Morganway’s SJ Mortimer on finding her vocal style and falling in love with Nashville.
It took a few blunt words from a music lecturer to help SJ Mortimer, lead singer of the band Morganway, find her vocal style.
Mortimer was studying popular music performance at Southampton Solent University and had a rather soft, whispery Norah Jones-type of delivery.
“I was quite a shy performer back then,” Mortimer says. “My lecturer came up to the microphone when I was singing and said: ‘Why are you singing like a mouse?’.
“I was shocked and a bit embarrassed. But I needed that tough love to push me to sing loudly.”
The tough love obviously worked as nowadays Mortimer’s calling card is her powerful vocal style.
Her distinctive growl and belting top line are more than a match for Morganway’s gritty, guitar-soaked sound. Check her out on the band’s current single Let Me Go.
Hailing from East Anglia, Morganway was founded in 2016 by twins Callum (vocals/bass) and Kieran Morgan (lead guitar), and keyboardist Matt Brocklehurst.
Mortimer met Kieran at university (they’re now married and based in Cambridge) and joined the band later along with fiddle player Nicole J Terry and drummer Ed Bullinger.
Since then, Morganway has built up a loyal following on the live scene thanks to their country-infused rock sound and energetic sets. This intensity was something the band wanted to recreate when they went into the studio to record their self-titled debut album (out in August).
To avoid things becoming too sanitised, the bulk of the album was recorded live with minimal overdubs. Mortimer relished every moment.
“I’ve always been very at home in the recording studio,” she says. “My brother is a producer and I’ve done lots of session work. I also made a solo album in Nashville a few years ago.”
What’s the secret to a killer studio session?
“Stay relaxed,” Mortimer says. “The more relaxed you are, the better you will perform.
“I just go for it and pretend I’m on stage. I also turn the lights down to create a bit more atmosphere and have one headphone off so I can hear myself, and the music.”
Mortimer is keen to return to Nashville, a city she finds inspirational, and for Morganway to tour the States.
“When I went to Nashville I fell in love with country and rock,” she says. “It’s my dream to play the Grand Ole Opry.”
But first up is the UK summer festival circuit (Morganway are heavily booked) and the release of the album later this year.
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