Exclusive Guide Track By Track: Rae Morris - Unguarded
The Blackpudlian singer reveals some of the inspirations and inner-workings of each of her debut’s twelve tracks.
This week, (26th January) Rae Morris is finally taking the plunge by releasing her debut album out into the world, and you can now find out the story behind each and every track. While it may have been a long time in the process, she’s more than confident that she’s found all of the pieces to the puzzle; whether they be the first song she ever wrote or the final few additions to the tracklisting.
“It just felt really natural [to include them] because a lot of the songs that I wrote around that time were so raw and just came from nowhere without me really realising what was going on,” she explained to DIY, on the earlier workings of her full-length. “Obviously, it’s been a cool journey and it’s cool discovering how my writing has changed, but you can’t really recapture that innocence of when you’re not thinking about it or when you don’t have any pressures. For me, it just naturally felt like my first album should be a story that people could feel they come on with me. There have been a lot of people I’ve met along the way and it’s been three or four years of building to this point, so it felt like I wanted to take a picture of it and have the album be that.”
The idea of reaching her present self was also something key to the core of the record. “There was a lot of work tying the final pieces together,” she assured. “Now, I’m really glad that happened because I’ve got to add some new songs that were imperative to the puzzle. I’m excited for people to hear but it is like releasing a baby into the world. You just hope that is has a good time. I feel like I’ve done as much as I can do now,” she added, “and I’m so relieved that I don’t have any regrets about anything because we’ve really gone back and made sure everything is perfect. It’ll be nice that it’ll last forever.”
Read Rae’s Track By Track guide below.
‘Skin’ is the song that I always really, really wanted to have open the album because of the clock ticking at the beginning. I feel like it really represents the time that it’s taken for me to make this, from the beginning of everything, and to me, it’s a song that’s really emotional and very human; it’s about two people being really connected and that human instinct of not being able to resist that temptation. It felt like the perfect opener because it really sets the tone of the whole album.
UNDER THE SHADOWS
I actually only recently finished and added this to the album, at the very last minute. In a way, it felt like the missing piece of the puzzle and the final piece of energy that it needed. The album generally felt like a bit of a coming of age story to me – of discovering who I am and what I’m about - and this feels like the most mature song and the one closest to me figuring out who I am, and being more confident. It’s got high energy and a fast pace so it feels quite moving in that sense.
‘Closer’ has, for me, the weird balance of being fun – I love playing it live and it feels like a positive, happy sound – but it’s got quite a deep meaning to me. It’s about my relationship with my brother, and while there’s a couple of songs on the album about family, this one is the most important. My big brother is my best friend and this is about us moving away from Blackpool and growing up and that, and feeling like, because we’re not stuck in our little town anymore, that we’re not as close but actually, we’re closer now that we’re further apart.
‘For You’ was one the first songs that I ever wrote; I wrote it when I was seventeen and I was just starting out. At the time, it was very personal and an exploration of what I was doing. I was quite confused about who ‘Rae Morris’ was – my name’s Rachel but I was started to perform as Rae, so there’s a line about the meaning of my name. It’s just about getting used to what that was gonna mean, and it’s another song that represents family to me because the reason that I call myself Rae is down to my grandad. He was a singer as well and that’s why. It’s about family, and keeping the most important things close to you.
‘Love Again’ was another song that came later, as I had come out of the other end of the feeling of falling in love for the first time and doing all that. This song is me realising that it’s all a circle, it’s all a process. You can go through something and then come out of the other end. This is a real indicator that there’s always light at the end of the tunnel and I think it was a bit of a revelation writing it because I don’t usually like really positive and uplifting songs, so I was very grateful to have that moment of positivity.
‘Don’t Go’ is a song that I’ve had a few years and I actually originally wrote it for Skins, the TV show. They asked me if I would write a song and they gave me a day to do it. I was in London at the time, so I had to rush back home to Blackpool. They played me the clip of the scene and I had to write the music to that. I think because I had to just write it, I didn’t realise what I’d done and now, every time I play it, it takes on a new meaning and I feel just as emotional when I sing it as when I first wrote it.
This was a song that arrived when I was trying to figure out what I was going to call the album. I had written most of it already and I had no idea. It felt like I didn’t have that piece that was important for me to say. I felt I hadn’t quite nailed it yet, and I went out to America to do a writing session. I think it was being away again – being back where I made the album – it made me reflect and I realised that I just wanted to show people who I was and what I was doing. It was really simple and really uncomplicated. When I wrote ‘Unguarded’, I actually felt like it was exactly what I had been trying to say the whole time, and it symbolised the rest of the album.
I wrote ‘Cold’ with my friend Fryars and I actually just went around to his house in Golders Green one day, and we just wanted to write. We had the idea of doing a proper classic duet – like Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood – as we felt like people don’t really do that anymore, they do a lot of collaborations. I’ve been on quite a few, so this felt like we were doing something that was a definite half and half split. We had a lot of fun doing it and it was a real tongue-in-cheek tale of two lovers, but we kept it light-hearted.
DO YOU EVEN KNOW?
This is a song I wrote when I was living up at home in Blackpool, and I was just about to go out to America to do the album. To be honest, I was feeling the pressures and that people weren’t really understanding what I wanted to do as an artist. I think everyone probably goes through that when it comes to their first record but it gets kinda confusing talking all the time. I just wanted to say to people, ‘Do you even know what you’re talking about?’ It felt like I was being squashed into a corner a little bit, but this song made me feel like I could actually tell people what I was talking about.
‘Morne Fortune’ is the last song that was added to the album. It was written at the same time as ‘Under The Shadows’, I was just feeling really creative and I was writing more and more, even though the album was meant to be finished. I’m really glad I put it on the album: it’s about family again and about how my parents got married in St. Lucia, on a hill called Morne Fortune, which means ‘Hill of Good Luck’. My brother got married recently too and I just felt like it was a real full circle thing, and I wanted to wish the same luck that my mum and dad had.
Again, this is one of my favourites but I can’t believe it exists because I don’t know where it came from. I can’t really remember writing it but I just felt really natural about it and it came from nowhere. It’s a proper piano ballad and it’s very uncomplicated. When we recording it, I just played it live and tried not to do too much to it, and it’s about second chances. When you feel like you really wanna make an effort with somebody to make something work, whether or not that’s actually a possible thing, I think as human beings, we have a tendency to be hopeful. It’s a very hopeful song.
This was the song that I definitely always wanted to end the album. I knew from the beginning, what I wanted to start and finish it. For me, a lot of the songs that I write deal with the subject matter of not really knowing the answers to the questions that life puts forwards, and how we kinda go through it and overanalyse things but never really know for sure what we’re doing. I think it’s so perfect that, no matter how many songs you write about not knowing the answers, you’re never going to know them. It doesn’t matter though, because you’ve got all the time in the world to keep going and keep trying. It’s very accepting of everyone and everything and it just does what it does.
Taken from the February issue of DIY, out now - order your copy below. Rae Morris’ debut album ‘Unguarded’ is out now via Atlantic Records.
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