Claire Morales Is Forging New Musical Friendships With Her Old Timey Covers Project.
Claire Morales wears many musical hats.
It’s kind of her M.O. After releasing a debut EP with the Denton indie folk outfit Old Potion in January, she followed that up just a month later with Amaranthine, a dreamy debut solo LP that brings some extra distortion into the equation.
For most musicians, releasing two albums with two bands in the same year would be plenty. But rather than take the next 10 months off, Morales instead decided to record a series of covers, each one a collaboration with different musicians — among them her closest friends or other local musicians she respects.
It was never intended to be a really serious undertaking, though. But isn’t that how a lot of great things start? Just for the fun of it?
It’s with that demeanor that Morales has recorded and released dreamy covers of Patsy Cline’s “Strange” (with Sundae Crush’s Jena Pyle) and The Everly Brothers’ “All I Have to Do is Dream” (with Pyle and Pearl Earl’s Ariel Hartley) this summer, both of which we’ve featured previously on this site.
Then, just yesterday, Morales continued to show no intentions of slowing down, releasing a cover of the Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood duet “Summer Wine” along with Chinasky the Fury‘s Dalton Kane. Like her cover series’ previous efforts, the pair put a drippy, modern spin on the timeless classic.
Part nostalgia, part an excuse to collaborate with musicians she admires and might not otherwise get to work with, Morales tells us she’s got several more of these cover tunes in the works as well.
That in mind, we decided to catch up with the young Denton musician to find out more about her charming and surprising project, how it came to be and what she’s got lined up next.
What are the origins of the covers project?
I wasn’t really planning on making it an extended project or a series of songs in the beginning. It just started by me asking my pal Jena Pyle if she wanted to record a cover. I love her voice and, just basically, wanted an excuse for us to work together in a way that was specific and finite — so that it actually happened and didn’t distract too much from the stuff we already had going on musically. We ended up covering “Strange” by Patsy Cline since it was near Valentine’s Day and we wanted something heartbreak-y. Originally, we just planned on doing a live video of us playing the song, but recording the audio live was going to be such of a hassle — and so expensive — that we decided we might as well just record in a studio and get a better quality track. From there, it just kind of snowballed. Our friend Wesley Kirk approached Jena after he saw her set at 35 Denton, wanting to collaborate with her on a music video. We had just finished tracking “Strange” at Civil Recording, so it was super good timing. We ended up making all these cardboard cacti and cotton clouds and doing this really cool video with a set and everything. It was a lot more grand than our original vision. It felt like there was momentum after we finished the video, and the whole process was a lot of fun. So I just kept going with it and asking other friends to join in on the covers.
What are your thoughts on bands that cover songs — or that maybe don’t write their own material?
Covering songs is this really nostalgic thing for me. When I was 13, I started performing all these cover sets at coffee shops because I hated what I was writing (which wasn’t much) but I still wanted to play for people. Covers were a good way to get some experience performing without having to share my lame-o middle school feelings with the world. Now, covers are a cool way to explore my musical influences. You learn so much covering someone else’s song, when you are sort of submerged into their sensibilities. It makes you think differently about the possibilities in your own songs. As a singer, especially, it gives me a lot of new ideas about how I can handle my voice and the melodies in my own work. These things can feel so set in stone, but sometimes it just takes hearing someone else’s voice to completely change your mind about your own. I think there is this impression that covering a song makes you a lesser artist or less creative, but to me it’s a great opportunity to learn and listen and get out of your own head. You also have the chance to interpret a song and leave your mark on it. Singing songs that aren’t your own is something a lot of the greats did and do too. Patsy Cline wrote hardly any of her own songs, but the choices she made in songs she covered gave her a distinct style. They all had similar themes and vibes. It was still a creative process for her, choosing the right songs and making them work with her style. I think I’m trying to do the same thing, in a way.
Who all do you hope to collaborate with in this project? How have you selected partners thus far?
So far, I’ve collaborated with Jena Pyle, Ariel Hartley, Dalton Kane and Rachel Gollay. I’m not sure who the next collaborator will be. I’ve mostly just been asking local musician friends whose music I admire. They are influences, too, in a way, so it’s another level of getting to know your influences. Collaborating with people on covers is this great excuse to have fun and learn just hang out and get to know one another better. I don’t really like to socialize in the usual ways — going out or going to parties mostly makes me anxious. I’d rather hang out with someone one-on-one and make something cool. Even outside of musician friends, this project has been a great excuse to work with other artists, filmmakers, photographers, hair stylists, florists… I didn’t realize how many of my pals had such awesome talents! It’s brought me closer to a lot of cool people and given us all a chance to do something creative and unusual together.
How have you picked songs to cover? Do any of these songs have special meanings for you?
The only special significance to these songs is that they are all old-timey — from the ’60s only so far — and they are by bands I’m feeling especially influenced by. I didn’t hear most of them until the last few years. I love music from the ’60s, and this project has been a good excuse to delve into some stuff from that time. It’s also distant enough time-wise that you have the chance to make it modern and bring it forward in a way. Working with friends on this project has sparked other non-cover collaborations. I ended up doing some lead guitar and backup vocals on a song Jena wrote. We recorded it together, and now we’re trying to do an internet band type thing since she now lives in Seattle. Dalton and I are wanting to write together a bit, too, and see what happens. So it’s neat to have covers as a starting place for further collaboration.
Do you plan to release these tracks in physical form? How many more would you like to see happen?
I’m not sure if we’ll release them in physical form. So far, I’m just planning on doing 10 covers all together. We’ve only recorded four so far, so there will be plenty more of these. They have all been available for free on my Soundcloud, and have been released individually. That’s about as far as I’ve thought on releasing.
Claire Morales performs Friday, October 16, at Shipping and Receiving.