a record as a literal record of her life at a certain point in time and that really inspired me to just focus on being as honest as possible about how life has been this past 18 months or so.
It’s been fun and then weird and then a little bit sad and then pretty fun again. So I guess it will sound a bit like that.
They Listen To…
Joni Mitchell – The Last Time I Saw Richard
Glen Campbell – Wichita Line Man
ABBA – The Winner Takes it All
Mitski – Nobody
Christian Lee Hutson – Northsiders