James Morris: Kicking Off A Warped Summer

James Morris is a talented singer / songwriter from the San Diego area whose heartfelt songs garnered him a spot on several dates of the Vans Warped Tour this summer performing on The Acoustic Basement Stage. Other participants playing sets under the chill tent would include Kris Roe of the Ataris and Brian Marquis (ex-Therefore I Am), so James Morris definitely would find himself keeping great company during his time on Warped. Here is an interview we conducted with James a few hours after his show at the Chula Vista date…

How has Warped Tour been going for you so far?
It has been amazing. I’ve been on since Las Vegas and today in San Diego is my last day. And it’s just been an experience of a lifetime. It’s made my year.

Where are from and how would you describe your music?
This is home for me. In San Diego. My music is guitar driven, it’s real, and I tell stories with it.

Let’s talk about some of these stories. First of all, your CD is called Speed Of Dark. Is there any story or concept behind that title?
It’s a title of a song. And I’m not sure what inspired the Speed Of Dark reference. I wrote this book, which recently came out, and I guess I kind of wrote it as a soundtrack for the book in my own mind. I just ran with it – it’s an awesome song and an awesome book and it works and sounds fantastic.

Is the book published?
Yes, it’s self-published by Red Plate Publisher.

Pick two other songs that you have written and what inspired the lyrics. There is one you played today that you said was really important to you, so let’s discuss that one first.
That song is called Vacant, and it’s very important to me because it helped me through a very difficult time. In my family, we all used to fight a lot – like mom, aunts, grandparents, everyone got in a lot of arguments. I would fight with my parents a lot – and thankfully this is pretty much over – but it kind of left me with a hollow feeling when I was going through it, so it really helped me through that time. And throughout every point in my life, no matter what, I have never done drugs and never gotten drunk – which I feel is very important to mention because it’s a very core part of me.

And select one more song.
I have this song – it’s not on the album but it’s on an EP I released called Paper Planes – and the whole song is a giant metaphor for happiness. That Paper Planes are your happiness. Basically it’s asking and saying, “What’s keeping it down? Why isn’t there just a breeze to help carry your plane – your happiness – up above the clouds?”

How easy or difficult has it been to self-release your own music?
Extremely difficult. Money is always a challenge – and the whole point of advertising it and getting it out there. I believe that I and my family and everyone has done a great job with pushing it and advertising it. Just making the CD yourself, sometimes you don’t get the sound you want. Like this one, I’m not entirely happy with it – but I’m about to start working on another that I hope is much closer to what I had imagined. There’s just a lot of difficulties. But when you’re making it and you’re in the studio, it’s amazing in there! It’s a feeling you can’t really describe. I could go for two days straight and forget to eat or sleep – I actually did do that before – and then you’ve got this piece of work that you’ve been doing – just this energy and emotion all bundled into one package for a CD or just an individual song even. And you put that out. I guess the only challenges you could think of are endurance, money, and finding the right people to work with. And being real with it.

What’s up next for you now that your segment of Warped Tour is over?
Sleep first of all. I don’t know yet – we don’t have much on the schedule. But it’s a lot of working with charity. I gotta go back to school in the fall – I’m only going to be senior in high school – I’m 17 right now. And then just trying to remember my time here at Warped Tour, because I don’t want to forget it. It’s incredible!

What is it you’d like a listener to remember the most after hearing your music for the first time?
I’d like them to remember either a joy and a connection they feel with it – or I would like them to remember that it’s good, genuine music. When I go up onstage – when I’m singing – I don’t lie about it. My songs – if I feel like writing a smiley song, then I will. I sit down when I have that emotion and I’ll write the song. I’m real with it. It is real music, and I want them to remember that and just be able to experience it and feel the music.

(Interview and Photos by Kenneth Morton)

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