Los Angeles artist Morgan Kibby is a real live Renaissance woman. Along with collaborating with the French electro band M83, producing and remixing for other artists, and doing voiceover work for film trailers, she has her own project, White Sea, whose full-length debut In Cold Blood, comes out this week.
Morgan recently sat down with Yahoo Music to discuss her impressive background, busy schedule, and the breakup that inspired her new album. Come discover this ocean-sized talent here.
Yahoo Music: Tell us a bit about your background. I know you've collaborated with a lot of artists.
Morgan Kibby: I've spent the last six years making music with Anthony [Gonzalez] from M83; he initially tapped me just as a vocalist, and then it just quickly spiraled into a more collaborative relationship. I wrote on Saturdays = Youth and then toured that record, and then wrote on Hurry Up, We're Dreaming and then toured that record. And then as a producer and remixer, I kind of started a couple of years ago back in 2009, 2010; I started remixing for a bunch of bands, and that just kind of spiraled.
How do you approach remixing?
I take a lot of pride in my remixes. I try to do very different things with my remixes; I don't try to just churn out dance remixes. I've done remixes for anybody from School of Seven Bells to Britney Spears, so it's been quite an array of artists. And yeah, now here I am, starting something on my own.
Is it daunting to remix another artist's work?
It's a huge responsibility. Somebody's handing you their baby, this thing that they've spent so much time on, and I treat it with a lot of care. I also know that after I did a couple of remixes which very strongly established what kind of style I remix in, I knew that people were coming to me and asking me to do remixes because they understood what I might be able to contribute to, what was already there. My approach is to just take time and care. I mean, I spend a lot of time on remixes, and it's so pleasurable. I always learn something new about making music when I'm doing a remix, whether it's about gear or reverbs or songwriting, even. I love it.
What instruments do you play?
My focus is keys, but I also play cello — not super-well, but enough to get by for sessions and stuff. I can get by on the guitar. I'm good at picking things up and figuring things out for the purposes of what I'm doing, but when I'm properly recording for another band or for myself, when it comes to drums, bass, guitar I always have the professionals come in and do it.
Were you a child prodigy? Seems like you must have been…
I don't know that "prodigy" is the right word, but I definitely started playing very early. I played classical piano from about age 4 or 5 until I was about 14.
What do you get out of solo work that you don’t get from collaborations?
You know, collaboration and contribution to other projects is always incredibly rewarding, but there's something intensely fulfilling about doing something on my own. And frankly, this record is a very personal record and it was the right time to make it. It's a breakup record and it feels very exposing, but in the best way possible. It's my first foray into working by myself, and I'm interested to see how people react to it.
Has your ex heard the album? Does that worry you, what he will think of it?
When you break up with someone, it's almost like you want to keep everything safe and private; like I don't want to share anything else with him anymore, I guess, so I'd love to keep my album safe and precious. But he'll hear it, and frankly there is a lot of loving feelings towards him, so maybe it will heal some of it for both of us.
Was writing about your breakup therapeutic?
Of course I'm expressing a lot of the things that come with the grief of trauma and losing something; it's definitely those kind of "five stages of the grief" process. This record is like start to finish kind of like a book, if you will. But it was interesting: In processing how I felt about what happened, I ended up expressing more about myself… It's really an album of self-reflection that is spurred by this traumatic event. When you're emotional, you're emotional, and I think one thing that was really clear to me was that I could have made a choice to hide behind my ego and try to pretend like nothing happened and not write songs about it, or I could choose to be honest. And I chose to be honest, for better or for worse. It feels great. As I've gotten away from the finishing of the record, it's become just really joyous to feel like I can share that and not feel that pit in your stomach, you know?
What else are you working on?
I'm doing tons of other things right now. I'm producing a record for another band for the first time I'm really excited about, called Wildcat Wildcat. I'm extremely excited about that; I mean being a producer is exceptionally important to me. It's a big part of what I do. I obviously am throwing myself completely into White Sea, but pursuing composing and producing for other people.
Is it important for you to keep busy?
I'm lucky to have an opportunity to be able to express myself through my art and not have a day job right now, so being able to wake up every day and get to make music, I don't take it for granted. I feel very lucky. I get bored very easily, so I try to do as many things as possible on a regular basis.
Do you ever get writer's block? If so, how do you get over that?
I had serious writer's block until my breakup and then it was just like, whoosh! It was a flood. Then I haven't had any problems since — knock on wood. But yeah, everybody gets writer's block, and that's usually when you should be asking yourself new questions and learning new things. I find that when I don't have anything to say, it's good to just be quiet and throw yourself into feeding your brain a little bit. And then it tends to come back.