Deconstructed

Deconstructed2

A spindly body and tumbling locks mark Kendra Morris’ tangible aesthetic. But it’s her supple powerhouse of a voice that leaves an indelible impression. The 30-something Florida-bred singer- songwriter is nestled in her East Village apartment in New York. Every bit as unique as the eclectic accumulation of found objects that fill every nook and cranny of her home, Morris’ slight frame seems incapable of holding her formidable vocal instrument.

“I’ve gone after singing my whole life,” she states simply. “It’s my first memory.” In 2012 Morris released Banshee, a collection of beautiful, painstakingly crafted songs that illustrate her soul and jazz upbringing in a thoroughly modern style, with her rich voice leading the way. Banshee came after Morris did what she could to get her voice heard. She drove through Alligator Alley [section of Interstate 75 and State Road 93, Florida] in the dead of night in a hailstorm of logs flying off a truck bed to compete in the WB’s Pop Stars. She auditioned for the second season of Fox’s American Idol and was shooed off after two notes. She was also a contestant on Fuse’s Redemption Song  and exited after mooning the camera.

“You should never put rules on finding your way into the music world,” says Morris. “Your journey is your own journey. I’ve always been one of those people who say yes to opportunities and yes to new experiences and yes to new adventures. I’m so glad about the way things panned out because I needed to go through all these crazy experiences to be where I am now.”

Morris writes and records the majority of her material with the producer Jeremy Page, a kindred spirit. The two discovered a mutual interest in taking things apart and making something new out of something old. This applies to the fresh take on classic sounds heard on Banshee as much as it does to Morris’ current album of cover songs, Mockingbird.

Deconstructed

While waiting for Banshee to be released Morris started putting out a cover song every week. The idea for Mockingbird came from this exercise, which taps handily into Morris’ deep-rooted love for a great song. “A great song is an invisible net that casts itself and brings you in to get attached to the music,” she says. “Doing covers, people usually find songs that have cast their net to them and then turn them into their own language, finding their own voice to something that is already great, paying homage to it, but giving it their own style.”

Nothing is off-limits when choosing songs for Mockingbird: a spooky take on Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” (which found its way onto the Dead Man Down trailer), a saucy attempt at Metallica’s “Ride the Lightning,” a ballad turn of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun,” a heartbreaking version of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game,” a psychedelic interpretation of the Proclaimers’ “500 Miles” (a duet with That Handsome Devil’s Godforbid), and a Motown-inspired revisit of the Rolling Stones’ “Miss You.”  Selecting numbers that spoke to her and interested her, Morris so definitively put her own stamp on these songs, they could have been penned by her—with many of them virtually unrecognizable from the originals.

“I would listen to a song over and over, trying to find a new relationship with it,” says Morris. “I would try to hear this other song that could be, tried to find myself in it.”

It’s not just herself Morris has found in the covers of Mockingbird—rather, she has uncovered a whole new world for already classic standards.

Text by Lily Moayeri
Photography by Marc McAndrews

THE SPRING ISSUE

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