FLO MORRISSEY

NATALIA BONIFACCI MEETS BRITISH SINGER FLO MORRISSEY AT LA MÉDUSE, A CORNER BISTRO BY CANAL SAINT MARTIN, IN PARIS. MORRISSEY FIRST SEATED AT THE PIANO AT 7 YEARS OLD. AT 14, SHE PICKED UP THE GUITAR. AT 15 STARTED WRITING HER FIRST ALBUM 'TOMORROW WILL BE BEAUTIFUL' THAT JUST DROPPED OVER THE SUMMER. NOW JUST A MONTH ABOUT HER 21ST BIRTHDAY, MORRISSEY HAS RELOCATED FROM LONDON TO PARIS. SHE IS GENTLE-MANNERED AND CAPTIVATING. WATCHING HER DANCING BETWEEN MOMENTS OF NAÏVETÉ (USUALLY A MARK OF PEOPLE WHO COME FROM LOVING FAMILIES, YET RETAIN A STRONG SELF-AWARENESS) YOU GET THE FEELING OF BEING WITH AN OLD SOUL. SHE SHARES WITH NATALIA HER LOVE FOR PARIS, HER MUSICAL TRAJECTORY, HER THOUGHTS AND INSPIRATIONS, AND BEAUTY

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If you were to describe what you do for a living to a small child what would you tell him or her?
I’d say that I go around different countries and I play music. I do something that could not seem a job to a little child. That’s what I would tell my brothers and sisters. I’m the second one of nine children, my youngest sister is six. My younger siblings don’t really get what I do. I go away and I come back, it’s kind of strange for them to realize that this is what I do for a living.

Coming from such a big family and being really close to everyone, how do you cope with the loneliness of the new lifestyle?
It’s funny, because originally I found it very difficult. I was in LA for two and a half months recording my album last year. It was the longest time I had been away from home and LA can be quite a lonely place at times. My manager lives there, but still it was hard time. Yet, in the end, I really experienced a good kind of transition phase: it taught me a lot about being on my own. After that it became a necessity. Since then I’ve moved out of my family home, only about a month and a half ago. This is the first time I live alone.

Why Paris?
I’ve always felt an affinity with the city and the people. I think I love the romanticism of Paris. I feel a little bit more appreciative of life here than in London. I feel in London there’s I kind of harsh violent energy, maybe not violent, but a heavier energy. I feel that. Here everything seems to be pretty and beautiful. I am more inspired to go out to exhibitions and do things. Just in general if you go somewhere new you feel a little bit more curious. I mean, I know London is amazing, but I just needed a change of place.

How are you making new friends?
My best friend already lived here and some other friends did too, but I’m also building ties through music. In London I’ve never really found a sense of community. It’s been interesting for me to see how this is kind of where it seems to be happening for the arts, for my music. I mean, London has a lot of art, but I feel community wise people are not so keen and open towards collaboration or you really have to look out for it. Here I just stumbled across the right people. In terms of collaborations everything is falling into place quite naturally in Paris.

What’s going on with you right now, your first album came out over the Summer!
I’m just about to release my second video for it. I’m playing at Les Inrocks Festival in Paris this weekend and I go to Luxembourg on Saturday. Then I have my first UK headlining tour in December. So, yeah, I’m busy doing shows and gigs. I am also trying to come out with other projects and collaborations, yet what will happen next year? It’s strange the kind of job that I do, and I guess what you do too: we never know where we’ll be next week. I like that, but I also don’t really know anything that I am doing next year. It’s a really weird feeling having to sit and wait in a way. I’m English, I like a plan (she laughs). So I got projects that I am thinking about, but then which one comes about? I’m just gonna see what happens.

After yoga, some meditation and a nice breakfast, you’ve been trying to write music every day…
Yes, I’m kind of trying to get into the habit of it. I’ve read things of writers where they say when you’re younger you just feel excited by an A minor or G cord, you’re easily inspired. That’s my experience too. I was writing my first album at the age of fifteen ‘Wow, this is so new!’, but when you get older I feel you have to work through life and creation in a different way. I read about different writers and artists who would say to sit down from 10AM  to noon every day. I just write no matter what. Sometimes it’s rubbish, but it’s good. Calling my albumTomorrow Will Be Beautiful is a lesson to myself. You can find beauty on a Monday, in the boring things, you don’t have to wait for that special inspiration. That was one of the meanings to me. Beauty and inspiration can come at any time, you can even turn sadness into something beautiful.

