Morgan Reese blends genres so effortlessly, her music feels like it transports you to another world. Everything is so detailed. Her album , Empress Of Mars, is inspired by her eclectic taste and carries a message of empowerment that radiates through every song. We talked to her about the challenges she's faced and how she stays motivated.
Let's talk about how you got started in music?
Morgan Reese: I was really shy growing up. I was in a bunch of bands in middle school and high school, and I always played just guitar or bass, and I would do some background vocals, but I didn't want to be the center of attention. Then COVID happened, and I'd always wanted to put out music on my own. I got GarageBand on my phone, and I just figured it out. My third song started to do well on TikTok, and I was like, "Oh, other people are actually listening to my music. Let me just keep going." In January of 2021, I got signed, and I was doing that for a while, and I ended up releasing my EP with them, but then there were some discrepancies, as there are sometimes with labels, and so I decided not to take the option for the next deal. Then I started releasing these singles for this album, and now the album is out!
I feel like also being able to produce your own songs. It gives you way more creative control.
Morgan Reese: I like that because I'm very particular and a perfectionist about every part of my music because I care so much about it. I usually go into my songs while writing them with a vision for the production already, so I like to have full control of the reins and get the first shot at the demo. I do co-produce with other producers sometimes, but I always have my demo first, finished basically to the way I want it, and then I like to specify things I want to be changed up a little bit. I worked with a few producers who did not listen to any instructions I gave them, didn't keep in any of the work I previously did, removed a bunch of background vocals, and just made a song I would never release. I realized sometimes you need to do it yourself if you want something done. If you already know how you want something to turn out and you can do it, you might as well.
This album is extensive, and there's so much going on, but all flows well together. When you're releasing an album, you have a statement to make. What is the statement behind this album?
Morgan Reese: I feel like it's about power and taking your own power back and realizing that. I grew up shy and pretty quiet, and I've always felt uncomfortable expressing anger or discomfort with a situation. All of these songs are either thoughts that I've had or experiences. But Empress of Mars, in particular, it felt like at the time of writing it, I kind of came into myself, and I grew that inner confidence to be able to express myself; the message is basically, no matter what it is that you're feeling, I want people to feel confident to stand up for yourself or to set boundaries. It's just what you need to do and not let people walk all over you.
Since you said you grew up shy, do you feel like you have an artist persona and you can put all your feelings in that?
Morgan Reese: I feel like I have this new sense of confidence. Even when I'm performing as Morgan Reese, I feel so just confident and comfortable. This is what I'm meant to be doing. I don't express myself as well as what I would like to with words like talking, so I put it in songs where it's the true me and it's very honest. I feel comfortable putting that part of myself out into the world. I want people to hear this is all me. This is from the heart, and this is everything I have.
What has been one of the biggest challenges in your career so far? It's a fresh career, but would it have been working with that label or being independent?
Morgan Reese: Working with the label was more difficult than being independent because I signed when I was 18, and I did not know anything about the music industry. When you're starting out, you don't have any colleagues or peers, so I signed, not knowing fully all of the things that I know now, and then there was a period where they wouldn't let me release my music. I didn't know that that was a thing, but that's very much a thing. People can just tell you, "No. You can't put your music out." I didn't have as much full creative control as I would have liked.
What does keep you motivated when all that stuff happens? Like, what keeps you going?
Morgan Reese: I think about it like music is everything to me. Listening to music and playing and making music has just always been such a big part of my life. I would be so sad if I couldn't express myself with music. I have some artists that are just like all-time faves, like I have a special spot in my heart, like Prince. Amy Winehouse and Stevie Wonder. Sometimes, I'll hear one of their songs come on, and it just makes me remember I'm doing this because I love it. I have such an emotional connection to music in general that I feel like I have to do it like I can't not. It's hard to get motivated to do certain things, but like I'm in it, and once I start creating music, I feel motivated because I want to and because I love it.
If you had one song off this album that would be a good intro for people into your music, what would you say it would be?
Morgan Reese: I feel like maybe "Vulnerability" or "Slivered Heart" because I feel like Vulnerability shows that I'm like a pop girly at heart like I like to have a pop arrangement and a fun, fun chorus, but then the lyrics might be really sad, and I feel like "Vulnerability" is a good example of my two-- you know, my sad girl-ness and my pop girl-ness, at the same time. Then Slivered Heart also has that energy, but I feel like "Slivered Heart" shows more of what this album sounds like, but it also has the kind of upbeat chorus and upbeat melody, and then like sad lyrics, so one of those two, for sure.
My last thing would be, what would be your best advice for women in music?
Morgan Reese: I would say try to stand up for yourself as much as possible. If you notice something making you uncomfortable or feel like something is off, say something. Don't just let people walk over you. It's hard already as a woman in any male dominant space to speak up, just like even get a chance to get a word in, but give the same energy that people are giving back to you, and the confidence will come up.