A Conversation with Singer Jason Morris
Hey Kids! It’s been a while since I have written for Fierth land but when I get excited about an artist I just have to share…
A couple of days ago I got together with the fabulous singer, Jason Morris, who I had the pleasure to meet and see his latest solo show “Musically Yogic…” at the Metropolitan Room. Lucky for us he is performing an encore show on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th, My favorite day of the year… Green Beer and Corned Beef for MargOH! Anyway…I invited him to one of my favorite little drinkin spots and here’s what happened!
MC: Hi Jason, thanks so much for taking the time to chat! We first met due to our mutual working relationship with our stellar Music Director Tracy Stark. I was so thrilled to be able to see your show and it was wonderful. I could instantly tell you were a seasoned performer. Did you come from a musical family?
JM: Omg “wonderful”? Thank you so much! And, are you kidding? I would chat with you anytime, even without alcohol! And that’s saying a lot… Haha..
MC: Speaking of alcohol , what is your favorite cocktail darling?
JM: I’m so boring… Rum and diet coke.Totally, my go-to. Hand me that, and I’m your friend. Spike it, I’ll be more. Haha…
MC: Two very strong rum and diet cokes bar keep! Right away, we’re thirsty, now about how we met?
JM: Brilliant, thank you, we did meet thanks to our mutual friend, and music director, Ms. Tracy Stark. She kept prodding me to come see this new show on which she had just been brought on to work. All she would say – no real details – was that I just had to show up. Relentless, she was! So I did, and this very clever show, “MargOH Sings the Booze” unfolded before my eyes. I was in hysterics the entire show. Such a beautiful – and brilliant – night. Wickedly talented, that MargOH Channing… Haha..
MC: Awe so sweet of you to say but we are here to talk about you silly!
JM: Yes, about me…I did come from a musical family. My mum was a classically trained pianist; she gave it up professionally for most of my life, so that she could focus on raising the family she always wanted.. but I still grew up at the foot of her piano. She pretty much started and ended her days there… just playing away. And there are apparently singers and performers all throughout my family tree.
MC: That’s marvelous, I love how you say mum, so cute, now, you’re not only a great singer but also a Yoga instructor, thus the title of your show. How did you come up with the concept to blend your two passions?
JM: Thank you, ha. I learned at a young age to lose myself in music whenever anything happened. I actually talk about this in “Musically Yogic…” but when I was a kid, anytime anything happened (bad day at work, fight with my father, etc) my mum would just go to the piano, without hesitation, and start to play… She might start off in the b minor chord variations or some Chopin nocturne, and then over a wee bit of time, she would start transposing, and end up minutes or even hours later In something very Handel or Rossini in nature… I literally watched her lose herself in music, and then watched it transform her.
There’s that moment at the end of Beauty and the Beast, where the music swells and the Beast is lifted up, and shimmering light and accelerating cadence wash the screen, and then he’s just simply and quietly the Prince again. And that image kind of – in my own head – represents what yoga and music do for us.
There are so many parallels to yoga and music. The follow a very similar progression – a foundation, a core, and an expression – which I talk about in the show. Ultimately, they ground, connect, and free your entire being. I loved the striking structural similarities, so I wanted to write a show about it. And then the show kind of turned into a Yoga class through music, so it just seemed like cosmically it was meant to be.
MC: Oh! You know I never thought about it that way , I’m not a big exercise person…just lifting my martini’s kids! What is your favorite Yoga pose Jason?
JM: My students would tell you whatever was the bitchiest. LOL…I love standing bow-pulling pose. It’s a play off dancer pose, but so much lovelier.
MC: Sounds sexy, you know Jason my buns are starting to sag…what would be the best Yoga Pose for Sagging buns?
JM: You’re sexy! Fuck yoga, just go buy some Spanx. About the same as a monthly yoga membership, and it will hold that thing up for months! Hahaha..
MC: Oh! Spanx…OH! My…I’m a girdle girl
JM: Darling, whatever works for you! Really though ,it sounds like a bad joke, but asses are my specialty!
