Shellie Morris
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Shellie Morris

Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia | INDIE

Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia | INDIE
Band Folk Acoustic


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"Shellie Morris"

For singer-songwriter Shellie Morris, it was a search for her spiritual roots that inspired her to express herself through music.

Growing up the sole Aboriginal member of an otherwise non-Aboriginal Sydney family, Shellie has always maintained pride in her cultural roots, and has shared her journey and its musical offerings with audiences worldwide.

Now, she's using her talents to help those from other cultures communicate their struggles to the world through performance.

South Australian correspondent Karen Ashford caught up with Shellie Morris at WOMADelaide to find out where her journey will take her next.


VOICEOVER: Shellie Morris sings heartfelt songs of love and loss, forged from personal experience. Her story of dislocation and her journey to reconnect with her roots is one she shares with audiences as she explains what it's like growing up Aboriginal in a white world.

SHELLIE MORRIS: I grew up in Sydney and I was adopted by a beautiful non-Indigenous family, who I love very much. When times got tough - because I was brought up on the south side of Sydney and I was the only Aboriginal person at school - when times got tough they told me I had the same rights as everybody else. I love them very much.

VOICEOVER: Those tough times steeled her resolve against racism and made her determined to wear her Aboriginality with pride. She trained as an opera singer but found that writing her own songs was a better fit. Her talent has produced two albums with a third on the way, and taken her from the bush to the Black Arm Band, Sydney Opera House, London Festival Hall and the opening of the Winter Olympics. But still she returns to her roots.

SHELLIE MORRIS: I work within remote communities and work in over 40 of those doing song-writing, recording, learning the languages, sitting down with if ladies, and now branching out into with working with the refugees in Darwin - the Liberian women - and putting on a big show.

VOICEOVER: The first show was such a hit she is now working with the Liberian refugees on a project called 'Liberty Songs', a stage show to tour nationally in coming months.

SHELLIE MORRIS: You'll hear the true story of about Aboriginal Australia, about our struggles, and you'll also hear the Liberian story, about their struggles, and as women and the things that they focus on, which is community, which is family, which is land and culture, which is exactly the same as us.

VOICEOVER: And another cultural experience beckons with this award-winning artist heading to Japan at the end of the year.
Source: Living Black SBS

- Living Black SBS (May 17, 2010)
- Living Black SBS

"Indigenous Spotlight (25 May 2009)"

Darwin-based singer/songwriter Shellie
Morris creates cathartic music infused
with a disarming honesty and entrancing
openness. Her broad appeal has seen her
share the stage with the likes of You Am I,
Jimmy Little, Tiddas and Magic Dirt as well
as earning her the Best Female Artist Award
at both the 2004 and 2005 NT Indigenous
Music Awards. An Ambassador for the
Fred Hollows Foundation as well as having
key involvement in the Indigenous Literacy
Project throughout the Katherine region,
Morris has also taken her storytelling skills
into remote communities to collaborate and
work with students and families. With two
albums released, Shellie Morris (2001) and
Waiting Road (2006), Morris is now hard
at work on her third long-player as well as
gearing up for performances at the upcoming
Dreaming Festival in Queensland, Festival Of
Voices in Hobart and WOMAD UK.
What drew you to music as a mode of self
“When I was growing up I had a natural flare
for music so I think that music called me and
I just answered and so every opportunity I
was given to express myself through music
I did.”
Musically, where do you draw your
“My inspiration comes from heartfelt
stories and real life, the people I meet and
share stories with, also from my own life
How has the landscape for Indigenous
music changed throughout your career?
“I can only say that I think that finally we
are been given more opportunities! This is
a good thing and I am happy to be a part of
that journey where our voices and our stories
can be heard throughout the mainstream.”
You have been working with 30 remote
communities recording and writing songs
for the past six years, what have been some
of the highlights of that experience?
“The highlights for me in travelling
extensively throughout remote communities
are the people, the languages, hunting
trips, laughing and the making of music. I
have been privileged to work with the young
people and their families in the bush, learning
so much about the vastness of culture and
how rich it is right now in Australia and how
proud I am to be a part of Indigenous culture

