Sally Anne Morgan is an artist and multi-instrumentalist whose mastery of traditional folk forms is matched only by her ability to push the bounds of those forms into fresh, imaginative pastures. Known for her fiddle playing with the traditional Black Twig Pickers and the duo House and Land, Sally Anne’s debut solo album ‘Thread’ establishes her as an unparalleled voice in contemporary folk. With a penchant for tuneful melodies, combined with hypnotic rhythms, the result verges on pop. Thread is centred on interconnectivity and exploration, stringing together practices both ancient and modern and brimming with simple beauties, tracing Morgan’s myriad of influences and their deep connections, from the psychedelic leanings of Trees and the Third Ear Band, to folk singers like Jean Ritchie and Nic Jones, to Kentucky fiddler Clyde Davenport, to Pauline Oliveros and Johanna Brouk.
The organic energy of Thread grows lushest with its ensemble pieces, featuring Morgan’s partner Andrew Zinn on guitar, and drummer Nathan Bowles. Bowles’ percussive flares across the record lend the folk rock edge to songs like opener ‘Polly on the Shore’ and the neolithic stomp to the jubilant ‘Sheep Shaped.’ Morgan retains that energy on solo pieces while allowing for space to add sparse but potent embellishments. Through her elegant singing, dexterous fiddle, banjo, and guitar playing, and commanding skills as a composer, Sally Anne Morgan has established herself as an artist of singular power and grace.
1: Black Lives Matter
2: Capitalism is killing the planet
3: God is alive, magic is afoot
1. What is the biggest inspiration for your music?
That’s a broad question with a broad answer: place. I mean a deep inherent connection with the land, the landscape, with nature. All music is rooted in this, I think, not just folk or traditional music (though maybe it’s most apparent in those forms, and that is why I am drawn to them). Having a deep soul connection to place is the biggest inspiration I can think of. Being able to channel that connection and love into music, without getting in my own way, is the biggest inspiration I can think of.
2. How and when did you get into making music?
I think I was born with an ear for music, and have loved it from my earliest memories of listening to oldies on the radio station. I played violin from a young age, and I remember periods of loving it and of hating it, feeling like it was forced on me. Discovering my dad’s record collection in my early high school years, hearing “folk” music, music made by regular people who were not trained in some academy, was the first time I felt any sense that I could create my own music, rather than just playing what was in a book someone else had written. But it took me until my mid or even late twenties to really make what I would consider my own music. It’s been a slow journey for me.
3. What are 5 of your favourite albums of all time?
This is a constantly shifting list. But I do keep coming back to:
Buffy Saint Marie – Illuminations
Van Morrison – Common One
Alice Coltrane – Journey in Satchidananda
Laurie Spiegel – The Expanding Universe
Various Artists – Old Originals Vol. 1 and 2: Old-Time Instrumental Music Recently Recorded in North Carolina and Virginia (1976)
4. What do you associate with Berlin?
I’ve never been to Berlin, sadly, but electronic music comes to mind.
5. What’s your favourite place in your town?
The music venue the Mothlight in Asheville, North Carolina, which sadly shut its doors very recently.
6. If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?
I would be but a shell, who read a lot of books and drew a lot of pictures.
7. What was the last record/music you bought?
Shirley Collins Heart’s ‘Ease’.
8. Who would you most like to collaborate with?
Hildegard von Bingam.
9. What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?
I got to play with Faust and Laurie Anderson, which was incredible and still feels unreal.
10. How important is technology to your creative process?
Until a year ago I would say not very important – an instrument or even just my voice are the building blocks. However, in learning some basics of recording myself, I have been able to enhance and expand my songs in ways that are new and exciting to me. Adding fiddle parts to a guitar composition, for example, I don’t think I could have done without this technology.
11. Do you have siblings and how do they feel about your career/art?
I have two brothers who are, at best, mystified by me and my life.
Photo © Katrina Ohstrom