Neal Morse loves being different

Published on March 29th, 2018

By Jim Dail

Photo by Joey Pippin

Neal Morse has always experimented with his music, covering a range of so-called musical genres. Now, he is embarking on an acoustic tour in support of his latest record, “Life & Times.”

“Being on an acoustic tour is not like any I’ve done before,” he said. “It’s sporadic over several months where I do like three dates then home a little then back out. It’s just me so I am a lot more free. I can come and go and do what I want.”

He will perform Friday at The Trek Lands in Whittier.

“This new album is a personal album,” he said. “Most of the songs are ripped from the pages of my life”

It’s not necessarily just his life.

“Life isn’t always all that dramatic,” he said. “Sometimes it’s just about being at home and feeling good. The writer who said ‘I’m looking around and taking stock is true.’ Some of the tunes are based on the lives of people I know.”

For example, “JoAnna” concerns his son.

“It’s about my son’s breakup with JoAnna,” he said. “Of course, they want people to know they are back together. Granted, a lot of songs are just things I was going through on that day. It’s kind of like a travelogue!”

Part of it is about empathy.

“I think that’s what all writers of all kinds aim for,” he said. “Sometimes you are just imagining a situation. What would this character say?”

There is also a spiritual side to most of what Morse writes.

“Songs kind of depend on what you are feeling and how God is leading you, and you never know when it’s going to come,” Morse said. “If you are a mother about to give birth and the time comes where this thing is ready to give birth, you better be ready, but you can’t control it.”

For Morse, sometimes it just happens it is time to write a song, regardless if he is ready for it.

“There are times when I am tired, and I don’t want to have an idea and I’ll just slowly get up and go ‘Okay, I’ll get up and work on it,’” he said. “Many times I think I will take a few days off from writing but then it hits. In fact, it happened recently. I was just done with 11 days in a row and I thought when Tuesday comes I am doing nothing, but then I woke up at 6 a.m. and thought about the ‘Life & Times’ tour.”

The problem was opening his shows.

“I wondered what I was going to open with, and it was two weeks away from the first gig,” he said. “I kept going back and forth, and I just didn’t have anything that fit lyrically with what I was doing. So, I got up and wrote a song, and I have been opening with it ever since.”

He has always been attracted to good songwriting.

“My dad was a music teacher, and so I was exposed to a lot of classical and jazz and then The Beatles became a big influence,” he said.

He had also liked the Singers and Songwriters period, especially “those early Elton John, James Taylor and Jackson Browne albums.”

“What really brought it out was that John Mayer made a couple of albums that were modern-day takes on those early ‘70s singer-songwriters,” he said. “I got them and I found myself listening to them over and over so much that we put them on when we were on vacation and I was really inspired.”

Throughout his career he has worked in and out of many different styles.

“I feel that it’s great to do things that are different than the last thing because I don’t want to keep doing the same thing,” he said.

And part of that includes looking at himself as a musician and entertainer.

“It comes pretty naturally to me,” he said. “I was always entertaining when I was a kid and it is something I have to be careful of.  I have too much of a leaning toward entertaining and sometimes it’s not appropriate and if you want to be authentic I want to be entertaining but authentic. My idea behind these shows is a sharing of who I am and the stories and the things in my life, and hopefully it inspires others.”

And he, as always, gives credit where he feels it is due.

“I feel that the Lord helps me to have a good balance,” he said.

IF YOU GO

When: Friday, March 30

Where: The Whittier Community Center 7630 S. Washington Whittier, CA

Tickets: $50. www.calprog.com

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