MC: Do tell, two more drinks please…
JM: I get a lot of students in my classes, because I specifically work the glutes. There are so many teachers that shy away from the butt muscles.. but when they’re strong, they support your back, your core, your legs… A nice ass is a good thing! Haha.. and then of course, there’s always the pleasing aesthetics. Lol… But, if you came to my class, you’d probably see some eka pada utkatasana (one-legged balancing chair) and nataraja ardha chandrasana (dancing half-moon)… bloody hell, they’ll make your ass sore. The next day you’ll feel like you had a really good date. Haha
MC: A good date is hard to find these days so hurt me Jason..lol. I’m a little hungry Gummy bears or Malted Milk Balls?
JM: Oh, malted milk balls. Which is even funnier when you realize that lactose and I are basically sworn enemies. Haha.. So, there’s this English candy called Maltesers, which is the UK equivalent to Whoppers. I have to stay away from them; I’ll eat bags upon bags.
MC: A man after my own heart, I love balls! I can’t believe you are single? Are the boys on OK Cupid not looking for a Yogi with benefits?
JM: Right?! I should be on dating sites; I’m totally not. Honestly, as much as I love social media… I really like relationships to happen organically – with people I meet, feel something for, and then just see what happens. I’m honestly not someone who dates just to date. Plus, I have two dogs who don’t understand or like someone else in their spots on my bed. Hahaha…
MC: I just got a new pooch and we named her after the comedian and actress Zasu Pitts. Now in your show we learn that you have a working relationship with the legendary actress Geraldine Page’s daughter Angelica. How did that come about? What were some of the project you’ve worked on?
JM: Zasu, I love that name! Oh my God, Angelica… She’s my “Angel.” We laugh a lot! She loves to tell this story, but we met originally at a Yoga Studio I was running. She was sitting in the lobby, while I was on the phone with Verizon. Allegedly, I was threatening to torch their establishment, if we didn’t see the Internet back up within 24hrs. hahaha… Allegedly…
Gerry [Geraldine Page] and I share the same birthday, 22nd November, and I remember the first real conversation of ours was Angelica reaching out to me on Facebook, on that day, wishing me a magical birthday since I shared it with her mum… We had a proper chat and tea soon after that, friendship was immediate, and then jumped into several projects together. One of which, the concert series Musical Momentum, was realized that year. And then I’ve had the privilege to co-direct, produce, and perform in several things with her at the Actors Studio.
One really lovely thing has been the opportunity to work with her on her one-woman show Turning Page about the life of her mother. It’s an incredible show, very I Am My Own Wife in a sense… in that she plays herself and her mum – and the transitions between the characters really are seamless and profound. She wraps on a turban and slides on some shades… and in one second she is, physically and vocally and energetically, Gerry. I voice the role of the Psychic, so I am quite literally, the only thing in the show that is not Angelica… but again, I share Gerry’s birthday, so I like to think there’s a connection there lol. And I basically bookend the piece.
Gerry was an inspiration for me as kid. You always hear acting teachers saying “make big choices! Make bold choices!” and I never really identified with that. To me, bigger is not always better. I wouldn’t presume to call myself a Method performer, but Gerry was always the epitome of a true actress. She never made bold choices, just to have big moments; she made truthful choices and had epic moments.
So to work on a show that canonizes this powerhouse woman; it’s been wonderful.
MC: That sounds so special, how great, now, I loved the song choices from your show especially your version of ‘Pure Imagination’, what is your favorite song in the show?
JM: I adore “Pure Imagination”; that arrangement has to be one of my favorites. Honestly, every song was hand-picked for a very specific reason, so they all tug at me through different strings. I’m really proud of “Who I’d Be” from Shrek the Musical. I get to take the song to a different place, than what it is in the context of Shrek, so I quite enjoy that. It’s my own take, but I didn’t have to do much; David Lindsay-Abaire’s lyrics just allow it.
I know there are bigger numbers in the show, like “Will You Be There” and “Pure Imagination”… but I really think my favorite is “Mr. Tanner” by Harry Chapin. There’s something so telling about why performers do what we do. Sure, the applause is nice, and the validation that your work means something to another human being is profound… but it’s really letting your creativity wash over you, and attuning to that.. not for anyone else, but just solely for you.
