Interview: Morgan Joanel On New Single ‘Disappear’

Interview by Kate Lockyer

Morgan Joanel has been all over Australia and the world sharing her music, with a gorgeous husky voice showcased in her seductive alt-pop songs. On top of this, the diversity of her artistic pursuits makes you wonder if there is anything she can’t do. I got the chance to have a chat with her this week, and it was a refreshing foray into her creative experience and excitement for her next single and EP, slated for release in a few months’ time.

You released a new single called Disappear a couple of months ago. How are you feeling about it being out in the world?

“Just excited, because it’s probably my favourite song off the upcoming EP, and when I wrote it, it was the only song that hadn’t been kicking around for a long time. It was a brand-new song so it’s still new to me, which is a nice feeling. It was great to get it out in the world and do all of the visual stuff for it… it was a really fun experience.”

What was your inspiration for the song?

“I was getting ready to finish recording the whole EP, which is five songs, and I thought I had all the songs ready. Then about a week or so before I went into the studio I was messing around with my guitar and I hadn’t written anything for quite a long time. I was just jamming for hours and hours over a couple of days and then I started playing the chords in a bit of a progression and it just landed, and straightaway I was like, ‘this is going on the EP’.

And then the inspiration… the main thing it came from at the time was that I was going through a bit of a breakup and just that whole feeling of if you’re not really in it, don’t be in it at all, which was going both ways. But then I went into the studio with only half of it done, and it just all came together. Sometimes I think with songs you don’t know exactly what you’re writing about until later, and then once it’s done, you can listen to it and be like ‘oh wow, I didn’t realise I was totally writing about that’. I think ultimately it has this double meaning of realistically, a breakup situation, but then at the same time, if you have an idea or inspiration for something, if you don’t love it and treat it really well, it will just move on and disappear.

And now obviously, when I sing it, I don’t think about that ex, I just think if I have an idea, I better do something about it, so it’s kind of like an affirmation really.”

Exactly, if you don’t use it, you lose it! So, tell me about the EP…

“It’s a five track EP and the whole thing was funded by a Kickstarter that I did, so I had a lot of supporters get behind it. It’s a concept where there’s the five songs, and then I’m a visual artist as well, so each song has artworks, whether it’s painting or video animation or graphic visual art, that expands on the vibe of every song. So that’s coming out with the EP and you will be able to view it online. Originally we had planned that it would be a physical thing, and a lot of interactive stuff, so at the moment I’m trying to look at it and rejig it a bit, obviously I won’t be touring any time soon, won’t be having the experience that we were gearing up towards. But it will be challenging now because I had ideas of what I wanted to do and now it’s like, ‘oh, I have to get more creative with it’. It’s hard to let go.”

Yeah, I can see it being an in-person thing where people can experience these different art forms all at once.

“I’m just trying to look at it now like, ‘what can I do, as an artist what am I capable of?’ I’m trying to get my creative brainstorming hat on and express it a different way. What it’s made me do is go, ‘well I’m actually really excited to get this out as soon as possible’. A big part of it was this interactive side of things with art, and so I’m just trying to figure out how to recreate that now.”

So, you’re planning on still releasing the EP online now?

“Yeah, it’s making me get this one out there, do this online stuff like figure out some cool artistic representations for the online sphere, and then also start working on the next release. Then I can record, and maybe by the time we’re back in the physical world again, I’ll have something even newer. So, it’s just trying to push those boundaries a little bit. And not stopping! Something like this whole COVID thing, there are a lot of people that feel like there’s dead ends, and they’re stopping a lot of things. And I think, no no no, this is just a challenge for our creative minds to get out of the plans we had and really get creative and be in the moment, be in the now. Obviously with things happening every week, things are changing constantly, you’ve got to get creative with that, so I think it’s a good challenge to keep on top of things.”

That’s such a good mindset!

“Yeah, well I don’t have it every day, I’ll be honest! It is the thing that I want to get to every day, trying to get to that mindset of ‘this is a good challenge’.”

I was going to ask how you’ve been getting through this period of isolation, but you just kind of covered that…

“Yeah, I’ve just been letting go – I had solid plans but now I’m just going to back away for a bit and let it fall into place.”

It seems like you have a bunch of other artistic plates spinning – you mentioned your artwork – so tell me a bit about your passions outside of music?

“Outside of music I actually really love to write and to read, so it’s quite introverted. Creative writing, and obviously painting and drawing, I love doing that. And I love dancing as well, I grew up doing dancing. All of it is still kinda creative, but it’s more introverted stuff.”

So many talents there! Do you find that different art forms help express different things?

“Yeah I think so. If I’m playing music, I use loop pedals and layer up different instruments, and I love harmonising, I love singing and I love performing live. That’s the hardest thing about this COVID thing, not being able to play live in front of real people, even though online is cool and everything. But yeah, there’s definitely something when I’m just jamming at home and then I layer up stuff, I just totally tune out of what’s going on. I guess it becomes a bit of a rhythmic mantra, and once you get into that, really cool stuff comes out. Like I’ll sing something unexpected and I’ll think, ‘whoah, I wouldn’t normally do that but that was really cool’, or ‘that’s a strange harmony’, and I follow that path. So I think with music, that’s this really cool meditative thing if I can get into that flow.

