By: Matthew Warnock
Born in Aberdeen, Scotland, vocalist and songwriter Finlay Morton sounds as if he grew up surrounded by Interstates, roadside café’s and downhome Midwestern values. His music possesses a touch of Bob Dylan, a little Tom Petty and good ole’ fashioned American Rock n Roll all mixed together in a highly personal and entertaining fashion. Alongside his band, Morton conjures up the best elements from every era of rock history. There are solid, well-written lyrics, deep grooves, catchy guitar riffs and creativity to spare. Morton may be from Scotland, but he writes and records tracks that are better than most of the American artists on today’s songwriting scene.
All of the things that make Morton’s music so attractive can be heard on his latest album, Harvest the Wind, which hit stores on March 29th. The album features Morton and his band twisting and turning their way through ten tracks, with one CD only bonus track, “Don’t Cry for Corporate America.” Fans of Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, and other Midwestern influenced singer songwriters will no doubt enjoy this record as it is fits neatly into that genre of music, but possesses enough of Morton’s personal touch to make it stand out on its own and not get lost in the crowd.
Guitar International was able to catch up with Morton to ask about the new record, touring plans and the current state of the U.K. music scene.
Matt Warnock: How do you compare the music scene over there right now to that in America? Is it possible to make a living still touring in the U.K. or, like in the US, are gigs becoming harder to find these days?
Finlay Morton: The music scene in the U.K. is radically different. It’s virtually impossible to make a living if you play original music, mainly because the only way to get paid gigs is to have your record played on radio, and virtually all of the radio stations here are owned by 3 or 4 companies, who mainly playlist Top 40 music. With only a few exceptions, there are very few places people can hear new music, so it’s pretty tough to say the least.
Matt: Even though your music has a classic quality to it, it’s still very modern in context, take a song like “Scary Monsters” for instance. Are you conscious of this balance, or is it just how you react to inspiration when writing a new song?
Finlay Morton: I was raised listening to the classic American singer-songwriters such as Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and the like, so some of that is bound to have an influence on my own songwriting. I usually write about things that matter to me or have affected me in some way, or in some cases things that have made me angry. For example, “Scary Monsters” is about a particularly vivid nightmare I had once.
Matt: You also made a music video for that track. Do you feel that YouTube is making videos relevant again, after being abandoned by television channels such as MTV and VH1?
Finlay Morton: I think that YouTube has helped keep the music video alive, and it’s regrettable that MTV and VH1 have tended to go for the “Lowest Common Denominator” style of crass, sexist rubbish. It’s also good that YouTube is happy to show videos made on a low budget, which obviously helps the independent artist.
Matt: Do you prefer to write songs with an instrument in hand, or do you write lyrics and melodies alone, then bringing harmony into the picture?
Finlay Morton: The songwriting process can be any one of the above. Sometimes I will hear a phrase, maybe just one line, and I’ll write it down until the next line comes. Sometimes I’ll be playing guitar, and a chorus will pop out. It’s really different every time.
Matt: You work with guitarist Greg Bone, what is it about Greg’s playing that you like and what does he bring to the ensemble beyond his playing?
Finlay Morton: I’ve been working with Greg for around 7 years now. We always work through arrangements together before we take it to the rest of the band, and he instinctively knows where I’m trying to get to with a song. It’s really helpful to have someone of his experience and ability to bounce ideas off, and I still clap with awe when he rips a solo out of nowhere.