Photo illustration by Johansen Peralta
Aug 28, 2023
On her new album, singer Kendra Morris is who you’ve been waiting for
With 'I Am What I'm Waiting For,' the singer-songwriter embraces discomfort and that not-so-special feeling
For someone who sings about not wanting to be special on her new album, “I Am What I’m Waiting For,” Kendra Morris is pretty special.
Morris is a Greenpoint-based soul singer, songwriter and visual artist who has been writing, singing, and recording, and making animations steadily at her own pace and on her own terms since her 2010 self-titled debut. She has toured with guitar legend Dennis Coffey. She released music with the beloved magazine and record label Wax Poetics and is now on Colemine Records’ subsidiary Karma Chief. She’s collaborated with the likes of 9th Wonder, MF Doom, Czarface, Ghostface Killah and Scarlet Johansson, among others.
And this week, Morris joins us on “Brooklyn Magazine: The Podcast” to talk about her new album, out last Friday and produced by Little Shalimar of Run the Jewels. The lead single, “What Are You Waiting For,” is propulsive and insistent and sexy. “When I Go To Space,” the first track on the album, is lilting and a little waltzy, ethereal and dreamy. It’s a slightly different sound for her and a tune she thought was almost too weird to record. It’s lovely. True to her autobiographical songwriting style, “Dominoes” released as a video last week, comically chronicles the pitfalls of married life. We’ll get into that.
The new album is out just a year after “Nine Lives,” which was itself a culmination of almost a decade’s worth of work. Born in Northern California and raised in St. Petersburg, Morris was a bartender for 13 years at Library Bar in the Lower East Side where she honed her craft — and, for a while, her drinking skills. We talk about forging her own path in the music industry, her process and her visual art.
The following is a transcript of our conversation, which airs as an episode of “Brooklyn Magazine: The Podcast,” edited for clarity and, to a lesser extent, concision. Listen in the player above or wherever you get your podcasts.
It’s great to have you here on record release day.
Yeah, thanks for having me. I have so much anxiety on well for shows and especially record releases, so I was super excited to be able to do this and hang out with you because it kind of helps funnel my energy a little bit.
Is this the first press-related conversation on the day of your release?
Yeah, aside from some emails. I called my dad and talked to him for a little bit this morning. So yeah, this is technically my first conversation.
This is totally serendipitous too. So you feel anxious? Do you typically feel anxious on a record release day? What is it? Is it setting something out into the world and it’s no longer yours? What is the anxiety?
It’s control issues. So yeah, part of it is just that. I have to let go of it. I did my part. I put everything into it that I had available, but now I have to let go of it. And I have no control over what happens with it, where it goes, how it’s received, absolutely no control, and so that kind of makes me crazy like, “What if they don’t like it? What if nothing happens?” All the “what ifs,” and there’s not a thing I can do about it. It’s just accepting it, I guess.
The anxiety that you’re talking about is interesting to me because the title itself, smacks of self-assurance, “I Am What I’m Waiting For.” It feels like a lot of your music over the years has been an act of self-exploration or processing or therapy. What are you saying with this title? Have you arrived at a place of peace or self-assurance? You are what you’re waiting for?
I’ll never arrive until the day I die. I feel like we never arrive. My dad’s an illustrator. He’s a visual artist. And I grew up around art. And I remember this poster contest I entered in the fourth grade or the fifth grade. I made this huge mistake and I messed it up. And I was like, “No, I can never win. I’ve ruined the poster.” And my dad turned the poster for me, and he was like, “Look at it again.” He’s like, “What do you see?”
He forced me to look at the mistake and see a new picture in it. And so then I rebuilt the poster around that and it was the thing that it instilled in me: to embrace your mistakes, that they’re meant to happen because you just got to follow the arrows of where it takes you. From that, I really like to think of that as one major thing in my life that made me realize that I don’t want to hide my mistakes in the closet.
I used to live at Bushwick in this loft, and we didn’t have walls. This was mid 2000s. I found an 8-track over at Rivington Guitars, 8-track recorder, and I would just write songs all day and all night in my weird wall-less closet room thing. And then I would put them on MySpace and they were super rough, super crappy, but I was really excited about the songs and I just wanted to share. It was just about being okay with showing these vulnerable sides of you instead of waiting for the perfection because I don’t think the perfection ever arrives. You wait forever then.