The song lyrics say it best, “Music was his life.” Right?! “And he sang from his heart, and he sang from his soul. He did not know how well he sang. It just made him whole.“
MC: Awe, such lovely lyrics and you sound just marvelous singing them (as the bar patrons start clapping) so inspiring…Who are your favorite performers? Who do you look to for inspiration?
JM: Geraldine Page is definitely there on the list of my inspirations. Judy Garland as well. Performers that grip me, or shake me, with just a flutter in their tone or something I can’t always articulate in words… Vastly underrated in the dramatic context – as she’s known a comedic actress – is Dawn French of French and Saunders and Vicar of Dibley fame. Benedict Cumberbatch – my main man crush at the moment. Lol.. Singers like Audra McDonald, Cecilia Bartoli, Hannah Waddingham, Raul Esparza… Dancers like Herman Cornejo, Angel Corella, Stephen Hanna, Ken Alan…
MC: Such a variety, I love Benedict too, so sophisticated…Dawn is amazing , she seems an old soul to me, she writes such grand older characters in that show. Do you think you are an old soul?
JM: I don’t know if I would call myself that, but I’ve heard that before.. I never identified with my age group growing up; I was always hanging out with people ten/twenty years older than me… Still pretty much do. I feel like I’ve had multiple lifetimes, always have.
MC: I feel that way after I’ve had multiple drinks so I gotcha darling, so after your show on the 17th, what’s up next? More show’s in the works?
JM: Yes! The 17th is the Encore Performance (and full-length version) of “Musically Yogic…”, which is still a partnership with the ALS Association in honor of my mum, so every ticket purchased is a donation to ALS. My mother was diagnosed last June, and she fights this vicious disease daily, so I’ve been using this show to raise money/funds for ALS in her name while I still have her.
MC: ALS is such a horrible disease. I wish your mum so much love! She has an amazing son who cares not only for her but others as well! That is amazing
JM: OH! Stop…Outside of Yogic… I’m writing four more shows. Yes, four! Because my manic brain is bored with just one. One of which you know about, because you and sir Man-ee are involved in that filthy one lol… and then two more duet shows – a holiday concert with the epic and gorgeous Tanya Holt, and then a duo show with the insanely talented Kathleen Stuart (my featured guest at Yogic… this month) early next year.
MC: OH! yes we will do something, what was it “Threesome” may be the title…can’t wait
JM: I hope so, that’ll be brilliant…The fourth show, which I’m calling Different… at this point, is my next solo concert baby. I won’t say too much, but I’m having a lot of fun with it. It’s entirely Disney music… about coping with, allowing yourself to be, and accepting who and what you are. I’ve done two benefit concerts for The Trevor Project, so Different… really is aimed at a very specific material content.
MC: I really love how you come up with concepts and seek out causes and work it in so we not only enjoy a great show but also giving at the same time. So special
JM: Flattery will get you everywhere my dear, cheers!
MC: OH! look at the time, I could chat with you all day but I don’t want to keep you but before we go just one more question. What is one thing people may not know about you, even friends and family?
JM: I’m actually really, quite painfully introverted. My entire life, my career choices have been very performance oriented – very loud, very commanding, very much in front of a group of people at all times. Apparently, I do it well. And I know a lot of students or audience members seem to think that I must party and club all the time; I’m so not that person. I’m a book-reading, curl-up-with-the-dogs-at-the-end-of-the-night, classical-music-on-in-the-background kind of guy.
MC: This is why I adore you and your show…It’s a quiet quality you have with your voice that is so rare and genuine. Thanks so much for chatting and sharing with me. It’s been grand
JM: Thanks so much MargOH! You are too Kind and I hope to see you at the show
MC: You know it! Kids go check out Jason Morris’s show “Musically Yogic…” at the Metropolitan Room Monday March 17, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. Doors open 30 minutes prior to performance at 6:30 p.m. The Metropolitan Room is located at 34 West 22nd Street in Manhattan. There is a $20.00 per person Music Charge and a Two Drink Minimum. A VIP Silver Package is available for $85.00 and a VIP Gold Package for $115.00. For further information, visit http://metropolitanroom.com/. For more information on ALS, please visit http://www.alsa.org/. Photography by Jeffrey Mosier.