Songwriter Profile: Sam Morrow

Grit, Dirt and California Country

Conceptually and geographically, singer/songwriter Sam Morrow exists miles from the confines of modern country music. A Texas native who resides in the SoCal seaside bohemia of Venice, CA, the music he writes, records and performs is rich with rollicking roadhouse vitality crosscut with a confessional jolt of unadulterated honesty. Produced with Eric Corne (who also collaborated on a number of the songs), his second full-length album, There Is No Map (released on Forty Below Records), features an intuitive team of musicians who tracked much of the record live at Kingsize Soundlabs in Eagle Rock. “We went in with a song and played whatever we felt like,” says Morrow. “When you have a group of musicians who you trust and respect, it makes that whole process really fun.”

Growing up, Morrow says he wasn’t drawn to what was to become his chosen genre. “I was a hipster kid who tried to go against the grain. And a lot of the country music I was exposed to was a lot of the shit that I still don’t listen to today. But what I started figuring out about country music was that this is where the best songwriting lies. Songwriting is what I enjoy doing the most. And the raw honesty I put into my songs is more prevalent in country music. That’s when I started finding these artists who were new to me: Gram Parsons, Buck Owens, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and later on Sturgill Simpson.”

Morrow is a graduate of the Independent Artist Program at Musicians Institute in Hollywood. “It was about getting a grasp of what I wanted to do,” notes Morrow of his education. “I met my producer Eric Corne, and he’s been crucial for me in continuing this journey of finding who I am as a musician, what kind of stories I can tell and how to make those stories sound.” Morrow also notes the influence of his songwriting instructor Michael Anderson. “Michael was just very critical. Before, I could kind of get by on my voice, or singing loud or high notes, but Michael didn’t care about that. He’d say, ‘You need to say something that makes sense to you and the person who is listening.’”

With his previous full length, Ephemeral, Morrow offered an unapologetic diary of addiction and recovery. Now, at age 24, he counterbalances this harrowing darkness. There Is No Map opens with “Barely Holding On,” a somber lyric offset by a jaunty rhythm from the ebullient band. “A lot of my songs are that dichotomy,” notes Morrow. “I write lyrics—especially on my first record—that are straight out depressing. I don’t want to make people feel bad. I’ve got to put some kind of spin on this to make it sound nicer.”

The song “Green” says, “The same old bullshit don’t make the grass green,” lyrics that Morrow says were inspired by his slot in a songwriting round in Studio City, CA. “The guy who came up after me had a gorgeous, brutal voice, but he wasn’t saying anything. At one point I think the chorus was ‘I love you and I miss you.’ It made me mad. I felt violated. This is a sacred thing to me. He has such a gift, but his music is not going to connect people, to make them think, to help them.”

As There Is No Map progresses, the orchestration becomes starker and the songs more somber. Morrow says this is intentional. “We went into this record with the intention of making an album, not singles. I needed to tell a story, and I can’t do that in three and a half minutes. There has to have a beginning, middle and an end. Front to back—that’s the intention. What’s the point of reading the first couple chapters of a book and saying it sucks?”

Good things are on the horizon for Sam Morrow, including a slot at SXSW in Austin, TX, and plans for a forthcoming U.K. tour. “I’m not real flashy,” Morrow avows. “I’m into connecting with people who are into the grit and the dirt. That’s what country music is to me.”

Contact Taylor Haughton of Chart Room Media