TRACK PREMIERE: Anna Morsett of The Still Tide Walks the “High Wire”
Photo By Anthony Isaac
The Still Tide currently reside in Denver, Colorado where they craft the kind of lovely, expansive music one expects from a town surrounded by mountains. Anna Morsett picked up the guitar at an early age; her lyrics capture the melancholy of long nights alone. We talked about her writing process and whether a change of location alters a band’s sound. Listen to The Still Tide’s new single “High Wire” below!
AudioFemme: You grew up in Olympia, Washington. What’s it like growing up in the northwest? My mind sort of melds scenes from Twilight in with a Kurt Cobain documentary.
Anna Morsett: Haha, EXACTLY. My childhood and teen years are pretty much a mash-up of the two. It was great; I feel spoiled to have grown up in such an amazing place really. I miss it all the time. Being near the water was such a gift! It was amazing to grow up in such a liberal and accepting place too. I think that instilled something important in me at such a young age. And there was so much music and art everywhere; it was always so celebrated. I think seeing that and having access to it changed my life direction.
AM: Yes! My older sister would hand me over all the things she was listening to then, during my middle school years, which were a lot of Seattle bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. That was definitely a start. And then of course that was when Third Eye Blind’s self titled record came out and I listened to that relentlessly. I’d started playing guitar then too and really wanted to rock out like those bands. I remember spending hours online trying to learn little riffs and licks.
AF: When did you first start writing music?
AM: About then, probably when I was in seventh or eighth grade? Not of course anything exciting but realizing I could do that or wanted to was important. I think I buried a lot of middle-school feeling/realizations in private half-written songs.
AF: Have you revisited any of those middle-school lyrics for inspiration?
AM: Ha! I haven’t but I should, shouldn’t I?! I did have a collection of old tapes for a long time of those first songs…oh man. I should’ve kept them.
AF: AudioFemme, inspiring artists to search through old diaries since 2017.
AM: Haha! I really am gonna go back and find some of that . . . the last time I went through my boxes of ol’ middle school gems I found a to-do list that said something like “1. quit golf 2. practice guitar 3. take up karate”
AF: You met bandmate and guitarist Jacob Miller in New York. Why did you decide to move to the city?
AM: I decided to move to NYC to live out my dreams as an ex-golfer/guitarist/karate-master. Obviously. I decided to move there because I wanted to get involved in music, more so than I was at the time. I was living in Portland and doing open mics and stuff like that but I think I wanted a place to reinvent myself, figure myself out more and just have an adventure. I just leapt without much of a plan other than that, and moved into a crawl space – my room was four feet tall and only had three walls – in a loft building of artists Bushwick. Which was really one of the best decisions I made! It was hilarious, but such an adventure and I met so many great people.
AF: New York has such a specific energy to it. Did the city greatly influence The Still Tide’s initial sound?
AM: The city was definitely an influence! The energy alone I miss sometimes. Everyone I was around in those early days was on a mission! Always working for or towards something, struggling to get by in the name of the art, music, performance, whatever they were doing. Just running wild with experimenting in whatever arena they were in. So inspiring. And being in that community of Bushwick DIY spaces and bands changed how I thought music was possible.
As far as sound goes, it changed a lot over time. The first EP we put out is much more rock-heavy than what came later. I think that had more to do with what we were into at the time, who was in the band and the bands we were playing with and around. That, and probably just trying to be heard over the loud bars we were playing then.
AF: How has the band’s sound shifted since you and Jacob moved to Denver?
AM: We started writing songs, initially at least, that were a little more quiet and delicate. The crowds we had here were really attentive and curious about us and because we didn’t have to try to shout across the room to get people’s attention like we often did in Brooklyn, we worked harder on lyrics and on how our guitars were working together. It was really refreshing and breathed new and different life into the project. Songs that I’d been working on that hadn’t quite fit the rock thing we were doing previously finally had a landing space. Having time and space – and local support here – to explore that side of ourselves ultimately helped shape us into the project we are now.
Eventually we became more rocky again (which is more represented on this latest EP) but I think having gone through that quieter, more vulnerable performance and writing space was a really important phase to go through. I think it changed how Jake and I wrote together and how we approach new songs.
AF: How does the writing process normally work? Do you start with lyrics and go from there?
AM: Most of the time the music comes first. Usually I’ll play for hours and hours until I stumble into something I think is exciting or inspiring and then try to build it into an actual song. I have many journals that I’ve kept over the last several years with little pieces of lyrics and ideas and often I’ll just start raking through them to see if anything calls out or sticks with what I’m working on and use that as a starting point for lyrical direction. Often too, something will just spill out in that initial writing moment and I’ll just try to keep unpacking it until a song is revealed. Like finding treasure in a sandbox. Once the song is in presentable shape (roughly) I’ll bring it to Jake and our now drummer/producer pal and wonderkid Joe Richmond, and we’ll work through it together.
AF: The band has gone through a few different iterations, with you and Jacob remaining the backbone of the project. Does the process change when you add members or do they act more as support for the live shows?
AM: It does change a little, I guess. After years of playing together, Jake and I are great at working through ideas in their roughest, most unformed shapes but the songs do need to be a little bit more fully formed by the time we bring them to the rest of the band. I love how much ideas can change when we work through them as a group; everyone always brings their own flavor. That kind of collaboration keeps me inspired and excited.
AF: What’s a challenge you’ve faced as an artist that really blew you away? That you weren’t expecting at the start?
AM: So many little challenges along the way! Trying to balance time, energy and finances are all pretty tricky and generally a constant. But I’d say the biggest challenge I’ve faced was often just myself. It took a long time to learn how to get out of my own way and be braver about getting my own work out into the world.
AF: Tell us about your new single “High Wire” – I love that opening trill at the beginning.
AM: Me too! One of my favorite parts of our shows lately is launching into that song. “High Wire” is about a relationship falling apart and the energy each person in the relationship spends trying to save it when maybe it’s best to just let it go. And about how difficult it can be to make that call, especially when you’re still in love with each other but so aware of how things aren’t working. The chorus “Where do you run to / whether you want to / whether you don’t” speaks to that and the inevitable distance that creeps into a relationship while it’s unwinding.
AF: You’re currently touring through August. Will you be adding additional dates?
AM: There will be a few local shows in Denver over the fall but we’ll focus on touring again more in Spring. We’re also part of another band called Brent Cowles and will be touring with him in September and November. Wish there were more time for us to get out then too! Just so much cool stuff going on…
AF: Anything else on the horizon we should look out for?
AM: We’ve got some music videos in the works! We’ll be releasing those over the next few months. We’re also working on some demos for the next record already, so fingers crossed that we can move on that this winter.
AF: What advice would you give a middle schooler currently jotting down ninja lyrics in her diary?
AM: I would tell her to just keep going – keep working those ninja lyrics, someday they may change her whole world. Oh and then I’d ask her to send me some so I could get back to my roots. Maybe she and I could collaborate.
The Still Tide’s new EP Run Out is out this Friday.
Ashley Prillaman is a writer living in Los Angeles, California. When she's not living that #FestivalLife, you can find her walking her dogs, listening to This American Life, or chowing down on street tacos. Follow @AshleyPrillaman on Twitter & check out her interview series #LetsTellAStory on her blog www.ashleyprillaman.com.