Chris Morris takes listeners to the heart of folk music

Kingston singer-songwriter talks life changes and new music

Chris Morris will play at Skeleton Park Brewery's taproom on March 14 at 4 p.m.
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Chris Morris used to be the man backstage: a concert promoter trying to get bands to play gigs. 10 years later, he’s become the performer instead.

On March 14, Chris Morris will play live at Skeleton Park Brewery’s taproom from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

After going semi-professional around 2017, Morris plays about 100 shows a year. Along with his March 14 performance, he can also be found at Musiiki Café every Wednesday night playing in the band The Goodnight Irenes with members Jon McLurg on guitar and vocals, and Al Duquette on fiddle and vocals.  

When Morris made the decision to switch from concert promoter to performer, folk music was a natural fit.

“Folk music can go from the campfire to the kitchen table, to the pub, to the arena,” he said in an interview with The Journal.

The genre’s ability to reach modern audiences with stories and traditions from the past appealed to Morris, who draws his inspiration from a wide variety of artists, ranging from Bob Dylan to famous Canadian children’s singer-songwriter, Raffi.

“When I started having kids of my own, I started listening to people like Raffi. He’s just taking traditional folk songs that’re 100 or 200 years old and bringing them to his audience—usually he takes out the murder and the drinking. It’s music that everybody can sing along with.”

Although Morris’ first love was performing music—he started playing gigs at the age of 13—his musical career has taken an unconventional path.

Starting out in Loyalist Collegiate and Vocational Institute (LCVI) in Kingston, Morris would perform in lunchtime coffee houses in the drama room. When the teacher organizing the event ran out of time to put the shows together, Morris took on the task and began booking his friends and organizing each event.

Taking his teenage concert-planning skills into the real world, Morris started his business, Rock Crew Productions. It began as a shot in the dark to balance his and friends’ beer budgets.

After successfully locating a venue for a band struggling to find a place to play in Kingston, they realized the need for concert promoters in the city and began to expand. From 2002 to 2006, the group has hosted Arcade Fire, k-os, and Serena Ryder, even bringing a then-unknown duo Tegan and Sara to Kingston to play at the Queen’s Pub in 2001. 

“Google wasn’t around then, so I probably Yahoo’d their booking agent and asked, ‘How do I bring Tegan and Sara to Kingston?’” Morris said. “That was kind of the beginning of it for me, then it got rolling and got bigger.”

However, with the birth of his children, the late-night lifestyle wasn’t working for Morris, and the more time he spent focused on other people’s music, the further he got from his own.

“I just hadn’t been making enough music and it was really bugging me,” Morris said.

Morris’ debut full-length album, I Know This All Too Well, was released in 2018, a solo effort guided by fellow local musician Tom Savage.

As of now, his new repertoire will go towards an album for next year. His other goals include changing up his locations to be able to play more original content live. However, even Morris notes that folk is music that’s meant to be shared.

“It’s nice to play for audiences that, you know, listen, as opposed to the usual restaurant or pub crowd. But at the same time, I’ve played in a theatre setting and it’s disconcerting when people are sitting there looking at me and not talking. Like, are you guys bored?”

“[Folk music] is something you can easily teach to somebody, something you can get a sing-along with. It’s universal.”  

 

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