Musicians tend to roll with whatever circumstances and surroundings they face at a given gig.
And pretty much right from the start, Denton, Texas-based singer-songwriter Claire Morales has done just that.
There was the time a very young Morales, while battling pneumonia, played at a coffee shop with her father and guitar teacher — and one of the songs they tackled was the intricate “Hotel California” by the Eagles.
“I must’ve been about 14 and was on all sorts of medication,” she says. “Just playing that song with three crazy guitar parts and being so out of it was strange.”
Prior to that, on her 13th birthday, Morales performed in the back room of a pizza place, “which was really more of a bar and less of a restaurant,” she admits. “There were penises drawn all over the bathrooms, and all of my middle school pals thought that was really hilarious.”
Time will tell if Morales’ experience this year at South by Southwest will be as memorable. Look for Morales to focus on her 2015 debut, Amaranthine, and preview her forthcoming second album, which has songs she says are “really quiet and delicate, and others are fearsome and grand.”
Medleyville.us: According to your bio, you were paid in cookies at your early coffee-shop gigs. Were the cookies always fresh? And did you have a choice as far as what kind and how many?
Claire Morales: “They were often the ones wrapped in plastic that sit for days on end. And if the shop didn’t have cookies, they would give me frappucinos or smoothies or other things that 13-year-olds like. My mom told the coffee shops that I didn’t need to be paid in money, but they would usually give me free food and drink as compensation. I usually ate chocolate chip because that is the best cookie, and it’s always around.”
What exactly is “unicorn rock ’n’ roll,” a description that appears on your website?
Morales: “It’s a term I made up — I think. You’re actually the first person to ask me what it means. In my mind, unicorns are magical, mysterious and beautiful. They are also elusive. So I try to make music that is all of those things but also a little rockin’ — fuzzy and overdriven and a little messed up. I love juxtaposition and contrast, and so having those two ideas mix just sounded nice to me and [seemed] like a good way to describe my musical vision.”
Describe Denton, Texas, in five words.
Morales: “Intimate, stoned, spacey, developing, in-between.”
Did you experience any difficulty or obstacles transitioning from acoustic guitar to electric?
Morales: “It was strange for me at first. It felt like there was so much that was possible sonically. The freedom was a little overwhelming. A friend of mine suggested that I play a semi-hollowbody, which to me is a bit like training wheels in the movement from acoustic to electric — very warm and melodic.”
What’s the status of your second full-length album? And how is it different from or similar to your first?
Morales: “It’s being mastered right now. We’re shopping it around and hoping to release it this year. In the next couple weeks, we’re shooting the album cover. I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but I will say that I’m going to be on it, and I will be very tall.
“The sound is much different from the first. A lot of it was inspired by ’70s rock — Brian Eno, David Bowie, The Modern Lovers, etc. — and feels really big and mythic. This one was recorded at a studio rather than in a home, so that makes for a much different feeling — more produced, maybe.”
Finish this sentence: At this year’s SXSW, I will …
Morales: “… eat tacos, rock hard and really, really try to be social.”
— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior
Claire Morales at South by Southwest 2017 (schedule subject to change):
• 6 p.m. March 14: Hilton — 500 E. 4th St.
• Midnight March 15: Stephen F’s Bar — 701 Congress Ave. (official SXSW showcase with full band)