A lot of that is interesting because I was asking about your self-exploration of music and you start talking about imperfections, which is not necessarily what I was alluding to, but that’s right where you went. And I read a quote from you recently about, on “Nine Lives,” your previous album, the song “Penny Pincher,” which you said you love because your voice was imperfect. You like those imperfections because why? They’re more honest?
With “Penny Pincher,” we did multiple takes of a song, but I remember saying to Jeremy [Page], the producer of that record, I was like, “No, we need to go with this first take,” because that’s when I was at a breaking point emotionally. That’s when I was in the song itself. And I think when a vocalist or a writer when we’re constantly singing the same line over and over again to get it perfect, it starts to just replicate itself rather than that emotion. The music that I’m most attracted to is the emotion of music that isn’t always caught on a recording. Maybe it’s buried in the demos. So many people are like, “Don’t listen to the demos,” but a lot of times the demos are the best thing.
They’re raw and honest.
This record, when Torbitt [Schwartz, aka Little Shalimar] and I cut a lot of the vocals on this record … it was just in his Bed-Stuy basement studio, and it was like a lot of the vocals. It wasn’t like, “Oh, we need a day of redoing all the vocals. We would listen through.” And I was like, “No, that first take is the tape. I was in it right there.” And yeah, maybe there’s a little bit of pitch right here or there’s a crack. It’s part of the thumbprint of the song and the story.
“Nine Lives,” which “Penny Pincher” was on, felt like the closing of a chapter. It was 10 years since “Banshee” came out. And that was just last year, so is this something like a turning of the page, a new chapter, or is that too reductive?
This record was really, really scary for me because as someone who preaches about, “Don’t get in your comfort zone,” I was in the comfort zone. Jeremy, who I had done “Banshee” with, “Mockingbird” with, “Nine Lives” with, we were longtime collaborators and really crafted a sound together. We were touring partners. And so with this record, it was just me realizing, “OK, I’m in a comfort zone. I want to make records until the day I die. But I don’t want to make the same records.” And the only way to do that is to just completely just get out of my comfort zone. So with that, it was working with a new producer, just approaching the record completely different, writing about material I’d never touched before. I used to think, “No one wants to hear a song about this,” but then I was like, “But it’s my thought.” There’s nothing wrong with your thought. This song “Special,” that’s one of my favorite lyrical songs.
I like that you said that because on the hook you say, “I don’t wanna be special,” over and over again, which is a weird thing for someone who’s used to being on stage in front of a band with this giant voice. It’s a pretty special gig. What makes you not special?
I’m just an ordinary everyday person. And the whole reason that song came about is because I hate flying. There’s this thing that I tell myself, because I have to fly for work now pretty frequently. And what I started thinking about is I go to the deli a lot and sometimes I play the scratchies. I see a lot of people play them. And I think about statistics, and there’s the statistic of your plane crashing is the same as winning the lottery. And I always think, how often have I ever won a contest, won the lottery? The most I ever won was maybe 50 bucks at Christmas stocking stuffer scratchies.
Yeah, not bad. I’m not a winner though with the lottery, so I’m like, “Well, I’m not fucking special.” That’s the term for me. I’m not special. I didn’t win the lottery today. I’m not special enough — knock on wood — I’m not special enough for my plane to drop out of the sky. And then I just started thinking, “That’s OK. I don’t care about winning the lottery.” Because I did this, went down this rabbit hole about the bad luck of lottery winners anyways. Shit goes wrong. There’s a couple Florida lottery winners. There’s always murder. Crazy stuff.
Suicides. Yeah, a hundred percent.
I don’t want to be a lottery winner on that end of the spectrum. And I don’t want to be a fucking Kardashian on that end of the spectrum or what’s his face falling out of his plane. I am just so happy to walk in my pajamas across the street, get a coffee. Yeah, I see my record on the wall. That’s pretty cool.
What’s your bodega order? What’s your go-to?
God Bless [USA] Deli is kitty quarter from me, and I really like the lamb over rice.
