Kendra Morris Recollects All Her ‘Nine Lives’ on Sophomore Album

Kendra Morris has lived nine lives. Working towards her dream from singing inside her closet as a child to moving to the big city from Florida to pursue music in 2004 with her band, which eventually parted ways, it would be years before the New York City singer and songwriter would release her debut Banshee in 2012.

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Reflecting on the hard days and all the in-betweens, Morris’ recollected songs of the past decade on Nine Lives ( Karma Chief / Colemine Records). Documenting the highs and lows of life throughout a decade of her life, Nine Lives is a release of Morris’ heartache and soul from “Who We Are,” a soulful track written around the overwhelming, and often detrimental, effects of comparing oneself to others on social media. “It gives you this sense of loneliness,” says Morris. “I remember writing that thinking how the world can seem so lonely. I have to remind myself that we’re all cut from the same cloth. We’re all humans, and we all share in emotions and have to remember that when we’re thinking ‘this person is so happy, and they have it all.’ We have to remember that they actually have another story underneath that, especially when things get scary and dark.”

Midway through, “Penny Pincher” offers a delicate shift from many of the more brooding tracks. The song documented the end of a relationship, and “reaching the end of the road” with someone, says Morris. “They have no idea that you’re already there and you’re just adding pennies and dimes up both literally and metaphorically until you have the strength to leave,” says Morris. “I can speak from experience regarding this situation, unfortunately, multiple times. It is the worst feeling. Limbo is indeed a circle of hell.”

Nine Lives also addresses Morris’ love-hate relationship with alcohol on “Dry,” a song she started writing when she was becoming sober. “I was just trying to put myself back together at that time,” she says. “That song actually resonates with me right now in so many ways, because I’m always reevaluating my relationship with stuff like that.” She adds, “There are some really very personal songs where I really just needed to write through them. I haven’t really done therapy, but I’ve always been a writer since I was a kid, keeping a journal. There are certain songs on that record where I was in really low spots.”

Unknowingly, Nine Lives started piecing together right after Morris released Banshee, working with longtime producer Jeremy Page and chronicled the near-decade to follow. “A habit I’ve always created with myself, and with Jeremy, was to write no matter what, whether I’m writing by myself on a guitar or on whatever I can find, or if I’m in his studio in Bushwick [Brooklyn, NY],” says Morris. “I hate any lows or downtime. I need to be always working on stuff, so I would go there [studio] and keep writing.”

In her continuation of stories, Morris released an EP, Babble, in 2016 then decided she was no longer going to put records out, and focus solely on singles. “After ‘Babble,” I was kind of depressed,” shares Morris. “Putting out an album… I always forget how emotionally exhausting it is. You build up all this anxiety. It’s all these emotions because you’re re-feeling everything from when you wrote the record.”

Everything shifted for Morris when a friend saw one of her songs and told her she needed to make an album around two years ago, and a flurry of songs started coming to her. “I just had all these other flurries,” says Morris. “There’d be like a trickle of a song, and then there’d be a flurry, a group of songs that I wrote within months of each other that were just pouring out.”

She adds, “It’s interesting to look at this record because it put itself together over these nine years of my life when I was going through all kinds of stuff. I can see the emotional moments or things that happened, and I know exactly where I was in my head for each of those songs.”

No longer wary of the experience of the full album, Morris, who has collaborated with DJ Premier, actress Scarlett Johansson in the band Este Haim, and TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek throughout the past decade is more interested in letting an album tell a story. “Now, all I want to do is write albums,” she says. “It’s fun to see how they put themselves together.” 

Often with a notebook in tow, Morris is always sketching a song from an experience, or a jumble of words before Page builds off of her beginning fragments in the studio. Morris says some of her best songs come when she experiments with an instrument she knows nothing about, like playing more recently on a keyboard she had lying under her couch. “I never limit myself to one way of writing, because sometimes you never know when or where a song is gonna come from, and the more you limit yourself, the less likely you’ll find your best songs.”

Morris adds, “When I sit back down with my notebook, that’s where my therapy begins. I want people to hear the growth and the experiences because those songs are about a lifetime, nine lifetimes of experiences and things I’ve gone through. I feel like I grew so much with the album through time as a writer, and through the sounds that inspired me.”

Nine Lives Tracklist
1. Keep Walking
2. This Life
3. Who We Are
4. Nine Lives
5. Penny Pincher
6. Got Me Down
7. Someone Else
8. Dry
9. Circle Eights
10. Drag On

Photos: Sarai Mari

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