Katey Morley shares her earnest and delightful new single ‘The Guy Who Breaks Things’ – Interview

Toronto-based singer-songwriter Katey Morley has crafted a batch of very fine, slow-cooked and sonically delicious tunes for her fourth EP, Hearts & Heads & Thoughts & Deeds. In it, you will recognize the seriousness of folk, combined with a heavy dose of country earnestness, and delightfully sing-able pop melodies.

The EP’s first single – “The Guy Who Breaks Things” – is a dark and twangy account of a well-intentioned mess who accidentally topples everything in his wake. Stream “The Guy Who Breaks Things” on all platforms and watch the accompanying music video on YouTube below!

Can you talk to us about the inspiration behind your single, “The Guy Who Breaks Things”?

I had a friend who was loveable and clumsy and brilliant— the kind of guy that’s always the most interesting person at the party, but who is guaranteed to accidentally break a vase or chair before leaving. Still, you couldn’t help but love him! He was in the middle of an amicable break up with his high school sweetheart when I began writing this song. They kept finding reasons to hang out (as “friends”) and it was starting to get messy, and I didn’t know how to tell him to shut it down before they ended up hurting each other, badly. Looking back, I think I was writing about myself too. I have made bad decisions, and always feel a little socially awkward, when all I ever wanted was to be graceful and do the right thing. I couldn’t get the chorus right, so the song sat in a drawer for about 7 years, when I finally pulled it out and finished it a couple years ago!

How do you think your community has contributed to your success?

I have been doing music for a long time, but it is only in the last 7 years or so that I have really found myself immersed in the Toronto music community. Before that, I was mostly touring or producing music by myself, kind of in a bubble. Now, I am honoured to be a part of a “family” of insanely talented musicians, centred around The Freefall Open Mic at The Supermarket, and the Indie Night at The Piston. It is here that I met my partner Steve York (who plays in my band) and my producer Tom McKay, who I have been recording with for the last 5 years. I had been recording for 13 years when they came along, never finishing anything. They absolutely pushed me to complete this record (and my previous double EP), and I will be forever grateful. Without their encouragement, knowledge and musicianship, I would probably still be sporadically recording and never releasing any music. They also encouraged me to put together a full band, which I had been struggling to do for over a decade. This allowed me to play more live shows, and get them sounding the way I wanted them to, which in turn has provided me with a small but passionate fan base, which is really what keeps me going!

What was the first thing that got you interested in music?

Music itself! Nobody in my family was musical, but they were all music lovers, so the radio was always on, and I grew up listening to some incredible music. In the early 80s, it seemed like even the kids tv shows had killer soundtracks, and I loved picking them out on the piano and singing along. I also remember having a camp bus driver when I was really young, and she used to blast 50s and 60s rock and roll, so my very first favourite songs were probably Elvis, The Shirelles, Del Shannon, etc…. Barbra Streisand was the first voice that I wished was mine, and it’s a very long list from there. I also had the most amazing music teacher in Grade 7, Mr. Rush, who noticed my musical potential, and basically insisted on me finding my own voice and my confidence.

Describe to our audience your music-making process.

It’s different every time, but songs usually come in little pieces. Melodies/lyrics will pop into my head, and if they’re interesting, I will pull out the voice recorder and catch them before they get forgotten. Then I will head to the piano or autoharp and see if I can tease out a song. Sometimes they come from dreams, or, more recently, I was asked to compose a song for the end credits of a movie, and that was like a design project! I watched the movie with a note pad in my lap, and scribbled down my thoughts as it progressed, and then stood up and went straight to the piano, deeply inspired by the mood of the movie when it ended. That was VERY fun, and challenging.

When songs are fully formed, I make a demo (usually with Garage band) and send it to the band to learn. If it goes well at rehearsal, we will add it to the repertoire. From there, if it gels with the band, and resonates with the audience, I would likely try to take it into the studio to be recorded.

What advice would you give other musicians?

The most important thing I’ve learned is probably to rely on and believe in myself. No one is going to do it for you. I am not a natural instrumentalist, but I forced myself to learn to play chords on the piano, well enough to accompany myself, and to write my own songs. I also had to learn the language of musicians, so I could discuss things like feel, dynamics, instrumentation, chords, tempos, structure- all very important, and not easy for me. I also learned how to produce my own music, using software and real instruments, so I would be better able to articulate exactly what I wanted, both with the band and in the studio. Later, I learned how to make my own posters and do social media and create basic websites and to promote myself. I learned how to write grants, and how to ask for help from people who were smarter and more successful than me. I really struggle with the business admin side of music, and it is SO important to know how to “sell” your music— almost as important as knowing how to make music. Along with being your own advocate, I’d say it is important to surround yourself with musicians that support you 100%. Don’t work with someone who doesn’t have your back, or who makes the chemistry wrong. It will only hold you back.

How did it feel when you released this new music?

There was SUCH a delay to this release that it’s been a HUGE relief for me! “The Guy Who Breaks Things” has been mastered and ready for over a year, and the video has been ready since Christmas, so the wait has been killing me! I was going to release it in early March, but then with COVID, it was necessary to postpone even more. A wise friend told me, “the song will still be new to listeners, whenever it’s released,” which helped me be patient, but I’m not really sure what to expect in these “unprecedented times”. I get really nervous before each release, because there is such an incredible amount of work and money tied up in every song. You open the door and let the songs out— it’s like watching your kids get on the school bus for the first time. You think “Did I prepare them enough? Are they going to get where they need to go?” It’s really suspenseful, waiting to see if anyone is going to pick them up and share them. Because of COVID, the entire industry has changed, yet again, and I’m not really sure what to expect, but “The Guy” is starting to get some good momentum, and it’s feeling really good. I got a message yesterday from a music magazine in Brazil that is going to feature the song, and a few messages from new fans in Chile, IN SPANISH! That felt awesome.

And finally, if you could collaborate with any musician/band, who would it be? And why?

I think I would have to say Dolly Parton. I just love her so much. She is a prolific songwriter, an amazing singer and multi-instrumentalist, a humanitarian, an incredible businesswoman, and just an all around amazing woman. It would be a dream to work with her, though I’m not sure I’d be able to speak around her, lol! I wrote a song based on one of her most famous songs, “Jolene”, and I would love to record it with her, or for her to record it herself. My song is called “The Truth About Jolene” and I think she would get a kick out of it!