Morly’s Truly “Uneek” World Of Soulful Minimalism
The Minneapolis singer/songwriter/producer talks about her musical journey, and offers up a playlist of her main inspirations
Inspired by Keen’s new line of Uneek footwear, we are talking with a couple of emerging artists we think are truly unique. First up, introducing Morly…
“I kind of blame Bob Dylan for ruining my life,” laughs Katy Morley, a.k.a. singer/songwriter/producer Morly. “I was in college, and I was going to be a neuroscientist, but then his music somehow struck me so deep that everything in my life suddenly felt wrong…
“I wanted to be doing music, but it felt like the furthest thing away from my actual life at the time, at least in my twenty-year-old mind. Becoming a professional musician didn’t seem like a feasible reality, but at the same time I knew I would be really sad if I didn’t try.”
Eight years on, the Minneapolis native’s dream has indeed become a reality, though her unique, soulfully minimalist compositions bear little resemblance to the “not very good” folk songs she says she wrote while initially searching for her own musical identity. Something More Holy, Morly’s new four-song EP, is an enchanting collection of introspective poems sung softly-yet-powerfully against spare electronic dreamscapes. Early 20th century avant-garde composer Erik Satie is an audible influence on Morly’s work — “Probably my biggest inspiration, fundamentally,” she says — but so is Sade.
“I’ve always had a soft voice,” Morly says. “I used to try to sing like Aretha Franklin, but never could. But Sade is someone who found what was good in her voice, and found a way to emphasize that; I found that really inspiring.”
Recorded in collaboration with L.A. producer Stint, Something More Holy’s minimalist tracks are alluring, spacious and flow effortlessly into each other, as if each track was created to be part of a specific dream world. “Stint and I tried to build this whole world for the songs to live in, where they could just exist and be their own thing,” she explains. “I love minimalism in general, but I especially love the way it really forces you to make sure that everything is right and solid, to make sure that you’re really getting to the essence of it and not hiding anything.”
Morly says she first became inspired to create electronic music after a friend played her a record by English electronic duo Mount Kimbie. “It was kind of the first music I ever heard like that,” she recalls. “I was writing folk music and not really sure what I was doing; but then I heard Mount Kimbie and it was like,
‘Okay, this feels right — this is what I want to do!’ Not necessarily copying what they did, but they really opened up the idea of what a song could be, and what sort of sounds you could use.”
On the advice of some producer friends, Morly acquired an Ableton Live workstation and spent several years “disappearing into headphones,” as she puts it, experimenting with sounds and mixing techniques in a manner that drew as much or more upon her education as a painter as they did upon her musical inspirations. “I’d ended up switching to painting as my major in college, and I learned a lot about art history and things that turned me off a bit from visual art, because it just felt so political,” she says. “I felt maybe music was a way to paint with sound, a way to try painting in a new medium. My early instrumentals really felt like paintings to me.”
Morly says that her music continues to evolve, especially now that she’s performing it on stage. “I went on a small tour recently where I played the songs just by myself, so I had to use a computer,” she says. “And I think there was a bit of a novelty there that people appreciated — a girl with like ten machines, singing and playing synthesizer — but at one point, I started feeling like one of those toy monkeys that bangs things together,” she laughs.
“I really do not want to use a computer onstage in the future, so now it’s becoming a process of translating my songs live with other musicians. And I think that’s been subconsciously influencing how I write — it’s a little less digital and a little more organic.,” she says. “I love minimalism, but now that I’ve learned how to do that, I think it’s okay to start building more on top of it. But I really do love a small song, so we’ll see if I grow my songs at all!”
For further insight into Morly’s unique sonic inspirations, check out her hand-picked playlist of inspirational artists:
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