When did you know that music was gonna be your life?
Honestly music was kind of always what I knew I wanted to do. It’s one of those things that even if the job can be quite tricky and hard sometimes, or before going on stage you ask yourself ‘Why am I putting myself through feeling this nervous?’, you still… (she pauses). I read a really nice quote by someone recently. They said that that’s why you choose to be an artist, because of the feeling that you get when you’re on stage or you’re writing. Something could go terribly wrong or terribly right. Even if I get overwhelmed by those challenges and emotions for some reason my personality is really drowned to go through those kind of feelings. I always wanted to do music. I only started touring this year…

Do you get scared?
Yeah, definitely. I have played shows beforehand, but they were kind of one off things, like I did South by Southwest two years ago, and that was kind of my first thing in America…

…and you couldn’t even attend the other shows because you were under 21!
Yeah. I stayed in my hotel room the whole time (she laughs). So yeah, I get scared, but it’s changing as I do more shows, yet the feeling seems to never really go. With me I never know what is gonna happen on stage. For example over the weekend I had a show and my brain sort of went blank and I forgot my lyrics (she smiles brightly). They came back to me, but I had to sing the song in a different way. I never know what my best song is, because each time the experience changes for me. I’m trying to embrace that. I saw Joanna Newsom two nights ago in Paris. It was amazing. I had never seen her live before. Technically she’s incredible, you can’t deny her talent. It was kinda mind-blowing seeing that and then at one point she did forget her words, but she just rolled with it, nobody could really notice. After the song she said ‘I don’t know what happened, my mind completely went blind.’ and that was really refreshing to see. I’ve never seen someone do that. I know this sounds silly, but it’s reassuring when people are not afraid to make mistakes. I actually think the audience likes that because you are having an experience together with the public rather than giving a perfectly groomed act.

In life, what scares you?
Myself, maybe? I’m quite sensitive to different people and to different energies. I think I’m realizing that the main thing is that I don’t need to be so afraid of that. Other people can make you feel in a certain way, yes, but it’s more about learning how to have the power in within myself and trust my inner knowledge and not be so kind of affected. I think maybe I’m most afraid of giving up on myself. I’m just afraid of probably a lot of things. I think now that I live alone I am able to explore more of those aspects of myself, sitting in a room with those new emotions and feelings. When you’re one of nine children and living with that many people it’s hard to have your own space. You’re kind of part of a tribe. My parents and siblings are my favorite people in the whole world, but I just had this necessity to move away, although it wasn’t a “need” to move out of the house. I love my family. It was more like I am doing all these grown up things on tour and when I come back I have to revert into being a child again. Subconsciously, without even realizing it, I start being a child again. So living in Paris and living on my own has pushed me to be by myself and be afraid and be happy and going through all of those emotions.

You left high-school at 17, obviously your parents supported the choice. My question is: did you feel any kind of social pressure to overcame while choosing to leave school to pursue a dream?
It’s funny because it’s only been now that I even started to question myself. I’m quite happy I left, I’m not talking about that, but I do feel a lack of knowledge, almost, yet I don’t think a degree or a qualification justifies knowledge. So recently I’ve just been getting more into learning and being taught things, looking for a teaching in everything. I didn’t have that so much before I left school because I was never that interested in school. So, yeah no one questioned my choice, they would say ‘Oh wow’ and that’s it. Exempt my grandparents, maybe, they were the ones to say ‘Are you sure? Well, you can always get back.’

Did you already have a contract at the time?
Not yet. I started getting meetings after that through my MySpace page. I did a cover of Tuxedomoon’s Manner Of Speaking and  a blog in Norway posted it, so other people found it and they started getting in touch. I started meeting with managers and none of them was like what a manager should be to me. They were saying ‘Do a cover of this song because is very in right now!’ I mean, to a certain extent you have to do stuff like that, but it just felt it was coming from the wrong place and that they were not getting me. It felt as if they wanted to change me. So yeah, I left school, I stuck it out and some opportunities came up through people finding my music online. At 17 I was invited to play a festival in Norway and I played a show in Paris at Cafe De La Dance before I had a manager or a label or a booking agent.

What was the most important encounter in your career?
Aram Goldberg, my manager, probably… He lives in LA. He found me on a japanese blog and then he got in touch trough email saying that he worked with Devendra Banhart, who was my favorite singer from the age of ten. I got the email thinking ‘This must be a joke!” He wrote ‘You’re probably are not coming to LA any time soon, but I’m coming to London with Devendra and it would be really great to meet.’ and I happened to be going to LA that week for the first time to see a family friend. It felt all very meant to be. We met and it was exactly how I expected a manager to be like.

Is that someone that manages your career while letting you being true to yourself?
Yeah. Someone that brings out the best qualities in you and pushes you the right way without compromising who you are. I felt he did that and he still does. And then I met my record abel, Glassnote, when I was eighteen. They are really great too, and that was out of the blue as well. After you get a manager you have to get a lawyer before you can sign a contract with anyone. I had a lawyer called Nicky. At the time I hadn’t really played any shows in London yet, but I had this one off thing I was doing by my house. Daniel Glass, the head of the label, was in town that evening and he asked Nicky if there was anything going on that night and she was like ‘Oh, you should come see this girl Flo!’ and he brought his wife and his son. They had never heard my music before. Two weeks later I was signed with them. I was seeing other independent labels in London at the time, but it wasn’t really coming together. Daniel immediately got it and he was excited about me and he wanted to believe in me. That is how it came about, just from my lawyer (she smiles).

What inspires you in life?
My family. Doing things like yoga. I kind of like the higher being of things. I don’t have a particular religion, but yeah, I’m spiritual. I’m also really into astrology and into the moon and stuff like that (she laughs).

A song for when you’re happy.
Good question… Age Of Aquarius by The Fifth Dimension.

A song for when you are sad.
The first one that came to my mind was Unchained Melody by the Righteous Brothers.

What’s going on with the relationship to your image and fashion in general? Has your approach to fashion changed since being in the public eye in a way? Is that an interest you’ve always had?
I’ve always really loved fashion. Growing up I always kind of dressed hippy on my own. I liked jewelry, bangles and that kind of thing. It was never a “conscious” decision, I was drawn to that, it wasn’t ‘Oh, I’m’m gonna dress like this.’ you know? Then when I got more into my teens I would pile up bracelets. It felt like an armor, almost my identity. Recently I was like ‘Oh I don’t really wanna wear bracelets anymore.’ and my family would ask ‘Flo, why are you not wearing bracelets anymore?’ and I felt almost annoyed, maybe defensive about it (she laughs), it’s funny. Maybe it’s just growing up. Now I just want to be more understated. The way I dress is kind of an extension of who I am as a person. I feel fashion and clothes are very important, they are art forms in themselves too. I love how colors can make you feel different. If you wear green you feel cool and grounded, red instead can make you feel more passionate about something. I’m exploring different things like that.

Just a few months ago you sang at the last Chloé’s show and you were invited to attend Gucci in Milan.
I love Chloé so much and Gucci is so great. I feel both Chloé and Gucci have this sense of understanding the woman in a very human way. Their kind of woman is someone being very real and I pretty resonate with that. They do beautiful things.

What is something you would never wear?
Crocs (she laughs).

What about on set shooting for magazines?
To begin with I don’t say yes to doing everything, I pick and choose. So far I feel stylists have done their research and I think they get my vibe. I did W Magazine recently and they brought all theses amazing bellbottoms jeans that I loved. I think they wouldn’t want to dress me in something latex or something that wouldn’t be my style (she laughs). But then again if a stylist brings something to the table that isn’t usually what I wear, maybe it could bring something new in me? So I am not really closed minded.

What’s your favorite quality in people?
Kindness. Compassion. When you communicate with someone, not from the head, but from the heart. You can feel when someone is absent. Communicating well and not making people feel alone is very important to me.

What’s the one you like the least?
Cockiness or coldness. Yeah, when people are cocky. I think cockiness comes from a place of being unhappy or uncomfortable with yourself, feeling like you have to make up for something that isn’t there. I feel that oftentimes people that are cocky are actually quite insecure. You just wanna tell them ‘Hey it’s ok, just be vulnerable.’ Vulnerability is another quality I really like. Being vulnerable to me means being powerful.

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