You have worked with a diversity of artists
in collaboration notably with the MSO and
Black Arm Band, what have been some of
the challenges and highlights of the works
coming from that?
“The challenges have been on a huge scale
for me. Black Arm Band has helped me to
reach for the stars and to achieve a dream
and also work alongside my heroes and Idols
that have shaped my music and to step up
and be the best I can be.
And the collaboration with the MSO, well,
that was one of the most wonderful moments
in my life, I had to fly up to Darwin in the
midst of rehearsals for a day to be at my
grandmother’s funeral and before she passed
away I had talked to her about this wonderful
opportunity and she was so very very proud.
This moment is etched into my heart for the
rest of my life.”
There is an unguarded quality to your
music, it there an emotional strain to that
level of openness? How do you balance
your inner and outer world?
“I think sometimes that the world wants you
to be all guarded, and lock all the doors and
shut everyone out because it is all too hard,
so I just went with what felt right to me and
was true to myself. And this to me personally
is a balanced way of life, my story, my heart
talking, and singing and then with that can
come passion and truth (my truth!)”
You are currently working on your third
album - have their been any themes that
have been coming up in your writing that
you weren’t expecting? And when do you
anticipate that it will be released?
“Yes I am currently starting pre-production
and here I am in Nganmarriyanga about 450
kms south-west of Darwin working on it now
and with the students at school during the
day. No themes as yet just life, and love. And
as for the date, well, I would love it to be
done like yesterday but I have to wait. I am
just taking each process as it comes and that
is as far as I have got.” - The Music Network

"Australian Musician"

Taking music out to the farthest reaches of Indigenous communities, Shellie Morris is determined to share her passion for her craft.
As an ambassador for the Fred Hollows Foundation, the singer songwriter traverses the breadth of the Northern Territory and the tip of Western Australia teaching kids literacy through songwriting. Then, in a complete polar difference, Shellie also performs her own enticing blend of songwriting, showcased on her 2006 release "Waiting Road" around the country.

Both have something in the experience that has captivated her heart "I think that it (her work with Fred Hollows) definitely helps me as a performer with more stories" she says. "I think it grounds my life, I go to alot of places where it is not important what you do for a living, it's all about who you are as a person- that is the most important thing. Some communities I go to, about three weeks later they go "Shellie you good singer!" But that was never the purpose . The purpose was to work with them and let them have a go and record and write songs, and some of them are in language or language and English and it involves the whole community. Some of the old women come in and help me learn how to say the words properly- its a great time. It is one of the loves of my life- I don't think I could do one without the other."

There is no doubt Shellie has immeasurable talent, from the prolific turn of phrase in her songwriting to her magnificent voice. It is as soft as it is haunting and her pared back style instrumentally produces a heady blend of music.

She always had the knack though, and interestingly enough, started the musical education of her voice studying opera.
"Which I don't use unless I am telling a funny story about how I used to sing opera with my guitar" she laughs. 'It sounds really daggy"

Growing up in Sydney, Shellie was an 'urban' girl who wasn't familiar with the bush. As she got older her parents encourages her to follow her past and find out about her indigenous family-advice where took and she now lives in Darwin. "It is where all my family is from, the top end, and it just brought me back there," she says.

"My mother and father encouraged me to find my roots, they thought it was really important and they were right. Tracking down her Aboriginal-roots. Shellie also found an abundance of inspiration for her songwriting. A lot of my experiences in the bush help a lot" she says. There are some amazing women that I have met, strong cultural Indigenous women who are full of just everything you would ever want to be, incredibly beautiful
incredibly clever and gentle, and yet very strong and I feel very proud".

She should also be proud of the impact she's made on the music industry thus far. She's toured with some of the biggest names in the business, including being apart of the impressive "Black Arm Band" group featuring the likes of Archie Roach, Kev Carmody, Paul Kelly including a Sydney Opera House show and a potential London gig and a follow-up to her 2006 album she plans to release in 2008. - Australian Musician issue 52 (11 Mar 2007)

"Black Arm Band"

Part Aboriginal soul revue, part civil rights statement. The Black Arm Band have been a huge hit in Australia, where this year's official apology to the Indigenous people felt long overdue. Organisers took a huge risk bringing the sprawling 28-piece collective to London. Last night, it paid off.
Backed by strings, horns and piano, before a backdrop of often poignant film images, a wealth of Aboriginal talent sound tracked contemporary Aboriginal life- and the revealed the other side of the Lucky Country.

