The singer opens up on creating the animated video and how he already has another EP on the way.
While a lot of us spent the first period of lockdown furiously baking and indulging in at-home workouts, rising singer-songwriter The Last Morrell turned to his lifelong fascination of animated music videos. The result? A stunning self-made video that features 5000 individual photographs. Set to his latest single, “Picking at Stitches”, the video tells a compelling story of loneliness and his teenage years. Opening with a poignant piano melody, the tune quickly bursts into soaring choruses with rumbling bass lines and subtle synths as The Last Morrell confronts an inability to face the outside world.
Opening up on the video, the singer said, “It takes an excruciating amount of patience to do stop motion animation but I learnt so much from Youtube and I was very lucky to have a friend who could lend me a very expensive camera for the whole process. It’s definitely a labour of love to say the least but I have a profound admiration for anyone who can do this professionally.”
Gaining support from the likes of Jessie Ware on BBC Radio 1, we sat down with the singer breaking down the creation of the video, expressing his emotions in music and what we can expect next.
Check out the interview below…
Hi James – how have you been during this uncertain time? How has it impacted your music and creativity?
It was a lot of extreme ups and downs for me personally. I’m a touring musician so I was supposed to be globetrotting most of this year and it all got canned which obviously sucked. But I used the time off to learn how to animate, write music and spend time with loved ones. It was a weird enforced holiday in a way, compared to a lot of people I had it easy, my only worry was money for a while, nothing new there. I’m definitely drawing on a lot of the positives from the experience now and count myself as relatively lucky.
Where did you grow up and how did it influence you sonically? Who are your musical heroes?
I grew up in a beautiful little town in North Yorkshire called Knaresborough. I love where I’m from but as a teenager there is really nothing to do, I became quite withdrawn in my later teenage years and listened to a lot of grunge; Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots. They were mostly from Seattle which I guess had this cold, isolated vibe to it which I related with. My mum showed me Led Zeppelin and my dad showed me Billy Joel and I started playing keys in my twenties so then became obsessed with Stevie Wonder and artists like PJ Morton, Emily King, Daniel Caesar. They opened my world harmonically.
How would you describe your genre?
I guess there’s this R&B, songwriter, grunge hybrid going on, someone once said I sound like ’sad Beatles’ which I like so we’ll go with that. But if you’re filling out a form I probably fall under songwriter. Hard to pin it down.
Congratulations on your new single “Picking At Stitches” – what was it inspired by?
Picking at Stitches is a nod to my teenage self, I didn’t have a hard upbringing and I’m very lucky to have a great family but I was definitely a sad kid for a while. I had friends but felt very lonely and I was definitely the odd one out in my circle. I guess with hindsight I can talk about that teenage depression objectively but it does open deeply rooted feelings, hence the name Picking at Stitches.
And you created the animated stop motion music video yourself, and it is so striking and hair-raising with the way it conveys depression – can you tell us a bit about what set it into motion?
I’ve always been obsessed with stop motion videos; “Bedshaped” by Keane is so sad and really affected me as a kid, same with Steven Wilsons video for “Drive Home”. I’ve always thought animated characters had this amazing ability to express themselves even without faces, which is what I’ve tried to do. I spent months learning the basics and then built a set out of timber and made tiny bookshelves, lamps and a piano with moving parts out of balsa wood and just did it. It’s so human-looking and imperfect but it really captured the feeling of not being able to leave the house when you’re trapped in your own head. I’m actually doing another one right now for “The Party” which is the first track off the EP.
And it’s taken from your new EP “Sarcasm” out now– what is the project trying to say and what ties it together as a body of work?
I guess the themes from the EP are dark at first glance; depression and despair are pretty consistent but there’s always a tongue in cheek moment. I think that life can sometimes be a thankless marathon but if you approach it with humour you can just about make it through unscathed. Sunset, the closing track is an apocalyptic melodrama but it ends with romance. “Sarcasm” just seemed to sum this feeling up the best.
You were played by Jessie Ware on BBC Radio 1 – do you remember where you were when you heard it and what did that feel like?
Yeah that was crazy, I’d been in lockdown less than a month and got the email from the BBC, it was such a little beacon of hope and something to look forward to, and then Jessie’s words were so kind. It was just what I needed. BBC Introducing York have also been so supportive, I can’t thank them enough.
What’s the most unusual place you pull inspiration from?
I’m not sure about this one, everything for me is drawn on connections with myself and others so I don’t know about ‘unusual’. I have a song on the next record that’s about the housing crisis if that counts? I think I write about scenarios or feelings we all find ourselves living in, not through choice.
What do you want fans to take from your music?
I always needed to know there were people out there that felt the same as I did about life, I just hope people who need that affirmation can get it from my music. I also want to take people away from what they’re used to hearing, my music should be an antidote to the more formulaic stuff out there.
What’s next for you? What are you looking forward to in 2021?
Another EP! I’ll be going back into the studio at the start of 2021. Hopefully I can play some shows again too, playing live is my favourite part of the whole thing.