Before launching a solo career under his own name, Toronto musician Morgan Cameron Ross achieved a notable level of fame with indie-folk rock band Birds of Wales. The group toured Europe a number of times, released the critically acclaimed Belgravia Hotel record in 2010 while receiving generous support from Muchmoremusic, CBC Radio and XM Satellite Radio.
And while Birds of Wales are still very much a going concern, Ross is currently in the throes of promoting his self-titled debut solo effort. Released this past May, the record features 10 impressive songs that highlight Ross’ versatility in writing memorable pop songs but also show a compelling dark side to the artist.
Morgan Cameron Ross will be performing at Moncton’s Plan B Lounge on Tuesday evening starting at 8 p.m.
From his Toronto home, Ross explains that his solo debut was as much about regaining artistic control over his songs as it was selfish motivation.
“It was not a strategic thing at all,” Ross says. “I went and made the record without really telling anyone what I was doing.”
Asked why he chose to shroud the making of his record in such secrecy, he admits that his stubborn nature may to be credit or blame, depending on how you want to look at it.
“I didn’t really have ambitions of even releasing the record; I did it for myself first and foremost but once the people at my label Sparks heard it, they really liked it and suggested releasing it. All of the pieces fell into place rather organically.”
To help realize his solo debut, Ross enlisted the assistance of producer Jon Anderson whom he had previously worked on the first Birds of Wales record.
“I chose Jon because I have found that working with him can be rather therapeutic. We work incredibly well together; it is important to find that kindred spirit that you can trust. Before we made my solo record, it had been awhile since I had enjoyed the process of making an album,” Ross says.
Asked if it has proven to be difficult to reconcile the two distinct sides of his musical personality, to make the darker themes contained in tracks like My Brother Went To Prison not sound out of place alongside more straight ahead pop songs like Let It Go, Ross says that he has found that everything balances itself out in the bigger scope of the record.
“It is not as strategic of a decision as I would like to claim it to be,” he says. “When I go to make a record, I typically choose the songs that I am most excited about but there is also a certain amount of freedom that goes along with not needing to make every song on your record sound the same as the song before. So many bands are self-recording these days and the byproduct of that is that records are becoming more eclectic-sounding.
“As for balancing the dark with the light, I have discovered that I tend to write verses in my songs that tend to be pessimistic but then couple that with a positive chorus. With Birds of Wales, I had written a song called My Lady In July which I actually wrote as a heartbroken young guy, but I have actually heard of people using it as their wedding song. With the exception of my mother, everyone else sees the song as a positive love song. It just shows how differently songs can be interpreted from person to person.
“I definitely consider myself to be an optimist though. I would much rather have a sad song taken to be as a positive thing then vice versa.”
Following Ross’s Moncton show on Tuesday evening, he is off to Halifax to take part in the Halifax Urban Folk Festival, playing three shows over the course of three days before returning to Ontario. Later in the year, Ross will be making his first trip to Australia to perform, a trip that he says he is really looking forward to.
“Birds of Wales did a lot of touring through Europe but we never managed to get to Australia,” Ross says.
“Times have really changed for the better over the past few years in regards to touring new territories though. It used to be that you didn’t typically tour somewhere unless your record was out but now, having the record available digitally is virtually the same thing. It is cool to think that you can build a following without necessarily having a record in stores.”
Article published in August 26, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript