By Alexander Rodriguez
Morgxn hates labels, and I am hard pressed to describe this singer/songwriter whose music is a culmination of his life’s journey so far, finding an identity in his hometown, in the LGBT community, the entertainment industry and beyond.
He left Nashville after coming out at the age of 18, performed in the original Broadway production of Spring Awakening, has peaked on both rock and alternative Billboard charts, played at Lollapalooza and Firefly Music Festival, performed live on the Jimmy Kimmel Show, and moved to Los Angeles – his music is a mashup of sounds, incorporating elements from a musical background inspired by everything from vaudeville, Stevie Wonder and Green Day to Nashville local talent. This year he released “vital : blue”, an EP of paired-down versions of some of the songs from his debut album, Vital – clearly showing how his music evolves and changes, not conforming to any genre or label.
Coming into Pride season, it’s refreshing to see someone who does not represent any one part of the community, but rather exemplifies all of the differences within in. I had the opportunity to chat with Morgxn (pronounced m AW r g uh n) as we discussed the creative side of music, social media, the LGBT community, and what his fans are saying.
Alexander: How would you describe your music to a new listener?
Morgxn: soulful. tinged in electronic elements but grounded in organic production.
Who were your earliest musical inspirations?
everything from Stevie Wonder to my mom’s piano friend Teri Reid who played around town. i had albums by Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins and Red Hot Chili Peppers on repeat. Nashville did open my mind to all kinds of music. not just the ones you hear about on TRL but the ones you discover just by hanging out around town
What was growing up in Nashville like – what did you learn the most?
i learned to be my own advocate. growing up in Nashville was difficult as it wasn’t really a place to be accepted for being anything other than a “southern gentleman” and i struggled to fit that mold. i wish someone had told me to make my own mold. i did fall in love with music and how it made me feel. it was my personal escape when most of the world didn’t make sense to me.
Your grandfather performed on the vaudeville stage, what tips did he give you about onstage performances?
my grandfather beamed at every performance – whether it was on a Broadway stage, at the Apollo Theater or his living room. his advice was more about life, but he always said “shit happens. so, keep smiling and singing”. i try everyday to remember those words.
You were an understudy in the original Broadway cast of Spring Awakening – what was it like moving to New York? What were the biggest takeaways, performance wise, from your Broadway experience?
i’ll never forget where i was when i got the call that they wanted me on Broadway. but everything about the experience challenged who i was becoming. i’m so grateful for telling that story and for doing something that scared me – but i constantly struggled with finding my voice during that journey. i never fit the mold that the director was looking for – and ultimately i was going through some personal changes at the time. the part of me that wanted to know more about myself and why i even sing was starting to become louder and louder. i realized i never asked myself who i really was and what i wanted to say. i have deep respect for the theater but ultimately my pull was to create from my heart.
What inspired your move from New York to Los Angeles?
i stayed in New York after Spring Awakening working odd jobs and piecing together an existence mostly held up by a day job and yoga. but my own music had really become my focus and i asked myself one day what the end game was – to work and work my whole life until i could then follow my dream… or take a leap and see what happens. so i moved.
What about Los Angeles surprised you the most?
it’s a lonely town. it’s so pretty and so thrilling. but the core of it is such a lonely isolating town. it was music that helped keep me moving.
What is your creative process when writing a new song?
the song dictates the process. but ultimately songwriting is a mystery and to pretend i have any idea what i’m doing would be a lie. some things i’ve learned to do are: explore, try a melody turn you’ve never taken, and trust the words that find their way to the surface.
With the advancement of technology, everyone has an output for music. How does a musician keep their voice heard? Is there an over-saturation of music out there?
i wonder what Patti Smith or Prince would say to this question. was it different for them? i won’t say there’s a better time or worse time, but i do believe it’s harder to be heard these days. and my only method is to keep going.
How much does social media play a part with your fans?
my fans on social media are what keep me grounded in what is real. the notes they send and the posts they tag me in- i see them and it re-inspires me to know that we see each other. before i put out music i had no idea who it would reach and i’m blown away hearing from people all over the world.
