Interview: Cary Morin

Interview: Cary Morin

Credit: carymorin.com

To those who have been around Colorado for a while, Fort Collins musician Cary Morin needs little in the way of introduction. A virtuoso in almost any style on guitar, Morin has won countless awards, including at Telluride and within the indigenous music community and blues music communities. Having played in front of native audiences to European ones, from The John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. to the stages at FoCoMX in Fort Collins, Morin has been everywhere.  

This year has been a busy one for Morin, even in the midst of the closure of venues and a large segment of the music community. In addition to being active on the live-stream circuit, Morin has a new album out on August 7. Dockside Saints finds Morin in a Zydeco state of mind, having recorded it the Dockside Studios in Maurice, La. and featuring the new single “Nobody Gotta Know.” 

We caught up with Morin to talk about his skills in almost any genre, staying active in music right now, and more.

Note: this interview has been slightly edited for clarity

The Colorado Sound: Hi Cary. How have you been doing these past several months?

Cary Morin: Staying home for the most part, working on projects. I thought there was going to be lots of free time, but there’s always so much to do. We are working on promoting the release right now. We’re also working on solo, duo, and band shows, and writing new music. We’ve managed to be able to find a way to survive without being on the road.

You’ve had quite a storied career – from winning awards at Telluride and performing at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. to touring around the world. When you started playing music at a young age, did you fathom representing Colorado on such a wide scale?

I am from Montana, originally. Though, no I didn’t imagine it here either. At a younger age, my goal was to play solo acoustic shows at local and regional venues. My world view was fairly limited at that time. I eventually achieved those goals, playing all over the West as a younger artist. As I’ve grown, my goals have changed and constantly do. I’ve been fortunate to do some very fun shows at some wonderful places around the world. I’m proud to be a part of the music community in Colorado. I continue to search for new and interesting opportunities and collaborations.

You play styles ranging blues, jazz, reggae, bluegrass, you name it, and you are able to make it all seem so easy. What’s the most challenging genre for you to play on your guitar?

I tend to approach songs with a vision of creating melody lines and bass lines simultaneously, regardless of the genre. It’s always a challenge to try and present different pieces of music with just voice and guitar, and still make it appealing. I don’t much think about genre when writing a song. I try to give every piece of music, whatever it is that the song is asking for.

Credit: carymorin.com

You are quite active with live-streaming your concerts on your social media. How has the virtual experience of bringing your music to your fans been going for you?

When we were driving back from our tour (which ended one month early due to COVID), we had some conversations about what we were going to do when we got home. Live streaming was one of the first things we talked about. We were talking about having all the right tools to stream simultaneously on a couple of different platforms. I had some ideas to do some collaborations online with folks from the South. We wanted to try and do some live stream shows at iconic venue locations. 

Well, it’s been going fairly well. We’ve accomplished some of that so far. We do two to three live streams per week, typically. We do one at 3 p.m. on Wednesdays for European fans, and one on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. from The Launching Pad here in town. We can do that while maintaining a safe environment. We had to wait for the “stay at home” ban to be lifted before we could begin there.

We continue to acquire better gear as we are able, to have the highest quality production that we can afford right now. It’s interesting, because we’ve made many records over the years with Rich Werdes at The Launching Pad, and always trying to make a better record. Now, we’re doing the same thing with Rich, though with live streaming; always trying to make a better virtual show.

You took place in a benefit recently for the Physicians for Social Responsibility of Colorado. Can you tell us more about the show and its mission?

I like their mission to educate health care workers around the health detriments of fracking and how to treat such illnesses. I was introduced to them by some of the members that asked me to play the benefit. I was not previously associated with them.

This might be a silly question, but what are some of your favorite songs that you have written and why do they stand out to you?

I’ve been having a lot of fun with “Jamie Rae” and a few others that are on my new album, Dockside Saints. Jamie Raeis a song that I took a lot of time to write. I wanted it to include a chord structure that is uncommon in my songs. I also wanted it to include melodies of a more complex nature. Other songs from this album continue to change and develop, as I continue to perform them week to week.

Another is, “Carmela Marie off of my 2017 release When I Rise. I’ve experimented with this song by trying different tempos and cadence. I’ve presented this song with Celeste (Morin’s wife) and it continues to grow and change. It’s been particularly satisfying.

With our current conditions, we are limited to the number of musicians we can perform with and safely be around, so most often, I approach songs in an acoustic setting, singing duets with Celeste. That’s a pursuit that I’ve really grown fond of and enjoy sharing with other people.

To be versed in so many styles, you must listen to a lot of music. What are some songs or artists you are into that might be a bit of a surprise for us?

I’ve always been a fan of David Lindley’s music. Even from childhood, I was impressed with his ability to play electric guitar and also be a virtuoso on acoustic guitar. He recorded “Ain’t No Way,” that I’ve always liked, as well as other artists’ interpretations of the song. It’s been in my repertoire for over 30 years. It’s a fun tune.

I’m a big Joni Mitchell fan. I appreciate her talent on a variety of instruments, in varied tunings. Her studio work building background vocals has always amazed and inspired me. Her song, “Amelia,” is beautiful and one of my favorites.

Now, I feel it is important to share this history and continue the oral history of my people. 

You were raised in Montana as a member of the Crow tribe. Is music a big part of their heritage, and how has it influenced you as a musician and a person?

Music is a very big part of Crow culture. There’s a song for every occasion: life, death, birth, relationships, humor, and many more. Growing up with that music as a part of my life wasn’t something that I gave much thought to because it was just always there. I can still hear melodies from old Crow songs that I first heard when I was a child. Thanks to my parents and our culture, it is and always will be a big part of who I am as a songwriter and performer. 

Could you share a Crow saying or story that might be good to hear in these confusing times?

My song, “Valley of the Chiefs,” is a true story told by my great grandmother at my Crow naming ceremony when I was about four years old. It tells of when she was a teenager and was kidnapped by a neighboring tribe. When women were kidnapped back then, they were destined to a life of servitude. She and her friends escape the warriors and are able to steal their horses and ride back home. The moral of the story from my great grandmother to me was that there is nothing in life that you cannot overcome. I believe she was giving me this story to teach me perseverance in the face of any obstacles in my life. The story is familiar to me for my whole life. 

I wrote it as a memory of my life and my culture. I’ve written songs about the Crow side of my family for years. Not many of them were ever published until recently in my career.  Earlier in my life, I probably thought that sharing these stories and family history was too personal.  It would be interesting to ask other Crow people what their specific naming ceremony stories are. There are many.

Now, I feel it is important to share this history and continue the oral history of my people. 

We are holding a poll on our website: who is the best Colorado musician of all time? Since we won’t let you write in your own name – although we are sure many will – who would you vote for?

Tommy Bolin. I’ve loved his songs since about eight grade. I didn’t know he was from here at that time.

When you get to playing live music, what do you think that’s going to feel like?

It’ll feel really good, because it will also mean we are free to travel around the world “safely” again.

In the meantime, we continue to work on music and be ready for that day.