Norfolk is a part of the UK which has some interesting stereotypes, the home of Alan Partridge and where Bernard Matthews Turkey Dinosaurs come from. It also is the home to a band who in my opinion are the absolute top of the country and Americana genres in the United Kingdom!
Although I can vaguely recall when I first met the guys from Morganway, (I choose these words because I don’t think anyone will be able to remember too much about a night drinking whiskey with Kenny Foster) I’m not sure where I first saw the sextet play live but whenever it was, I instantly knew there was something a little different and very special about this band. There is just another level of intensity and energy that these guys bring to stage that is combined with a dynamic sound that mixes harmonies and powerful vocals along with one of the strongest catalogues of songs you will find in the country and Americana genres over here.
After the crazy world that was 2020 and them almost being like a caged beast waiting to escape, the sextet returned to stage at Tennessee Fields earlier in July armed with new music which during Buckle & Boots they were able to showcase even more of. Before their set at the festival, Jamie caught up with SJ, Callum, Kieran, Nicky, Matt and Ed (this time without any whiskey – or at least not during our chat) to get the latest on this new music and the return to live shows.
As a such a tight knit band who thrive performing live on stage, how does it feel to finally get back on stage and be playing in front of a live audience again?
“We did our first festival a couple of weeks ago and technically it was the first gig since the end of our tour. We were really lucky that we just finished our tour at the end of February in 2020 but then like everyone had a year and a half off. It’s not just the fact that we hadn’t played together in a year and a half but we are doing new songs too, so it’s fun and good to be back. (C)”
Unlike a lot of artists, you didn’t release new music during the pandemic when you were off the road. Was this a conscious decision knowing that you wouldn’t be able to play the new songs live straight away?
“We started writing a lot of new stuff in the pandemic where we were recording at home but we wanted to be able to record it together so it had taken us a long time around those moments when we could all be together but now we are able to practice together freely and play gigs together, we will be releasing things very soon and we can’t wait to! (SJ)”
As a complete band, where session musicians are not brought in to record or additional musicians are not needed for live shows, they have the ability to share ideas and shape songs whist they are writing them. I asked how do they work pulling it all together, how their writing process has been during the pandemic and where each member comes into the process?
“We kind of jam them together and then pick the good bits where things work. (N) Especially this last year where we have been writing in different ways so it’s been a different kind of process to the first album. (SJ) We did do some things through Zoom, maybe twice? Obviously, we have had had rules where we could meet as a six at various points so we could do things normally. With different parts, when you are initially writing the song where it is starting with me or SJ you might have an idea of how it will sound. One of our new songs which we are not playing today because we haven’t quite figured it out yet live, I did this demo of it that was very bass heavy and when we were jamming it for the first time, Nicky started playing this fiddle riff that was not at all what I would have expected but it worked great. Little moments of magic like that happen! (C) That was one of the first times we were able to get together again and we were all a bit merry. (N) When the good stuff comes out is always when we are not really putting pressure on it but when we are relaxed and having fun, then it’s like wow! That’s actually really nice. (SJ)”
During their set at Buckle & Boots, they performed 4 new songs during their hour long slot and the guys had mentioned that they had been working on a lot of new music so we talked about when can we be expecting to be able to hear this new music and how far off is the next album likely to be?
“The earliest that an album will be is next year but we will be releasing stuff this year that will probably be with an EP. (K) The songs that we have recorded during lockdown is nearly an album’s worth of material, we want to go in and do another few sessions where we record more songs. We will probably put an EP out in the meantime and some singles but it is always nice to have a few extra. (C) It’s great to be able to gig these new songs that we have been working on for the past year and a half to actual human faces, seeing what’s working and hope that people like it before we put it out. (SJ)”
Having written and recorded new music during the pandemic I enquired whether there became too much of a danger that new material could be too centred on the current time and experiences during the last eighteen months:
“I think each of the new songs we are doing are quite different from each other, I wouldn’t say that they are indicative of the time that they were written but it was more lockdown offered us the first time probably an opportunity to record a coherent list of songs consecutively between us after having the last couple of years playing so much which was the first album songs. We had the chance to write new material, stay focused and communicate as much as we could. (E) We are quite a young, if that’s the right word recording band. (a lot of laughs and consensus at this thought that we are all young yet mature adults) What I meant was we have definitely mainly focused on live, so it feels nice to not have to commit to an album but be able to try things in the studio, try different approaches, ways to record and discover our sound in the studio which we definitely have been doing. (K)”
As Kieran mentioned they are a really strong live band that have been putting more into touring over continually recording and releasing. You really do see the energy and electricity that these guys bring to their live shows where after having so long off the road this was almost bottled up and waiting to explode.
“We do just genuinely love playing live together, as soon as we start that first riff or beat it’s just yes! (SJ) It probably was actually and was a really nice gig that one. (C) Because we have been able to write together and create together, it’s definitely brought us closer together so getting back out feels like we are even more of a family (K) We had that tour in February which was such an intense couple of weeks and then nothing! (E) It was good to have that tour experience before things stopped and luckily, we didn’t decide to leave it until March. (M)”
During their sets at both Tennessee Fields and Buckle & Boots, one of the standout moments for me was the addition of a classic Alanis Morissette cover so naturally we covered how they had worked on this version and the inspiration behind choosing this song to cover.
“It was one that we didn’t overthink it and just jammed it where it worked. (K) It was all Beyoncé though really! Nicky and I were learning “If I Were A Boy” that sometimes in her live sets goes into “You Oughta Know” then when we were trying to do that merge into the song and thought actually let’s just do “You Oughta Know” so thank you Queen B for that! (SJ)”
The guys spent the entire weekend at Buckle & Boots not just playing their own set on the Sunday, that also saw SJ joining Jade Helliwell on stage and also duetting with Alyssa Bonagura during Backwoods Creek’s late-night jam. We rounded off by talking about some of our festival highlights such as Stevie O’Connor, Kezia Gill, Laura Evans, Eddy Smith and Alyssa Bonagura then talked about how friendly and inclusive the festival had felt and how it feels to be a part of this scene:
“We’ve become good friends with all of those guys and everyone has been really good. (C) You feel part of a family and it’s lovely. (SJ) We’re from Norfolk so we’re used to that (E) Well, we are not all from Norfolk I should add. (C) Some of us it’s just our adopted county! (M) Three of us are in Norwich and three of us are in Cambridge, so from the east. (K) The big old butt of the UK! (E) yep the arse! (SJ) That should be the new press release! Introducing trendy, young Morganway – Americana from the arse of England! (C) Ha ha I like it! (SJ) We should introduce ourselves like that, we’re an Americana rock band from the arse of England! (C)”
You can find their self-titled debut album available to listen to HERE and Morganway have more festival shows on the horizon including the British Country Music Festival in Blackpool over the weekend of 3rd to 5th September (tickets and info HERE) before a string of their own shows through October and early November which you can find more details from on their WEBSITE. You can also keep up to date with the gang on TWITTER INSTAGRAM & FACEBOOK.