It’s been less than a month since Greta Morgan released her sophomore album, Midnight Room, and already she wants to make her next record.
It took a fair amount of willpower, but Morgan, who performs under the moniker Springtime Carnivore, forced herself to release Midnight Room out into the world before indulging any new inspirations for her next, still-unnamed project.
“I feel like I can’t start truly devoting myself to writing the next record until the last one is out,” she says from the van she’s sharing with La Sera as they tour the country together. “As soon as it’s out, I can start the next one.”
But the next one will have to wait. Morgan is touring Midnight Room through early November, and hasn’t yet purged it from her creative psyche. In fact, her ongoing performances are bending it into new shapes. “Raised By Wolves,” a cautiously bouncy track about the perils of being told what you want to hear, gets a rock ‘n’ roll facelift on stage.
In fact, these facelifts aren’t the exception: they’re the norm — and a frustrating one at that.
“Whenever I start playing an album live, I almost wish I could go back to the record and make some of the changes I made for the live show,” she says. “It’s almost like the record is the blueprint and then the live show is actually seeing the building in the flesh.”
To describe Midnight Room as a mere blueprint, however, feels like a gross disservice to its nuanced beauty and pained honesty. Every song feels suspended between hurt and healing, powered by a bleeding heart beating doggedly on. “Pretend that you don’t see me in every girl you meet / And I’ll pretend that I’m not looking for you on every street,” she croons on the drifting “Wires Crossing.” Morgan’s melodic guitar powers the self-assured “Face in the Moon,” a standout cut loaded with lyrics both surreal and poetic: “You’re standing there / Brushing the comets out of your hair / Are you coming back to Earth for a little while?”
Though deliberately personal – Morgan wrote the record in the wake of a devastating breakup – Midnight Room taps into something universally resonant. Marked by sincerity that never borders on cliché, the record strains forever closer towards the inalienable truths of heartbreak that are all too familiar to anyone who’s ever loved and lost.
Not that you would ever know it, but that universality wasn’t what Morgan was aiming for – at least not at the time. She barely considered her potential audience while writing, treating the process instead as an act of individual healing.
“I write from a place of self-musing and catharsis,” she says. “By the time the album is finally done, I almost forget how personal some of the lyrics are.”
But writing – words and songs – has always been personal for Morgan. Raised in the suburbs of Chicago, she took up journaling at age 11, a practice she has extended into adulthood. (A teenage fascination with Carl Jung saw her add dream journaling to her practice, too.)
Enrolled in piano classes before Kindergarten, music became one of the first skills she picked up.
“I was writing sheet music before I knew the alphabet,” she says. Her parents encouraged her literary and musical growth, aided in part by the Wurlitzer jukebox kept in the basement that was loaded with Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, and Bob Dylan.
Her musical growth has since culminated into an adult obsession with songwriting, one still not robbed of its mysticism.
“The songs I write alone are ones that come to me in one picture,” she says. “It almost feels like it’s not really my song, it’s just plucked out of the ether.”
Equally mystic is the act of playing live – though it certainly wasn’t a fun experience when she started. She couldn’t look her audience in the eye during her early concerts, events she describes as “terrible” and “probably all captured on YouTube forever.” It took a chance encounter with a former collaborator of Marvin Gaye’s to embolden her to make eye contact.
“He told me, ‘If you are not looking your audience in the eye, then you’re cheating both of you out of an incredibly human experience,’ ” she recalls.
From then on, she sought something better than just being watched by a crowd, and it’s been all uphill from there.
“It’s not about a crowd watching a performer,” she insists. “It’s about a whole group of people creating this experience and creating this energy.”
Creating that energy, however, means touring. And touring is not the most glamorous endeavor in the world, however cosmic the shows may be. For Morgan, the secret is not eating junk food, or just hitting the closest Whole Foods when rolling into a new city. The raw chocolate macaroons are her personal weakness, and she claims the entire caravan – that is, her band and the members of La Sera – are eating as clean as possible given the circumstances.
“Touring is a marathon,” she says. “If you burn yourself out after the first few days and you still have 30 days left of tour, you’re gonna be in trouble.”
So, sorry, gas stations and truck stops of America. It looks like Slim Jims are definitely off the Springtime Carnivore menu.
Springtime Carnivore plays with La Sera at 8:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 4, at Swedish American Music Hall. More info here.