I think sitting on a laptop and writing is harder; I like to direct it somewhere and I can dissect the words. It’s a totally different thing, and then dancing is where you’re kind of just letting loose.”

Obviously you’ve got your EP on the horizon, but is there anything else you’re working on at the moment?

“I did a stop-motion animation lyric video for the single, and another musician saw that and said, ‘can you do a lyric video for me?’ And I did that, and now I want to start sharing DIY how-tos, because I learned some really good little techniques. I think it will be really nice for people to go ‘shit, I can do that myself!’”

And that’s new for you, making stop-motion animation for lyric videos?

“Yeah, I hadn’t done anything like that before, and that side of things has been an avenue I really enjoyed. It’s something I’ll be doing more of, like stop-motion, different animated videos and exploring those things. It’s gonna keep me busy.”

Wow, there’s so much going on!

“I mean, I’ve always been self-employed as a musician-artist, so for me it’s always gone from live performance and recording and putting EPs out, or singles, and at the same time doing something visually expressive… they feed off each other.”

I also want to ask about your history in the music business. I was reading a bit about you and it seems like you’ve had a few challenges. You could say it’s been a bit turbulent?

“I started solo in Perth, and I played around and did some independent releases, and then I did some touring all through Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, and then I got discovered on Myspace by Sony and signed a big deal. It was really difficult because straight up they said ‘don’t play any more shows, don’t perform any more. Just start writing and figuring out who you are.’ But I was 25, and I had been doing this as my job and I’d already found where I was at. I’d been doing it since I was 17, like I’d never had another job, so I was a bit like ‘well this is weird’. The minute I take that step up, it’s now, stop everything and figure out who you are. It was a couple of years of just trying to get stuff through and it just wasn’t working. I delivered 70 fully produced songs and none of them were a yes. It was like, there’s some bullshit going on here…

So you know how everyone talks about burnout if you have a corporate job? Well, I definitely had that. I got the promotion and then I worked really hard, and then I had this total burnout because of not being able to express myself. I’ve always done a billion things, and to all of a sudden go, ‘no you can’t do that’, I really didn’t cope. It got two years into it and I was really struggling, and there really was no support.

But, the good thing about it is that I learned a lot more about myself than I would have if I hadn’t had those challenges. I have actually become the musician, the songwriter, and the artist that maybe at the time when I signed the deal, I wanted to be. I realise now I never would have found that if I hadn’t gone down that path. So as difficult as it was, on the other side of it I’ve got all this freedom now, and I can do it how I want to do it. And of course, I figured out during all of that exactly how I wanted to do it, and now I get to do it – even with the COVID stuff! This is just like another challenge.”

Right! Of the 70 songs you put forward, did you release any of those yourself after you disconnected from Sony?

“There was one that I loved, and I put it out – out of all of those – but I didn’t do an official release or anything. But no, I was ready to do it, as soon as I got off I thought ‘yes, I can do whatever I want’, and it was that burnout thing. It was like I was standing at the starting line where I had felt for the last two years of the deal I was fighting so hard to get to that place where I could do what I wanted. Then I stood there and I was like, is this really the music that I want to release, or is this the music that I was making in protest of where I was at? I was sick of overanalysing everything and I just stood right back from music and I went way into art for two or three years. I wasn’t really doing music – I had gigs here and there, but I had no recording, no releases, and the songs that I wrote in the break away from music is what this EP is. I came all the way back around and thought, in the space where I wasn’t trying to release anything, and I wasn’t trying to work towards anything, I actually wrote some stuff that I feel really connected to. So that was kind of the gold that came from it.

So, since becoming an independent artist, do you think your music has changed?

“Yeah, totally. It’s definitely darker than what I was doing before, and that was always where I wanted to go. It’s really fulfilling, it feels really good to be making the music that the version of me that was signed to the deal was constantly feeling like, I wish I could make this music, I wish I could just write from this place. And that wasn’t on the label, it was literally just me not being able to make music from that place. Sometimes there would be a sprinkling of it through songs but it was never exactly where I wanted it to be, and after leaving the deal and getting out of the music industry for a few years and coming back, that’s exactly where I write from.”

Definitely, and people think that you just write lyrics about whatever’s happening in your life, but you kind of have to be in the right headspace to express it.

“Especially in this time, when everyone’s isolated and being forced to look within and actually sit with feelings, that’s the kind of stuff where I feel like I’ve got experience in this. I think that’s part of pulling it all together and being able to share it, and I think a lot of artists are drawing on stuff they haven’t shared before. It’s like everybody’s in isolation with the muse right now, like the muse of creativity is knocking on everybody’s door right now going ‘now is the time’!”

Morgan Joanel’s latest single Disappear is out now. Her upcoming EP will be released soon, so follow Morgan for the latest updates HERE

Purchase/Stream Disappear HERE

With thanks to Firestarter Music

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