For Eliot Morris - whose Universal Records debut, What´s Mine Is Yours, ripples with the kind of sure-footed songcraft of an artist blooming at precisely the right time - maybe the series of hurdles the Alabama native endured to deliver his major label inaugural happened for a reason. "I´m kind of used to delayed gratification," he quips, with Morris pointing out that growing up as one of six kids in his parents Mobile, Alabama household, they always weren´t the first family to upgrade the latest technological device. Not because they were poor - but as Morris puts it: "My dad wasn´t what you´d call an early adapter. He believed in delaying that hunger for material stuff and would have us, instead, explore what was around us. I think that it taught me the importance of communicating with the tools you have."
The lesson in resiliency has paid off, with the grounded Morris pivoting from Mobile, to Auburn University (where he graduated with a degree in Finance) to Nashville and eventually, to Birmingham, Alabama. He diligently honed his songwriting along the way, but also experienced the typical drizzle of record company-stutter steps (one self-titled under-the-radar release), and other unpredictable delays (he was originally signed to a subsidiary of Universal that folded before they released his album), that fortunately, never seemed to dampen the buzz about the singer/songwriter´s immense talent, or his unique perspective about arriving at his appointed destination. "I kind of looked at it as you really only get one chance, anyway, so the time allowed me to grow creatively. But I was always optimistic, even though there were bumps in the road, because I knew I was really improving as a songwriter."
What´s Mine Is Yours - if nothing else - affirms that notion from beginning to end. The new disc bristles with a rare vitality for a (mostly) acoustic guitar player. Morris also displays a keen ability to distill only the nectar of his ripening talent for wordplay, selectively mining regional influences as he deftly captures the bigger picture or, as he so elegantly defines it - where life happens,´ - no matter where you´re from. Whether it´s the cockeyed optimism of "This Colorful World," the weary fragility of "Fault line," or the playfully bittersweet slap of "Balancing The World," the album is laden with multiple gems, all tempting introductions for fans of varied musical tastes to get to know Eliot Morris in a hurry. On the latter song, Morris displays his knack for both craftsmanship and blown-out poetry, purposefully tossing away the song´s brilliant opening line with the tell-me-about-it aplomb of somebody who´s lived it:
When everything is a dream, and it´s moving fast.
It´s hard to hand the present over to the past
For Morris, the most conspicuous hand-off marking his own musical journey really begins in Nashville, his chosen destination to kick-start his aspiring music career after graduating from Auburn. The only problem the reception the young singer/songwriter received from the country music capital was less than warm. "I made great friends there, and I felt like I learned some very important lessons about songwriting, but I never felt embraced by the music community. I time though, I´ve grown to love Nashville, and now I can see how that experience served as sort of the first step in my understanding of who I am creatively and what I want to do."
So the songwriter headed back to Alabama, but Birmingham this time, where he was well aware of the city´s growing rep´ as a musical nurturing ground for friends and fellow travelers. "It had some great record stores, all these great undiscovered artists and bands, as well as a history of playing a big role in breaking bands like Train and Matchbox 20." Morris got to work, exploring the local musical terrain with a renewed gusto, and writing and performing with renewed inspiration. Before long he scored a development deal with Universal´s, now defunct, Strummers Records. And after trying, unsuccessfully, to put a band (Parker´s Back) around his existing songs, Eliot would make permanent his solo status building on the southern mystique, and creating a slow-burning buzz through CD sharing and a constant blur of touring (both local haunts and coveted opening slots and side stages for John Mayer, Counting Crows and James Taylor among others). Strummer would eventually die an unfortunate death but Universal saw something special and decided that Eliot was an artist that needed to be heard.
It´s evident from the new album that Morris has indeed soaked it all up´. Fertile collaborations with the album´s producer, Tony Berg, and Eliot´s longtime writing partner Ilya Toshinsky, (who lives in Nashville) round out What´s Mine Is Yours, making it a surprisingly seasoned offering for what the Amazon.coms of the world will no doubt bill as a stunning rookie effort. "When I look back on how I got here I´m grateful for every turn," he says. Growing up listening to his favorite albums such as Paul Simon´s Graceland, or his parent´s soulful Motown compilations, Morris admits he never really plotted a musical career back in those days. "I don´t think I picked up a guitar until I was a sophomore or junior in high school. But I allowed myself to be moved by music and I guess I was always aware that I had the inclination to create it. I have a theory that our greatest evolution happens after we understand who we are," he says.
"In a way, I think everyone´s personal journey is really the path they choose to confront or avoid their fears. An artist definitely has to struggle to arrive where he´s supposed to be and the challenges can be overwhelming. But what I realized, and I think what my songs are really about, is that you have to be aware that life is happening all around us, all the time- in everyday things." Eliot smiles at the revelation. "And songs flow from that."
"Now, let´s go get something to eat."