Morgan Saint is a new artist whose five-track 17 Hero EP made a strong first impression. A “moody pop” collection of songs released last fall, the new major music label signee wrote her EP in the span of one summer after graduation and a slew of life experiences.
“When I’m writing I write from a super honest place,” Saint said. “My life has some really dark moments and some really light, beautiful moments, and I don’t wanna just focus on one or the other.”
Her 17 Hero EP is named after the people in her life who have impacted her in significant ways — negatively or positively. Full of catchy synths and hard-hitting drums with memorable lyrics to match, her EP is probably the strongest debut you will ever hear from any new artist.
The lead single “You” is an infectious and soulful pop hit with a hauntingly bittersweet message:
“Hatred is not in my blood
Euphoria is what I feel in my dreams
Love is what I’m searching for …
I could be looking for you
In all the wrong places”
Other songs including “New Regime” is a powerful anthem for the outcasts and “old souls,” while the groove and synth-heavy “Just Friends” captures the bittersweet heartbreak of a relationship that never happened, as she asks, “Why don’t we be friends? Why don’t we make out?” “Glass House,” which is probably her most intimate song on the EP, features her haunting, breathy vocals about breaking her own heart as “For God’s Sake” fully highlights Saint’s ability to capture deeply personal moments and transform them into fully-realized choruses, as she asks: “Should I just move on? Or were we brought together by fate?”
I sat down with Saint ahead of her San Francisco date opening up for synth-rock duo Missio at the Great American Music Hall to talk about her music, artistry and full-length album on the horizon.
You and Missio are very sonically different. How has it been being support on this tour?
It’s been good. Missio’s super sweet and their whole team is super nice … It’s been funny because their music’s pretty tough and I could tell some of their fans are super skeptical when I start. It can be challenging as an artist because it’s different if it’s your own show and everyone’s super into it and there for you, singing along and wanting you to do a really good job. When it’s a new audience, it’s a different performance where you’re trying to win them over without feeling like you’re trying too hard, but it’s been cool to be on tour and play for [new audiences].
You just released your 17 Hero EP last fall. How has it been since its release and how’ve you seen the growth?
Obviously I’m such a new artist and it’s been a cool growth. Although I’ve been signed to a big label, they’ve been pretty adamant about the growth being very natural and a discovery process. I feel that lends itself to a super core fan base and also just having integrity as an artist and not feeling like it’s forced down your throat — just going out there and proving yourself through your music.
I listened to your whole EP and I feel each song by itself is so strong and solid and tells a different story. How did your EP come about and how long did it take you to write it?
I had a lot of it written before I signed with Epic and I was making music honestly to just get me through. I graduated college and was going through a weird personal time … I was going to school [at Parsons the New School for Design] for visual design, which is obviously a big part of my creative way of creating. I was writing and pursuing music on the side and my focus was moreso on the visual end of what I make — which goes back to how much I want to express myself with the lighting and production when I perform — but then when I graduated, I was going through a weird time.
One, graduating is weird and two, more personal things. I turned to my focus to music and took it seriously one whole summer and pretty much finished an EP that I was going to self-release. I ended up signing with Epic [in November 2016] and, when I picked the songs for the EP, I picked what I felt could tell a story [and] would be catchy and strong. But I think a lot of the strong songs are going to be on the album.
What’re your plans for your new album?
The album is finished. It’ll have the five songs from the EP plus eight [new] songs. I think realistically it will be released towards the end of the summer. I’ll be doing some festivals and going on my own headlining tour this summer within the festivals, so I’ll definitely be playing new music.
As a storyteller, I wrote these all over the course of a year or so and it tells a distinct story, this journey about my life. I feel like my art and what I make makes sense to have it as a story [and album versus an EP]. Some songs feel more fresh and [have] different elements. You’ll hear a little bit more of R&B and slight hip-hop.
I want to talk about your sound. How did you formulate your “moody pop” sound and what inspired you when you first created your album and the production behind it?
It was a little bit of a journey but it took not a lot of time, at the same time. I wrote a song, I went to the studio with it and I didn’t really [have a plan]. I just wanted a recording of the song and it came out with my guitar and some strings, and I was like, it’s pretty but it just didn’t feel like it represented me as a person. So I was like, “Okay, no. Let me think about this.”
“You” [produced with Cass Dillon] was the second song that I ever wrote with the intention of even recording it, and that was the song that I felt like I found my sound. From that, I built from it. That song is pretty minimal in production and is a great song — it’s super simple and has those catchy elements. I’ve definitely grown a lot since then, so I think you’ll hear the growth.
I was about to say, “You” was the first song you put out and it is simple but I think that’s powerful at the same time. I love how there’s still a very dark element to it. Your whole EP got me through last winter because I was going through some things as well — do you think those dark elements are something you tend to draw from?
I think when I’m writing I write from a super honest place. My life has some really dark moments and some really light, beautiful moments, and I don’t wanna focus on one or the other. So I try to write about whatever I’m feeling and I definitely find it easier to write when I’m sad, just because I’m really raw and it pours out of me — you’re more emotional and writing is therapeutic and it helps me get through things. I actually have more of a challenge writing happier things.
I love how your music and the sounds you use capture those emotions, as well.
Yeah! That’s something super important and how I found my sound — what sounds tell the story of exactly how I was feeling at the time I wrote the song and what it feels to me. There’s just so much you could do with sounds to craft that feeling. That’s my biggest goal with anything.
I feel in a lot of music today, the honesty is hard to come by. I feel like your songwriting is so raw and we don’t get a lot of that today.
That’s my main thing. In music, to be honest always, but also in the visuals and everything I create. It comes from such a personal place that I hope it translates. I hope people can feel how personal everything is.
It’s been cool to tour and have people say, “I relate to your honesty.” I feel a lot of people don’t write their own music and that’s when I feel like it gets lost in translation. Someone can come to me say they want to write a song for me, and I’d give them some aspects of my life but it will never be the same as coming directly from you. I feel like that’s something that I like to focus on.
Morgan Saint has plans to release her debut album this year. Currently, she is on tour supporting Missio with a headlining tour to come this summer. For tickets and more information, go to morgansaint.com.
This article was featured on SF Critic.