“[HELP] feels like it matches my soul at this moment and thats really cool.”
Running late, I am convinced Morgan Saint will be appalled by my lack of professionalism. To my relief, I find a real life human waiting for me in the dead air of my first ever conference call interview. A soft voice pipes up out of the muzak ether, “Hey this is Morgan, sorry, I didn’t have any directions on how to get in, so I was just waiting on my label for the code. I’m sorry I didn’t mean to be late.”
I own up to my incompetence and we get to chatting. Talking with Morgan is easy and quickly all my scripted interview questions fly out the window. It feels like talking to an old friend, and that quality defines her allure as an artist. It’s the reason she has attracted a base of fans who will call in sick to work a week in advance to watch a live stream performance.
Morgan is in touch with herself and able to communicate that through her music, presentation, art and other media, but she also wants to be in touch with her fans. Morgan’s social media presence has less to do with promotion than it does with real connection.
Last month she tweeted:
and then proceeded to respond each of the individual replies.
She has a hand in everything to do with the Morgan Saint brand which succeeds in breaking down the barriers between the humanity of an artist and their public image.
“Keep Hanging On”
“I feel like I’m a musical artist but more than that I consider myself an artist. I really love creating things and especially worlds for things to live in… It helps me bring the story that I started sonically to the next chapter. To continue the story.”
Morgan Saint is breaking the mold. She takes to the internet and relys on herself above all and has cultivated an aesthetic and a sound that is entirely her own despite existing within a major label universe. She injects her D.I.Y. ethos into the industry machine as she is already entrenched in it. Normally artists have no choice but to start small. They produce and write their own work and they advertise themselves. If they’re lucky they get picked up by a label and their self-made work becomes demos for a collaborative project with the label and the resources that come along with it.
Morgan has succeeded in doing the whole thing ass backwards.
How? Starting with a major label deal and working with others on her sound that she felt she was outgrowing her previously released work. She left LA and went home to New York to begin a new phase of her career. In returning home she looked inward for inspiration. Forgoing any outside opinions and working in a studio she built in her Manhattan apartment, she began writing and recording HELP, a project born from her confidence in her ability to make her own art.
HELP is a testament to what can happen when the business supporting the project has the good sense to let their artist retain creative control.
“I think like any other human I’m constantly changing and evolving, especially in the last few years, I’ve really just come into myself on a personal level, so I feel like the music on this EP really reflects where I’m at right now which feels like hopefully where I am to stay. I feel settled in myself.”
HELP is a dramatic sonic departure from her work on 17 Hero and Alien. With the introduction of industrial, bass heavy instrumentals, HELP finds itself a contemporary of albums by FKA Twigs and Grimes, rather than Louis the Child, The Chainsmokers and Halsey. Not to belittle the major label hit factory that’s been churning that shit out ad nauseam since 2010, but it is a breath of fresh air to truly hear an artist in their music. HELP is a testament to what can happen when business has the good sense to step out of the way of their artists.
“The first two EPs, I worked with one person in particular, basically 100 percent him and I … I wrote all the songs and some of the music and he wrote some of the music with me as well.. I’m grateful for that experience and obviously it connected with my label and I’ve seen it connect with people as well, but I’m just really happy to have evolved from that and that sort of dynamic. This new music took a bit of time and I definitely went through changes in personal and professional life… but with this new body of work I fully just took control. I didn’t have anybody else, even in my close circle; I really cleaned house. I did it on my own for myself without any other opinions in the way and that felt really good… I really produced the whole EP but collabed with a few key people that I picked.
There was no ‘you need to work with this person’ or ‘you should work with this person’… it was a much different experience this time around… I was in a much better place, a much more stable, happy place and I think that allowed me to be super honest and take 110 percent full control of the music.”
Morgan maintains this control and clarity of vision through her visual art as well. She directed and shot the video for the title track along with her partner and family. She’s created an interactive website that recreates her own desktop, letting you click through folders exposing behind the scenes snippets of the recording process and inspirations for the project. It’s filled with mock-up drawings, hardcore punk fliers and anime imagery.
“I just wanted to share as much as possible about my process and where my head was at making this because it feels like a more personal project than ever.” She mused, “I’m constantly on my computer designing things and making things and editing. I keep everything in folders and stuff on my computer and I remember sitting there and was like ‘let me just share what’s on my desktop right now pertaining to this (HELP) new project. It would be cool to do an interactive desktop thing for all the people listening and watching so they can get an understanding of where my brain’s at a little bit more.’”
The punk connection is obvious in the structure, attitude and visuals of HELP. With six songs in 16 minutes, all self-produced and brutally honest, it embodies the ‘fuck it’ ethos we ascribe to punk music. But in a time when punk is increasingly contrived and tired, this record feels more true to form than anything FIDLAR or The Frights, quote un-quote punk bands, have ever put out. The punk element in Morgan is innate, it isn’t curated edge-lord bullshit or posturing for a specific aesthetic.
“I grew up skateboarding and punk is a part of that. Ive really been on a journey on a personal level to really find myself and settle into my true authentic self. The last year or so, when I can really confidently say I feel truly that way, it really brings me back to when I was really young. There’s a certain part of yourself when you’re young that’s really authentically you and I think in your early 20s and into the rest of your life you really lose that and maybe never find that again. And I think more than ever I’m coming back to my really young self, its really fun cool to feel like I’m circling back to that. Like why did I give up skateboarding? I don’t know. We get sidetracked or lost in life a little bit but it’s fun to be back in that state of mind and I’m excited to make more music and see where that takes me.”
The format works for her in the same way it worked for Minor Threat. It’s a blatant disregard for what’s deemed marketable and an emphasis on power and emotion. A reversion to the most raw and youthful version of oneself. HELP is arrogant, brazen and, above all else, honest. We are starved for honesty in a world that is always trying to sell us art. But art should connect with you. You owe art nothing as art owes you nothing. It’s a mutually beneficial exchange of feelings and ideas from one person to the next. Morgan Saint did her part. She held up her end of the artist/listener relationship by laying bare her most true and authentic self, and if it connects with you then you are obligated to hold up your end of the deal and support. If anything is important right now it’s honesty and genuine support of those who are honest.
It all comes back to her taking charge of her own vision, sound, and iconography, and that’s why she is creating staying power that so often is lost in middling pop stars’ careers in the streaming era. 7 million plays isn’t as valuable as connecting with 700 people. Morgan is rebuilding from the ground up, but if HELP is any indicator of things to come, we will be hearing and seeing a lot more Morgan Saint in the future.
“I know myself, I’ve always been this way, you can ask my mom… I function best when I’m not being told how or what to do, be be able to have this freedom makes me make better art… Im going to be really on top of making sure things stay this way for me, so I make the art that I want to make”