Wesley Morgan
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Wesley Morgan

San Francisco, California, United States | SELF

San Francisco, California, United States | SELF
Band Americana Singer/Songwriter


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Backroom In Tulsa - http://thewesleymorgan.com/backroom-in-tulsa

Backroom In Tulsa Information
The two songs on the A-side of Backroom In Tulsa (“Backroom In Tulsa”, “Flesh & Bone”) were recorded by Oz Fritz at John Vanderslice's Tiny Telephone studio in San Francisco. The band used only analog gear and recorded straight to 2” tape to get a sound that is big, organic, and warm. The singer remarks, “I imagine an outlaw couple pulling into a drive-through wedding chapel, 'Backroom In Tulsa' playing on the AM dial of their old convertible. It's got junkyard drums stuffed with rusty chains, stand-up bass rambling along like litter blowing down the highway, a piano that sounds like Scott Joplin playing in hell's finest honky tonk, and some pedal steel tossed in to give it some country spice.”

The dark and gritty lyrics contain references to back ally preachers, lonely relationships and broken guns, and feature local Tulsa haunts such as the famous Cain's Ballroom. Interestingly, the singer has never been to Tulsa. He wrote the song for a gig at the San Francisco bar Tosca, a favorite with Francis Ford Coppola's Zoetrope crowd. “Tosca has a backroom the size of a walk-in freezer, cordoned off with a red velvet rope. Turns out that room has a sordid history with visiting celebrities and influential businessmen. But I never liked singing the word Tosca, and Tulsa feels more like my kind of place. Plus, Tulsa has Cain's Ballroom, which allowed me to make my own Cain and Abel reference in the tradition of Tom Waits and Randy Newman.”

The second song recorded for Backroom In Tulsa is the plaintive ballad “Flesh & Bone”. The song is a tender, country style ballad full of heart and soul, delicate accordion, and pedal steel guitar. It gives a fresh take on the classic scenario of a narrator so devoted to his beloved that he would do anything for her, yet tinged with the melancholy feeling of knowing the limitations of time and space, flesh and blood. Wesley remarks, “Oz and I were doing the final touches on the mix of this song, and he looked up from the board and said, 'This is a really good song.' Wow. He has worked with so many amazing musicians, so a compliment from him really means something.”

The final two songs on the B-side (“Fade”, “Last Call”) were recorded and produced by Wesley Morgan and feature more of a DIY approach. “Hiring musicians, an engineer, and a studio eats through a lot of cash. I could only afford to record two songs with that set-up. I ended up doing the other two on my own.”

Born from the live looping he employs in his solo show, “Fade (Backroom Mix Up)” is built up from a simple vocal beat that is reminiscent of the intro to "Closer" from Nine Inch Nails. He then applies different sounds on top of this loop to create an electro-acoustic hybrid that borrows heavily from Radiohead, Lou Reed, P.J. Harvey, and many others. “There are no synths on that track, but I ended up mangling the sounds so much during mixing that it has an electronic vibe. I also dropped in drums recorded the previous year. The drummers you hear from the second chorus onward never heard or played on the song. It was a happy accident that their playing fits the song so well.”

The closing song “Last Call”, an atmospheric instrumental, recalls the spatial immensity of Ry Cooder's soundtrack for the film Paris, Texas. Wesley comments, “That song is the last thing people hear when the room is spinning after a long night of drinking. I imagined a single musician playing at 3:30 am for the last three people in the bar, one of whom is flat on his back. Like I said before, Swamp Noir is meant to be a soundtrack for your sins.”



Swamp Noir singer, songwriter, and guitarist Wesley Morgan has released his first EP titled Backroom In Tulsa. Recorded and mixed by Grammy Award winning engineer Oz Fritz (Tom Waits, Primus, Bill Laswell), the four original songs on this EP provide a first glimpse at the singer's dark blend of broken down blues and junkyard americana, evoking comparisons to Tom Waits, Randy Newman, and Chris Isaak.

“Swamp Noir is ragged and raw, with melodies that drop off, bend, and crack,” says the singer. “It's about beautiful devils and angels with broken wings. It's the sound you hear rolling out of a Saturday night juke joint, but it's also the choir when you stumble drunk into Sunday morning redemption.” The singer employs classic instrumentation such as electric guitar, stand-up bass, and honky-tonk piano, as well as various percussion elements including bags of chains, shovels, and rakes. “Not only are we well stocked to play a killer show, but we also do some low-level landscaping. Most club owners appreciate the value-added,” jokes the musician.

At 36 years of age, Wesley Morgan is starting a music career at an age where other musicians have either found success or given up. “Howlin' Wolf was 41 years old when he released his first album,” the artist remarks, “and Tom Waits had his best release ever at the age of 61. Whenever I get worried that I'm not as young as everyone else, I think of those two guys.”

The real inspiration to pursue a music career, however, came in the form of a guitar...his first guitar, to be exact. The singer remembers, “I had to hock my first guitar when I first lived in New York, back in 1998. By the time I saved enough money to buy it back from the pawn shop, it was long gone.” Skipping forward to 2010, the artist found himself in San Francisco, jobless and fresh out of a ten year relationship. “I lost everything and was starting over. One day, on a lark, I stepped into a pawn shop in the Mission, and there she was.” Three thousand miles away, the singer found the guitar he had lost twelve years earlier. He says that discovery forced him to seriously consider music as a life path.

At 35 years of age, Wesley Morgan started playing weekly gigs. After only three months of playing live, he opened for “Wicked Game” singer Chris Isaak at the 2500 capacity Mountain Winery. He recalls, “I only got three hours notice for that gig. The phone rang at 3pm and they asked if I could open at 6pm. My clothes were at the cleaners, I had to borrow an amp, and then make the hour long drive during rush hour. I didn't even have a car! So, I said 'No problem.'”

The show with Chris Isaak confirmed that a career in music was what the artist needed to do with his life. “I was out there by myself, with a thousand people focused on my music. When the last notes rang out, the place erupted in applause. I have video of everyone on their feet, hooting and hollering. That's when I knew music was my path.”

In January of 2012, after spending the previous nine months performing solo, Wesley Morgan began searching for a band and an engineer to record his debut record. While looking for an engineer, the musician kept returning to the sound of his two favorite albums: Wicked Grin by John Hammond Jr. and Mule Variations by Tom Waits. Both albums were recorded and mixed by Grammy Award winning engineer Oz Fritz. Wesley Morgan reached out to Fritz, and the engineer agreed to record the project, even reducing his normal rates so the struggling musician could pay for the sessions. “At that point in my career, less than a year in, I only hoped to work with someone familiar with Oz's work. I never imagined I'd be working with the actual man who recorded my heroes.”