........ Shellie Morris singing up the stolen generation on the glorious Swept Away. - ane Cornwell - Evening Standard (London UK) (27 Jun 2008)

"Shellie Morris"

Shellie Morris, the singer-songwriter queen of Darwin, betrays much about herself and the journey that has guided and shaped her music on the anvil of memory and experience.
"All the music I sing was written only after the pieces were put together" she says matter-of-factly. "that's what my writing has been drawn upon-the finding of the missing pieces."
Most of the young Darwin audiences who flock to her performances don't know the story, even if it breathes from her words and voice- a voice trained for opera, a voice she uses freely to reach for the heavens and for the pits of the earth.
Enthusiasts, of whom are many, compare her sound to that of Janis Joplin or Tracy Chapman, slightly to her frustration. In fact, there are very different influences to play in her mix of soul, folk and deep- sensed traditions: there is a music still emerging, a music not in a hurry or seeking sensation, a music born of life.
....."It's all about storytelling through your music, in an old way: I'm just singing a modern songline- it's still very different to what Western Music is. The performances I do, I think there's a strong impact because it's honest feeling. I've had the most everyday people, even fishermen off the boats, coming up to me in tears."
Three years ago Morris released a CD with six tracks which quickly became a local favourite. On it is her signature(and her best loved) Swept Away ("Nothing ever added up without you, I'm so swept away"). A kind of maelstrom of emotions, it's known to almost everyone in Darwin. The singer was on her own determined vector now. - Nicolas Rothwell - The Weekend Australian (14 Feb 2004)

"Snow job has our Shellie all fired up"

December 22nd, 2009
Shellie Morris rugs up for the Winter Olympics.

Shellie Morris rugs up for the Winter Olympics.

A TERRITORY musician is set to entertain the world at the Vancouver Winter Olympics in Canada next year.

And there are whispers that Aboriginal singer/songwriter Shellie Morris will also be asked to perform at the the soccer World Cup in South Africa later in the year.

The acclaimed Darwin-based musician has also been signed to perform at the London Summer Olympics in 2012.

Morris told the Northern Territory News she received confirmation about the Vancouver games just days ago.

"I couldn't sleep," she said, "I was jumping around."

"I was so excited.

"I think it will be big.

"I've never seen winter in a snow country before."

Morris is a featured artist with the Black Arm Band - a collaboration of Australia's top Aboriginal artists and jazz musicians.

The group will be performing along with the Vancouver Orchestra at the iconic games which run February 12-28.

One of Morris' tracks is set to be played at the show.

Morris said the Black Arm Band was a great showcase of Australian talent.

"Now I've just got to go and buy some woolly-bully clothes," she said.



Shellie Morris Waiting Road
Shellie Morris Debut



Shellie Morris is an Australian Indigenous singer who performs earthy and honest songs. Shellie has a beautiful voice and her soulful enigmatic acoustic ballads are guaranteed to delight the listener. The Australian newspaper described her as ‘an aboriginal chanteuse of rare seriousness and grace’. She has performed everywhere from rural outback Australia to London Festival Hall and the Sydney Opera House with great reviews.

Shellie is currently a featured artist with the Black Arm Band. (a collaboration of Australia’s top indigenous artists and jazz musicians) Her song Swept Away was orchestrated and performed in 2008 with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

A documentary film on Shellie’s life and music was commissioned and broadcast nationally in 2009 as well as her concert at the Sydney Opera house with Gurrumul Yunupingu. She has released two albums to date and is currently writing the music for her third CD.

In addition to this Shellie performed and co-wrote the music Liberty Songs a collaboration between refugees from Liberia and indigenous Australian women.

Shellie works with Indigenous communities and youth throughout Australia, helping young people to write music about their experiences. She is an ambassador for the Fred Hollows Foundation (an organisation undertaking community-based work with blindness prevention in Australia, Asia, Africa and the Pacific) and an ambassador for The Jimmy Little Foundation (established to help improve kidney health in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities).

In 2004 and 2005 Shellie was awarded the Female Musician of the Year at the N.T. Indigenous music awards. Her album Waiting Road was nominated for album of the year at the 2007 Deadly Awards. In 2010 Shellie performed her song Swept Away at the opening of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver with the Black Arm Band.

Shellie has performed at WomadUK and WomAdelaide and has shared the bill and with touring artists of the calibre of Yothu Yindi, Archie Roach, Grinspoon, Vicka and Linda Bull, You am I, Tiddas, Jimmy Little, Bluehouse, Rebecca's Empire and Magic Dirt, Chris Bailey (The Saints) Shane Howard (Goanna).