By Sebastian Mackay
Interviewing is a lot like discovering. Artists come across your desk and there's a fair amount of 'who the hell are you?'. The next thing you know you're on the phone and there's a suspended silence before the hum and haw over a left field question. I'm ashamed to admit there was a fair amount of that during my interview withMorgan Evans (full disclosure: I'm the kind of guy that has heavy metal labels on speed dial, not country singers).
"Oh man, I'm a huge Wolverine guy," Evans says after a moment of thinking (and here we have the moment of discovery), "so I would have to say Wolverine."
At this point it stops being 'who the hell are you?' and becomes 'how the hell didn't I know you exist!?' (we bonded over X-Men and it was ace). The point here is this: you never know what you're getting with an interviewee and with a guy like Evans, you never really know what you're getting, even when you've been giggling like school boys.
"There's something I can tell you about that happened last night." His voice is serious, the conversation takes a sharp turn, the way an especially bad joke silences the room. "...I met this girl who'd lost a friend in a car accident and she told me they'd played 'While We're Young' [one of Evans' songs] at her funeral."
The jovial side of the conversation has gone all with a simple question about music and connection.
"And they told me," Evans continues, "it was the song that helped them get through it. They took me out to their truck and they'd had it sign written with my lyrics as a tribute to their friend. I was speechless. I gave them both a big cuddle and said if there's anything you need or anything I can do, then let me know."
Evans believes in Honesty (with a capital 'h') it's a recurring point when he talks about his music and from that last story it's clear what his kind of honesty can do for people. It's not surprising then that type of honesty can be a lot for him to bare.
"Absolutely, there are songs I struggle with [performing]. I watch videos back and see that I've gone completely into myself [that] I look down and close my eyes. I think people can recognise that and relate to it."
He talks about 'Carry On', a song from the While We're Young EP, "[it's] about picking yourself up and keeping going and you can tell if people are feeling it, so I do try to go back to that place."
The place is the day and time he was writing it, having one of his bad days where he was on the brink of giving up on music and, as he says, "getting a real job", something that he'd eventually do. Because, ironically, he couldn't be honest with himself.
"I've tried to write songs for radio or write different types of songs and different kinds of music. It wasn't working and people could see through it and when I listen back, I can see it through it."
In between the laughter and the male bonding session his voice shares the same vulnerability as his music. It's confessional and introspective but hecertainly isn't revisionist and he's definitely not an apologist. What he is a man who's given up on his dreams and found them again through wearing his heart on his sleeve.
"I want to get up on stage every night and I want to play songs that I care about and that are real and that I believe in."
He admits that's inherently self indulgentbut that it doesn't have to be a bad thing.
"It's all self indulgent," he answers slightly confused, "it's songwriting and I do it because I love it. I write a lot and I think I just put out the ones that are less self indulgent on the record."
Evans pauses for a moment.
"But I actually don't think about it at all...for me it's all very personal and I write down what I feel and what I'm thinking. But what's not self indulgent?"
He talks with such belief and such confidence in what he does that it's hard to believe he isn't better placed. But he's still being discovered and he's still worried about paying the bills, not that you could argue he's a sell out.
"It's building up for me [the following] but I do worry. It doesn't affect my songwriting. I don't try to write for radio because in a year's time when it comes around to putting the record out the song sounds old. I want it to be true and as honest as it can be and to tell true stories."
If there wasn't someone listening in on the call, ready to cut it off when it goes over time, it's clear that Evans would pour his heart out for the rest of the afternoon. Despite how heavy the conversation was, he returns to his jovial self just as quickly and the smile returns to his voice.
We end on the Top Gun theme song.
"I've always imagined myself walking onto the stage in slow motion to that song." He says laughing.
It was natural to encourage him and he agrees to try it out when he plays here next month, even if he does sound more encouraged than serious.
Morgan Evans seif titled album 'Morgan Evans' is out now!