Claire Morales is an intriguing young singer-songwriter from Denton. A music fan as far back as she can remember, she learned guitar at 11, and started playing shows at 13, so she’s set herself up for the long haul in the scene. Claire released her debut album, Amaranthine, in early 2015. Claire sat down to talk about ice cream and Thai food (I don’t think I asked about those things, but ok) in our Better Know an Artist interview.
Me: For starters, tell us a little about yourself. How did you first get into music? And when did you know this is what you want to do for a living (money be damned)?
CM: I’ve been into music for as long as I can remember. When I was 3, I would force my friends and family to listen to me while I stood on the fireplace and sang Little Mermaid and Carol King songs. I bet there are pictures of this somewhere. My dad would play guitar and I would sing as I got older. I remember insisted that we play “Blowing in the Wind” by Bob Dylan for my 4th grade talent show and “To Sir with Love” for the 5th grade show (a very emotional goodbye to elementary school). I learned to play guitar when I was 11 and started playing shows when I was 13. I’ve always wanted to do this for a living. It was way easier to say money be damned when I was 5, but I’m still trying to follow that little kid dream.
Me: How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before?
CM: It is like eating ice cream and both fondly recalling your youth and also vaguely fearing your eventual demise. I’m really bad with genres. I guess I would call it lyrically driven, melodic, unicorn-y dream rock. But that sounds just as silly as the bit I just wrote about ice cream.
Me: Who are some of your biggest musical influences, and why?
CM: I’m very inspired by musicians I’ve seen locally and played shows with. Friends are big influences for me. As far as other acts: Angel Olsen, Patsy Cline, Beirut, the Shins, Sibylle Baier, Built to Spill, REM, Hank Williams, Nancy Sinatra, Leonard Cohen and Laura Marling are some big ones. I’m really attracted to beautiful music with strong lyrics, and I feel like I learn a lot technique-sie from singers I love. i actually find myself being really inspired by literature as well, as far as lyrics go. I find myself thinking of Greek mythology and also some of my favorite authors when I write (Salinger, Camus, TS Eliot, Dostoyevsky). Whew! That was longwinded.
Me: Which of your songs means the most ot you, and if you don’t mind me asking, why?
CM: Hmm. I’m going to say that the song that means the most to me is usually the most recent one I’ve written. I write songs that are very personal. Not all of them are about me or my life, but they are about what I believe in and feel strongly about, so the latest one is usually the closest to where i’m at.
Me: If you could open for any act, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?
CM: Probably Leonard Cohen. He’s just such a wonderful songwriter. I’d love to play an acoustic-y show with him.
Me: Any favorite new musical acts, local or otherwise?
CM: La Luz, Shana Cleveland and the Sandcastles, Courtney Barnett, Oh Rose, and Sharon Van Etten come to mind. There are so many others I’m sure.
Me: What’s your “stranded on an island” record?
CM: Burn Your Fire for No Witness by Angel Olsen. Clearly, I dig her.
Me: Moving onto the home front, what are your favorite (and least favorite) things about the DFW music scene?
CM: My favorite thing about this scene is all the great music. My least favorite thing is not being able to keep all that great music here. I feel like the Denton scene is in a bit of a valley right now. Successful bands tend to leave for bigger towns with better opportunities. There are very few local labels that are able to financially support bands. More and more clubs are closing and struggling in Denton, which means fewer places to play. House shows have died down. The music festivals we’ve been hosting in Denton are really good, but they happen once a year. There isn’t a lot of industry in town, which makes it hard to have a solid day job and be a musician. As a scene, we need to figure out how to keep awesome musicians around. I think a part of the problem is just having fewer people who are interested in seeing live music and especially local bands. It’s a big struggle and a frustrating one, because I think there’s a real opportunity here that’s slipping away more and more. I don’t have clear solutions, but I’m trying to figure out ways to help make things better and bring people out to shows. Hopefully, you’ll see some of those efforts in 2016.
Me: Favorite DFW venue to play (or see a show). Why?
CM: So far, I think it’s Dan’s. I’ve gone there since I was pretty young, and there’s something so warm and intimate about it. Also, the sound is stellar, the art is lovely, the bartenders are friendly, and it’s in walking distance to a couple of excellent Thai food restaurants. I’m very driven by food.
Me: Any favorite local acts people should be looking out for?
CM: A few favorite North and Central Texas acts: Jena Pyle (in all her various musical endeavors), New Science Projects, Daniel Markham, Pageantry, Pearl Earl, the Deer, Jesse Gage, Gollay, the Baptist Generals, Reservations, Lomelda, Dollie Barnes, Spooky Folk, Chinaski the Fury, The Angelus, Danny Diamonds, Ryan Thomas Becker, Grace London… I’m sure I’m forgetting people who are really rad and influential. There are always so many new and cool acts. I’m realizing that more and more. Everyone should just get out and go to shows. You’ll find some great music in no time, I promise.
Me: And for shits and giggle, what’s a fun fact that most people don’t know about you?
CM: Hmm, I hate melon! I think a lot of people know that one actually.
Thanks to Claire Morales for letting us get to the (super) quirky underbelly of her musical soul. Keep an eye out for Claire at the Thai restaurants in Denton, or you know, maybe she’ll play a show, and check out Amaranthine below. Either way, she’s probably, like, your favorite person right now, so show her some love.
Photo Credit: Jasmyne Rose (jasmynerose.com)