With his third solo record Dude, the Obscure set to release next Friday, (out 6/22 on Normaltown Records), we interviewed Athens, GA-based rock poet T. Hardy Morris for our newest NoiseTrade One-on-One. During our chat, Morris elaborates on the literary inspiration behind his new album’s title, the evolution of his songwriting from earlier bands to his current solo work, what makes Athens such a special musical haven, and much more!
NoiseTrade: The title of your new album Dude, The Obscure is nod to the novel Jude, The Obscure. Tell us what inspired that literary connection for you with both the novel and the author.
T. Hardy Morris: It was a title I had considered for a while and I actually thought about using it as my stage name initially when I started making solo records. This album finally felt like the right one for the title though since the novel deals with love and loss and spirituality and it’s a pretty heady book overall. The album has themes that deal with personal stuff but a lot of it is just about life in general and how it catches up with everyone eventually. Every life is completely unique and there is a lot going on no matter how obscure it may seem.
NT: With this being your third solo album, how do you think your sound and your songwriting have both evolved since your earlier releases and your time in Dead Confederate?
Morris: I have always written a lot of songs and a lot of different types of songs. Even within Dead Confederate, from song to song, album to album we were always changing it up. I have always liked a lot of different types of music and never looked to stay in one place too long. Maybe to a fault but I have to keep things interesting within writing or honestly, I’d probably rather be doing something else.
NT: I love the vibe of the singles “Be” and “Homemade Bliss” that you’ve released ahead of the album. What made you pick these songs for the introduction to the album and what’s the story behind the writing and recording of each one?
Morris: They are actually the first two songs on the album. “Be” was the last song we recorded and “Homemade Bliss” was the first one we recorded. They were probably done over a year apart actually. I had a show in Nashville back in 2016 and so we did “Homemade Bliss” then on just a random day. It was tracked long before we started the album. We thought we were doing a demo but it worked and I just held on to it. Now it is one of my favorites on the album.
“Be” was a kind of a last minute, mood-piece that Adam and I worked up while I was back in Athens. Adam would record music and send me versions to sing to over the phone. I had wanted to use this poem I had written called “Godshopping” and so I would sing into my iphone and Adam would lay it over the track and we went back and forth until we found the song. We had never done anything like that before but it worked out well.
NT: I’ve read the town of Athens, GA has played a big part in your music and personal development. What are some of the things about Athens that you connect with so deeply and what first drew you to relocate there?
Morris: In my travels I have found that other music towns, while nurturing great artists, are also saturated with music business. I can often hear that in the music itself from those places where musicians book shows around the chance of what labels may be in the audience and they often craft their art around what might be pleasing to that mindset. Not that its a bad thing necessarily – I love pop music and good song craft. But, I love even more the abandon of people getting together to make music for the sake of making it.
That, to me, is what makes Athens special. The “good” doesn’t necessarily rise to the top, but the interesting certainly does. And it’s not weird for the sake of being weird that gets notice here. It’s something else… often an oddball non-southern southernness that hangs in the air. I think of Vic Chesnutt, Art Rosenbaum, R.E.M, of Montreal, the Glands, and Drive-by Truckers. This may not make sense, but the amount of great music and song that has flowed out of this small town doesn’t really make sense either and that’s what I like about it.
NT: Finally, speaking of Athens, if you could recommend a couple of your favorite albums from other Athens-based bands, what would those albums be and why?
Morris: The Glands self-titled album is sort of considered the “most Athens” of all Athens, GA albums. Lyrically and musically it just sounds like this place. I’ve never known anyone to hear the album and not just fall in love with it. Vic Chesnutt’s “West of Rome” also very much sounds like Athens to me. Its confessional and dark as hell, but still so playful and its just art through and through.