For this installment of Diversions we caught up with Kevin Morby on the eve of his upcoming release, A Night At The Little Los Angeles (Sundowner 4-Track Demos). Comprised of ten tracks recorded at Morby’s home studio in Kansas, we asked the singer-songwriter to riff on some of his all-time favorite demos and/or home recordings. From Jandek to Aretha, Morby on his selections, below.
Dear my fellow Aquarium Drunkards,
In celebration of my latest release, A Night At The Little Los Angeles, the 4-track demo version of my studio album Sundowner, I have compiled a list of some of my favorite home recorded albums and demos that have been incredibly influential and important to me over the years. These recordings I believe to be a direct pipeline to each artist’s soul, made in real time without the safety net of a studio so that when the songs falls apart, we fall with it, and then when it finds a path for ascension, we too, can take flight. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do. xo, KM
Jandek – You Walk Alone: Jandek’s “You Walk Alone”, to me, is the holy grail of home recorded music. If you listen to one suggestion from this article, let it be this one. This album brings me a peace that almost no other music can. It is the sound of one person alone in their living space making painfully beautiful music with no regard for the outside world. From the album cover, to the album title to the music itself, this is one of my favorite albums of all time and was the album most on my mind as I was working on A Night At The Little Los Angeles.
The Strokes – I’ll Try Anything Once: One of my favorite recordings ever. It ticks every great demo box: Better lyrics, performance and arrangement than the studio version and the low fidelity only serves to make it more personal. It’s as if you’ve just woken up next to Julian Casablanca in bed and he’s whispering a song he wrote in his dream straight into your ear (hey, a boy can dream).
Jessica Pratt – S/T: One of the greatest home recorded albums of our time made by the incredible Jessica Pratt. This album was released on Tim Presley’s Birth Records that he founded just to spread the gospel on just how beautiful her music is. This is timeless music and I am so proud to be able to call Jessica a friend.
White Fence – Is Growing Faith: I was Tim’s neighbor in LA during the winter of 2011 when he was working on Is Growing Faith. He had a small room in the back of his apartment that he dedicated to recording. There were ashtrays full of cigarettes, instruments covering the floor and a giant framed Darby Crash poster above his desk. It was there that Tim made some of his best work, most notably this masterpiece.
The Nerves – Many Roads To Follow: Like the Strokes song above, this recording is only granted more power by being a low quality demo. I can’t imagine the recording being any other way than what it already is – it is perfect in its imperfection.
Bob Dylan – I’ll Keep It With Mine: This is one of my favorite Dylan songs. I first became aware of it from Nico’s Chelsea Girls and was so excited to stumble across Dylan singing it on this collection of demos.
The Velvet Underground – I Found A Reason (Demo): This recording of one of my favorite VU songs displays one of the greatest things about demos: subtly different instrumentation and lyrics than the studio version. Little easter eggs are all over this recording.
Stevie Nicks – Wild Heart (Demo): Stevie Nicks singing Wild Heart while getting her makeup done is far better, in my opinion, than the studio version of the song. Some of the best footage ever.
Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash – Wanted Man: his is one of my favorite demos in that it shows the humanity and friendship between Dylan and Cash. They repeatedly sing over one another, drop lyrics and laugh at their mistakes. Some true demo magic that I’m so glad was captured.
Jeff Buckley – Satisfied Mind: This recording is taken from a radio session Buckley did not long before his death. He yielded that rare power to make other people’s songs sound better than they ever could and I’m so in love with his version of “Satisfied Mind”. My favorite part of the recording is hearing him clear his throat in the beginning. Like the Dylan/Cash song I previously mentioned, I love those little human moments that are too often edited out in the studio.
The Rolling Stones – No Expectations (Demo): Magical! I imagine Mick and Brian Jones smoking cigarettes while working this song out on the floor of the studio, looking cool as all hell while doing so.
Damien Jurado and Richard Swift – Other People’s Songs: Some of my favorite recordings by the late great Richard Swift and the incredible Damien Jurado. These are timeless recordings that sound like they are coming from beyond some old AM radio, all done on a four track in Swifts living room.
Sam Cooke – You Send Me: Another great moment of an artist’s humanity when Sam Cooke introduces the song.
Aretha Franklin – Sweet Bitter Love (Demo): This recording captures one of my favorite things to discover in a demo: when an artist stops the song and starts over.
Songs: Ohia – Farewell Transmission (Demo): As if Molina’s “Farewell Transmission” couldn’t feel anymore intimate and haunting, we are given this absolute gift.