You came out at the age of 18. What was it like coming out in the South?
it was difficult. mostly because of the internal struggle to accept myself as something society had told me was “wrong.” it really took leaving home to get comfortable with opening myself up to new ways of living that aligned more closely with who i was becoming.
in today’s social climate, labels and mislabeling people is a hot button.
You have an opinion about labels – do you think they help the LGBT community identify with one another or do you think labels can be damaging?
i hate labels. i won’t back down from that. i grew up and only had 2 labels – gay or straight. now we are definitely discussing more “terms” but they are inherently limiting and, i think, an antithesis to full self-expression. the goal is not to fit in. the goal is to just be. and labels are boxes i don’t think help us in any way.
This year you made your debut on the Jimmy Kimmel show, what were you feeling right before you stepped out on stage?
i’m nervous 10/10. but something happened that day where i could see everyone else’s nerves and all i felt was immense gratitude for getting that stage that day. and i knew i was going to crush it. and i did.
How does Morgxn the person differ from Morgxn the stage performer the most?
in the liner notes for “songs in the key of life” Stevie Wonder shares his full name is Steveland Morris but praises “Stevie Wonder” as the vessel that allows Steveland to communicate his truth. in a way, i just didn’t feel a strong connection to my birth name after my dad passed and every made-up name felt false. morgxn is ultimately my true expression of who i am: released from past lives and past karma that i don’t need to be tied to anymore.
How do you keep your health and voice up while travelling on the road?
i don’t drink. don’t smoke. and drink a lot of water. it’s hard – not gonna lie. all i want to do is show up 100% everywhere and i’m just doing my best to keep my body and mind healthy so i can be present exactly where i’m at.
What is the music industry getting right? What is the industry doing wrong?
there’s a saying: in order to have something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done. i think we are seeing more interesting voices and hearts step up to the stage. breaking barriers and actually making art that reflects who they are. but the industry is still controlled by straight white men so even with some great social progress… there is still a disconnect with what actually makes it out the gate. i am lucky that my product manager is also queer and we share a language without words. So, there have been many causes and stories i have wanted to tell that he just inherently gets without explanation.
Is there a common theme you hear from your fans from audience to audience?
i have had many people recently tell me that my music has saved their life. i have said “you are what is vital to me” and i mean it – their support keeps me going. but recently i’ve gotten those words back and i’m truly speechless at how moving that is.
You have had a philanthropic nature even as a, youth serving on the board of Oasis Center Nashville as a teenager, where does that giving attitude come from?
i ask myself every day if what i’m doing is making a difference in someone’s life. that can be a difference made at home or, in my case, making sure i am positively impacting the communities around me. i think growing up as a troubled teen in the south, when i turned my focus elsewhere and wanted to help others i realized that my problems are small compared to people really in need of help. as a teenager i was working with teenagers that were homeless but there was no difference/no wall between us.
You worked with the Covenant House in California on an amazing project, #whatisvital, where you gave youth disposable cameras and worked with them to photograph what was vital to them. What did you learn most from them?
with any art project the hope is to make something that reflects a truth. i didn’t want to project what i wanted to see from them / i just wanted to give them a tool to create. the photos we developed showed a wide range of “what is vital” from friends to art to transportation. but what it showed me, most, is that we are all very connected by a lot of the same desires and hopes. that our circumstances may be different but we all crave (and DESERVE) to be seen and heard in very similar ways.
We are now in the midst of Pride season – what does the word “Pride” mean to you?
pride for who you are and who you are becoming.
What do you think the LGBT community needs to do the most in today’s current social and political climate?
stop fighting with each other through classifications. we are creating our own divides by trying to highlight one over the other. we need strength in numbers, not in division.
How has the dating/love life been treating you in this industry?
what love life? 🤙
What is your after-show ritual?
warm down and center myself on the ground and in my body.
What is your guilty pleasure song on your playlist?
no song is a guilty pleasure 👌
More importantly you can listen to his music on Spotify here: http://hollywoodrecs.co/morgxncomplete
Or his latest single A New Way on your favorite streaming platform: http://hollywoodrecs.co/anewway