This record is different. You’re working with Little Shalimar — you referenced a new producer — from Run the Jewels. What went into this that is sonically different? You are outside of your comfort zone. In what way? What do you mean? How?
I really loved that he pushed me. I’d be like, “Here, I wrote this,” and he’d be like, “Is that it?” to push me further. And sometimes you just want to be like, “No, it’s good, it’s perfect, it’s done.” And it’s like, “No, it’s not.” Lyrically, it would be like with “Special,” I could have landed on one line, but it was like, “Well, let’s dig in deeper to the specific surreal storytelling.” We were both really communicative through the entire process of the record.
When I write something, I’d be like, “I hear this in my head. This line reminds me of the suburbs at night in the evening.” Or he’d let me play around, touch his keyboards. I brought my guitar sometimes. With “Nightsnake,” I had a guitar hook and I had started and I was like, “I’m hearing this.” And so then we kind of go back and forth. And it was just also not being afraid to just try something kind of weird, try something different. Torbitt’s a real visual person like I am. And so it’s finding sounds that match what you see. I think creativity is not just a linear thing, it’s a whole experience. So how can you bring that experience into your song or your record.
And you are a visual artist. You started with visual art with the story about your dad, and now you’re talking about being a visual thinker even with sounds. Talk about the visual art side of your career. You were doing collaging early on and then you’re doing stop motion animation. You do your own videos for your collabs with Czarface and Doom. Obviously you’re a musician first. Where does the visual art fit into this?
I used to bartend in this restaurant in Florida, and I would show up in a uniform and I’d cut it up and I’d always get in trouble. I was like, “Well, I want to do fashion. I’m a singer, but I’ll do this and this.” And I remember one of the regulars being like, “Haven’t you heard of Jack of all trades, master of none”? And so then I was like, “Oh, I guess I’ll just be a singer.” So I really just focused on that. But growing up around very creative family, and also I just always liked to put my hands in everything, always. I was always drawing in school. They all kind of lump together, and I couldn’t run from that. For me, when I start to feel stagnant, it doesn’t mean that there’s a block, a writer’s block. It means, for me, what I’ve discovered for myself is to just shift the focus, take a break from that and shift it to a different medium.
I love that.
It doesn’t mean that my brain isn’t still processing music and a song; it just means that it needs to process it in another way. You have to put something on autopilot for a little bit, and then I come back to writing and my writing is better. I’m so much more reinspired. So I sort of fell into with the collaging. I was bartending at Library Bar for a million years.
Thirteen, I heard. That’s a long time. I have a not-safe-for-work Library Bar story, but I’m sure you do too.
I was probably your bartender. Oh, my gosh. But I’d sit there, and it’s funny ’cause I am friends with my old boss and he had all these vintage nature books on the wall. I think they might’ve been at his grandma’s or something, but I’d sit there all day and I’d be bored. It was just me and two guys at the bar. And I just would start pulling stuff off the walls and cutting it up, and I was like, “Ooh, this is cool.” I started making collages.
I remember I got a stop motion thing on my phone one day and was doing some of that. It just kept being like, “Oh, I should try this.” I never had video budgets or anything. So when I was making my own music, I was like, “I need a video. Maybe I’ll try this animation. I really want to do this collaging, but I also want to sing.” And it just all kind of started flowing together because I remember thinking about that guy who’s like, “Blah, blah, blah, Jack of all, master of none.” And I was kind of like, “Then screw you. Why can’t I make them all work together?”
Library Bar is also where you worked on “Banshee” and “Mockingbird” all while you were there. What was that period like for you? I know people in the industry, it’s frustrating, it’s a slog to work in the industry, but you do have the daytime or other hours to create. Was that a fruitful period, frustrating period?
It was a little bit of both. There was definitely some fruitfulness. It was a dive bar. And very much I thought that to connect with my customers, I needed to drink with them and it was fun and it was great, but then that would kind of eat up time because suddenly I would have hangovers and not have the energy to put specific energy into what I wanted to do. So I will say, I worked there 13 years, so part of that time I was known as the party bartender of Library Bar. I felt like I was a rock star, that I made it. I was the, “Kendra’s the funnest bartender. She’ll get up on the bar. She will throw a napkin dispenser at your head.” That’s another story.
Sounds like fun to me. We’ll have to have an “after dark” version of this podcast.
