by Geno Thackara
It’s not just a figure of speech to say that Kevin Morby enjoys being all over the place. His career has already included two bands, two solo albums, and taken him around the country and across the Atlantic several times. “The world, at least all of America and Europe, is seeming so comfortable to me,” he says. “I’ve been to all these venues and cities so many different times that I’m on a first-name basis with a lot of the promoters and staff. It makes the world at large feel like one big town that I’m living in. It’s fun.”
He struck out in his own rootsy-rock direction in 2013 with Harlem River, a live-in-the-room recording of songs going back years, and it was less than a year until Still Life, a more deliberately produced studio affair that encapsulates a shorter span of time. But never mind the change on the surface. For Morby, it’s all part of the same picture. As he puts it, “since I put out two albums so close to each other it feels like they are one album.” Philly will be treated to a helping of both when he and fellow troubadour Ryley Walker come to the Boot & Saddle on Saturday, March 14th.
Why the shift? “I like both approaches,” he offers. “I just wanted to change it up and not make the same record twice. I want them all to be different. I love artists whose catalog offers all different production styles – when the production itself comes across as an instrument.”
This time around, that particular instrument does its job by being unobtrusive; it’s a dynamic backing that’s still simple enough to let his words carry things along. The overall sound is more consistent than you might expect, considering the album was written entirely over a year of touring and revolves around themes of change. It largely sticks to one mood – and of course it’s a mood that’s perfect for cruising (preferably at night).
Naturally enough, things are still changing. Morby did get a chance to settle down for a little while after that crazy traveling time ended last year, finding a new residence out in California: “I live in a very secluded neighborhood on a small mountain. I live in a hobbit hole and I write all day; it’s been really refreshing. And there’s a piano in my house. The piano’s changing everything.”
That’s fitting – even when sitting still, he’s not really sitting still. No doubt we can expect something different again next time, but the audiences on this tour will have to wait a while longer to hear the results. “I have a lot of new material, but I’m purposely not playing it,” he admits. “I don’t want to get too ahead of myself and people are wanting to hear the songs off both the records… I already have a lot of songs I have to play.”
Fair enough. Kevin Morby’s has plenty to share with us already, and I’m sure he’ll be coming back around whenever the time is right for more. In the meantime, we have Saturday’s show to enjoy before he goes riding off into the distance yet again.