Cellar Dwellers: Kendra Morris is a musical cover girl

Kendra Morris brings her own sound to cover songs, creates her own album covers through collages


VISALIA – When Kendra Morris was 8 years old she got a karaoke machine for Christmas. She loved singing her favorite songs, a never ending playlist thanks to her musical childhood. Her parents not only played in bands but had cabinets full of vinyl records from soul, pop and R&B artists such as Marvin Gaye, the Spinners, War, Stevie Wonder, Jackson 5, and the Temptations.

Kendra Morris will perform live at the Cellar Door on Friday, Feb. 2. Submitted photo.

Kendra Morris will perform live at the Cellar Door on Friday, Feb. 2. Submitted photo.

“It became a huge tool in training my ear to find all the voices in my head that want a place in a song,” Morris said in an interview with Wax Poetics magazine.

Wax Poetics, which doubles as a record label, released Morris’ second, and more successful album Mockingbird. A nod to her soulful remakes of classic rock and R&B songs, the album delivered her first big break into mainstream music with her first single “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.” A remix of the Pink Floyd classic was included in the trailer for the 2013 Colin Farrell film “Dead Man Down.”

The album also features covers of songs by an eclectic collection of artists from every era and style of rock including Radiohead, David Bowie, Bettye Lavette, Lou Reed, Soundgarden, the Proclaimers, the Beach Boys, Metallica, and the Rolling Stones.

“I think doing covers is great, because it turns people onto an artist that maybe they would have never taken the time to listen to,” Morris told WaxPoetics magazine in 2016. “whether it is the artist covering or the one being covered. It is a great way to open the mind up to new things. It’s kind of like taking a potato and mashing it on Monday night for dinner and then reworking the leftovers into a Shepherd’s pie on Tuesday night. Delicious!”

But Morris is more than just a cover girl. That karaoke machine also doubled as mini recording studio, where she could make up her songs, or remake them in her own innocent way. Described as a “modern-day Janis Joplin” by Interview magazine, Morris debuted her original songs on the album Banshee, in the summer of 2012. Under the Wax Poetics label, Morris’ songs “If You Didn’t Go,” “Pow,” and “Concrete Waves” made waves throughout the music industry with a mention in Rolling Stone, Billboard and National Public Radio.

After teaming up with producer/guitarist/co-writer Jeremy Page while in New York, Morris has blossomed into an impressive songwriter. She was awarded the 2011 Holly Prize, which recognizes new singer-songwriters whose talents honor the legacy of Buddy Holly by way of excellence in songwriting, performing, and musicianship.

Both of her original and cover songs are artful and unique to Morris’ creative vision, which extends to the outward of appearance of the music on her album covers. Morris has used her interpretive insight into music to make more than 50 unique album covers using the art of collage. Morris puts a lot of herself into the covers, literally, with each of the covers including a hidden, or sometimes not so hidden, photo of herself. Morris said collage has helped her hone her creative talents and likens the process of creating an alternate reality of photographs to changing the vocals to a classic song.

“I believe there isn’t a boundary to creativity and that there is no such thing as being a ‘this’ or a ‘that’… it’s just sometimes how you decide to focus your creative energy at the moment. There are no rules to it.”

Catch Kendra Morris from 9 to 11:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 2 at The Cellar Door, 101 W. Main St. in Visalia. Admission is $10. For tickets visit ticketweb.com.

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