But I remember one day I woke up with a nasty hangover, and this is probably nine years or eight years had gone by and I was just like, “Man, I moved to New York really with this dream, dreamt of getting out of Florida. No squashing Florida, but it was like, I’m going to get out of Florida, go to New York and be a singer.” Suddenly, I was the best drinker. I had nothing to show for except how I was fun bartender. And I woke up one day and was just like, “Man, you cannot get time back. Time’s the only thing that you can’t put a price tag on.” And that was when I was like, all right, something’s got to change. Am I really fonder of bartender girl, or am I a musician? And I had to choose between the two at that point.
And for me, this is just my story, this is what happened for me: As I realized that that was when everything just started moving because suddenly I had energy and could take that time. It was just focus and understanding. I still wound up having so much fun as a bartender, but that was when I really started collaging on the day shift because I’d be sitting there with my two customers. And instead of doing multiple shots with them, which was a lot of fun, but it was like, “Hey guys, want to do some arts and crafts?” And I’d get them to go with me and then suddenly I could sit and hang out with people and then also be clear enough to go to shows and meet people. And that’s when I think it really became fruitful as a bartender because I was just clear to the people that would come in after shows.
Danger Mouse was a regular near the end. And I’m such a fan of his work, and I remember being so nervous. Because when you’re a bartender you want to play it cool with who comes in the bar, but I was just like, “Brian, I’m a huge fan of what you do.” I’m so glad that I was able to just really take the rest of my time there and flip it and just focus. And be like working in this amazing East Village bar that is right by Bowery Ballroom, Mercury Lounge. Anton [Newcombe] from Brian Jonestown lived upstairs, so he was a regular, he’d bring in sometimes James Eha or different amazing writers that I looked up to. This guy Marc Spitz was a regular, and he’d written this beautiful book about trying to get the Smiths back together.
I connected with him, and it was just suddenly I could be like, “Wow, this bar is a part of my story. I could feel it crafting me in it.” I’d never really talked about this. I love that in my bio, I’m really talking about my time at this bar now because it was a huge part of, I feel like that’s in this record too, all these elements of New York, this life that I dreamt of is now here.
Coming whole, yeah. And you wrote about your relationship with alcohol in “Nine Lives” on the song “Dry.”
I’m sober right now, but I had a kid and then was like, “Oh, I’m normal. I can drink again because I’m responsible adult.” So I tried, and at that time it didn’t work again. So I’m cool with talking about it, but for me, I’m just a better person like this.
Clearer, more productive. Yeah, I’ve heard that story over and over again. That song was on “Nine Lives,” which you essentially had nine years to put together or was a culmination of a decade, whereas this one is coming out a year after that and it does still explore those sort of personal facets of your life. Although you’re saying you’re doing it through a different lens or you’re like, “I don’t think people would be interested in this.” I’m thinking in particular of songs like “Dominoes,” which the video’s out today. It’s about marital not-so-bliss.
Oh, I can just be frank on that one. I wrote that song in 30 minutes because we needed two more songs for the record. [Torbitt] sent me a couple ideas. I was trying to clean. Cleaning is a thing that makes me feel like I kind of meditate through it, just helps me get my thoughts for the day. [My husband is] like sleeping the day away. And I was just like, “That’s it. Give me my pen.” And it just all suddenly I started the line, and then I was like, “Oh, no. Oh, no.” And the song just dumped out of me. Every single pet peeve just dumped. And I was laughing because, I mean, these little things don’t change how much I care about my partner. But, of course, I was so annoyed.
I’ve journaled since I was 13 years old, so I know the power of a pen, of just getting it and I really was just airing it all. And I was like, “I’m going to put this into the song. I’m going to clean the house, and then I’m going to not do all these dishes.” And suddenly it was funny because he slept through the entire writing of the song. And then that night he’s doing something in the kitchen and he was feeling a little loosey-goosey and suddenly he looks at me and he starts singing the “hill to hell” line about his dishes ’cause there’s a line, “Your dishes are piled up like a hill to hell, and if I climb that hill, I’m going to do something bad.” And he just looks at me and starts stinging at me. And I was like, “You know what, go ahead. Go ahead.” So it was just funny because then when it came time to make the video, I was like, “The only way this video is happening is if he stars in it.”
I was going to ask if that was him.
That’s him. I cannot believe that he agreed to that. He’s a tattooer, heavy in the tattoo community and we kind of keep our worlds separate, so I can’t believe he did that. It was such a good sport.
I love the cover by the way. It’s giving me Nancy Sinatra vibes a little bit.
Oh, totally. I remember when we came up with the title for the record. And then I just remember I was sitting in my car, I get my best ideas during alternate street cleaning. If you have a car in New York, you know.
You got to move it. Yeah.
So I remember sitting there, and I just was like, “I want to be a clock.” And I just remember texting Terry at the label and Torbet, and I was just like, “I want to be a giant clock.” And everyone’s like, “What?” And I was like, “That’s it. What am I waiting for it. I’m a giant clock.” And I remember suddenly still in my car googling where to find a giant clock costume. Let me tell you, that’s not a popular Halloween costume.
Right? So again, my poor husband that I write horrible things about, I’m like, “Hey, you’re going to help me make a clock.” He made that clock out of pool noodles from the Dollar store, gold spray paint and cardboard.
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You wouldn’t know it. It looks great.
And nights of not sleeping and me being like, “No, this.” And then I came up with the rest of it, but I think I’m also just so proud of this record because it is a visual conception of mine too and of many people involved, it takes a team. But my friend Milton [Arellano], who did the cover, he also did the photo booklet on the inside. We went around in the middle of December, and I was like, “We need to go on a clock adventure.” So I put on the clock outfit, and we documented an entire day going to places that you wait. We went to Penn Station, Grand Central Station, just go to the train that I take everywhere. And then it was freezing and my hands were numb.
You’re holding up a picture of you in the middle of Grand Central Terminal wearing a clock, a giant clock.
The funniest thing was actually — I will say this is scary but funny — we’re taking a break ’cause my hands are cold. We’re in Times Square, like a Panera or something. I’m eating, taking off my gloves, I’m eating croissant. There’s a table of high schoolers, and they all get in an argument staring at the clock discussing what time it is.
Isn’t that terrifying?
What time was it on your clock?
What were you like as a kid? What’s the Kendra Morris origin story? You talked about art. What was your first musical obsession?
My first musical obsession, I had this tape, I don’t know if it was my parents’, but it was called “Cruising Classics.” And it was like this tape, it had a drawing of a car from the ’50s and it was just a compilation and it had like…
Like CBS record club cassette of the month kind thing.
Totally. And I think it had The Shirelles, and then it had Buddy Holly. And I would play it and dance in the front of the mirror by myself in my room for hours. I didn’t listen to the pop station so much. I listened to the oldies station, U92. That was me always doing arts and crafts in my room and listening and dancing and singing along to everything. I had fake radio shows. I had a karaoke machine that I used for multiple things. I had pretend bands. I would make people give me money to watch me just perform lip sync, anything. I was never the cool kid. I was just a goofy, sometimes made-fun-of kid, sometimes a bright student.
But to look at you now, certainly the aesthetic you have is just pitch perfect. It looks great. It’s like Farrah Fawcett meets Amy Winehouse. At what point did you know you could sing or that someone was like, “You’ve got a good voice,” or that this was a serious endeavor to embark on?
Well, there’s a couple points. When I was really little, I would stand in front of my parents’ friends, and it would be like, “Do you want the little voice or the big voice?” And when they said the big voice, I would just open my mouth. I have videos of it. I would do my vibrato like [sings] “ahhhhh!” I was like, “Oh, they really liked it. I think this is good.” But then I also went to Arts High School. I was studying musical theater. And I remember, I never really was getting cast in things at first. I was just one of the villain kids. I wasn’t the star of the class.
And I remember we always had to do performances in front of our classmates. I picked “Aquarius” from “Hair.” I picked that because I wasn’t into all the other musical songs. I thought they were kind of corny, but I was like, “This one’s groovy.” And I remember I picked it and I sang it and I remember all the kids looking and be like, “Kendra can sing.” I just remember being like, “I can? I could sing.” And so that was kind of another marker for me of also realizing, I don’t know about musical theater, but I do think I want to just sing. Is there a job for people that just want to sing and make songs?
And that’s when I actually started flunking out of musical theater. I had a guidance counselor that was really encouraging, and he got me involved in different singing at events and stuff. And I just suddenly started realizing, “Oh, this is what I want.” I remember going and auditioning to sing the national anthem for ball games, anything. From there, it was like, that was sort of my projection. Even I didn’t want to go to college, but everyone’s like, “Well, that’s what you do.” I remember I was a C student. I got rejected from all the state schools. And then USF ended up accepting me, but I went there with no major and just sang in bands and basically flunked out of that and came home after two semesters in college and was like, “I’m wasting money. I just want to sing. I just need to do that.”
Is that why you moved to New York?
I still didn’t move to New York. Then I was like, “I want to be a singer in Florida.” I love you, Florida. I do. But yeah, I tried to do bands in Florida. When I tell my story, I realize how long I’ve been doing this.
Fast forward. You’re in New York, your first 45 you do with Wax Poetics. I was a subscriber. You record “Seaside,” which leads almost right away to a collaboration with Dennis Coffey, this huge legendary session guitarist, Detroit-based, one of the most sampled guitar players in history of hip hop. Talk about that experience.
That was crazy. Yeah. I put out that 45, and one of the Wax Poetics readers, this guy, Chris, was managing Dennis at the time, for Dennis’s new record, which had Mayer Hawthorne on the record. I want to say it had Detroit Cobras. Rachel Nagy was on. She was trying to bring Dennis back to another generation. [Chris] was a big Wax Poetics collector and he messaged the label and was like, “Hey, does Kendra want to come sing for Dennis? We have all these guest artists on the record, but they can’t tour with them. Does she want to come sing with Dennis at South by Southwest and do maybe Bonnaroo in a couple dates?”
This is off the strength of one 45.
The strength of one 45 and the wonderful Wax Poetics magazine. But that’s crazy because, you know what, the Dennis thing, it’s so fun looking back at the way branches and connections because of the Dennis thing is exactly how I connected with DJ Premier.
And he remixed “Concrete Waves,” one of your early singles. And you work with 9th Wonder, MF Doom, Czarface, Ghostface Killah, Scarlett Johansson. This run of collabs that you had right out the gate more or less is super impressive and diverse. Who seeks who out? How do you choose who to collaborate with? Doom especially, what do you learn from MF Doom?
Well, I unfortunately never got to meet him.
That was going to be one of my questions.
I would love to have. I have met Inspectah Deck, and he’s wonderful and really tall. But Doom, I didn’t get to meet. That was straight through the Czarface guys, Esoteric and 7L and Jeremy Page who has been producing a lot of the Czar-Keys stuff. But I started singing some of the samples for Czarface, and then they would throw up me things here and there, and then it became a little more like, “Oh, the song, ‘Phantoms,'” which is actually one of my favorite Czarface songs. And that one has Doom, it has Open Mike Eagle, who I love. But that was a song that I had done off of my first EP that Jeremy and I had self-released. We had put out a song called “Spooky Boy.” And 7L was like, “Hey, can we use this?” I rerecorded it for them, but it’s kind of been just little things here and there.
I was talking to my old best friend from high school when I was in Florida last week, and she was like, “Man, you’re doing it. You live in New York and you’re artist and you’re making a living and you are doing.” I was like, “What’s doing it?” She’s like, “You’re doing it and you did it on your own terms.” And I looked at her and I was like, “No, I did. I have done it on my own terms.” I’ve never had to sacrifice a piece of myself. I think maybe that’s why my career has, whether you want to say it’s been so long or taken so long or whatever, however we want to look at it. For me, I look at it like, I’ve just been in this game because I think I’ve always just kind of listened to my gut and I think with artists that I’ve worked with, I feel like my gut, if something doesn’t feel right, I trust my gut, my guts. 90 percent of the time it’s right.
All those artists that you mentioned are all, they seem like birds of a feather, sort of musical spiritual animals, all very sort of independent and aesthetically interesting and informed by a lot of the similar background and totally works. And then you hook up with Colemine Records, which is a great label. It’s one of my favorites. We recently had your label mate, Eli “Paperboy” Reed on the podcast. Talk about working with Colemine and what that has afforded you with the past couple records.
Well, it’s funny. I went up on Colemine ’cause I had Terry [Cole]’s email. And I called, emailed him and I was like, “Hey, I don’t know. I’m a singer, put out some records with Wax Poetics.” And I’m forever indebted to Wax Poetics because I feel like that’s opened a lot of doors because people know what a prolific magazine that was.
And just deep credibility in the music space.
And he knew who I was immediately from my previous releases with them, so I think that got his attention. He wrote me back, and I just sent him some music. This whole time between “Banshee” and before Colemine. I never stopped working. I never stopped writing. Creating is a part of me. I’ve done it for so long through so much. Even those hangovers at Library, I was still writing with a hangover.
Pro players play hurt.
It was just that I was trying to just put stuff out however I could on whatever platform. I was just putting out singles ’cause I had self-release “Babble.” That was really, really, really depressing and exhausting because I was really proud of the work on that, and nobody even saw it. I don’t think I got one review. It just flew under the radar and I remember I collaged 50 of the record covers individually, put so much into it, did all the video work, and I had had a newborn at this time. So after that I was like, “I’m never putting out a record again. I’ll just do singles,” ’cause of course I’m going to put out music no matter what. I was being stubborn, and that took so much out of me. I’m just going to put out singles and whoever hears them hears them. But then, along comes Terry of Colemine and I see the cool stuff he’s doing and I was just like, “All right, I’m going to just send an email.” You never know.
It was kind of a lot how things started with me and Wax Poetics. We did a 45 and really connected on personal and creative levels, and we’re like, “Let’s do a record.” We just really connected. I am so grateful for that label because we’ve trusted each other. They’ve never been like, “We think you need to be like this or we want your songs to be like this.” I’ve been like, “Hey, Terry, we’re working on this record, and I want to be a clock.” And he’s like, “Cool, man. Awesome. Let’s do it. All right.”
Are you going on tour?
A lot actually. Basically I’m touring this entire fall. I’m going to go through the South, then I’ll go to Europe for about three weeks, three and a half weeks, and then I’m going to go to the Midwest, and then I think maybe West Coast next year. But the dates have just kind of started filling up, and I’m excited. I didn’t know if I’d be someone that liked the road. I love it.
So much. Is that going to be hard now that you have a kid though?
I did a decent amount of touring last year. Luckily my husband’s a tattooer, so we both kind of can build our schedules, move our schedules around a little bit. This will be the most I’ve toured, but because I’m in and out. The longest tour is the Europe one for three weeks, and then I come back for 10 days. So it’s kind of like I get to do little resets, like go on the road, come back, kind of clean the house. It’s so serious to clean the house.
So you’re in Greenpoint now, right? What’s a typical day? When you’re doing your rounds? You don’t have anything to do or any work. You want to shout out any coffee shops, bars, restaurants, whatever?
There’s an amazing coffee shop record store across the street from me called For The Record on Manhattan Avenue.
Yeah, you posted on Instagram from there minutes before we got on the mics.
Yep, I ran across the street. “Can I get a picture real quick?” I go there every morning, and I love cold brew. I don’t like my own coffee. I just don’t. So I go get my cold brews there. Even in the winter. Get my cold brew, say hi to Lucas, the owner. And then during the day, usually a lot of it’s hanging out, and I got a bird listening app. So if the weather’s good, I sit out back and I write.
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A bird listening app? What is that? It’s like Shazam?
Yeah, it’s called Merlin. Yeah, it’s the Shazam for birds. You should get it. It’s so cool. It’s called Merlin, and I can just sit out there and I’ll identify a couple birds, journal a little bit. And then after taking my bike around, so I ride my bike down Manhattan, I go to The Thing.
The Thing is dope. Is it back?
Yeah, they’re back. I was so sad. They’re back on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Half of my apartment is filled with things that I get from The Thing. I got this orange cup. I watched it sitting outside there for a month. I was like, “You know what that cup is for me.”
Anything you want to announce or say?
My new record’s out today, “I Am What I’m Waiting For,” on Karma Chief Records. And I will say, if you have a record player, if you don’t have a record player, go get the record because you can directly support an artist and a small business and your community. That’s three for one.
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