Hot Artists to Watch in 2016: Morgan Myles [No. 6]
An album has rarely been as aptly named as Morgan Myles’ Miss Morgan Myles EP. Three little words — a title and an alliterative first and last name — reveal who she is both musically and personally.
Myles brings with her a big, soulful voice and a heartwarming story of real-life sacrifice and perseverance. Consider the upbeat project and her inclusion on this Hot Artists to Watch list her arrival, because women born of her influences require an “arrival.”
She calls it “soul country,” and when the Pennsylvania native watched Chris Stapleton win at the CMA Awards in November, she recognized that her time is now. Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” is another hit that pays homage to the blues-soaked style she embraces on each of the six songs on Miss Morgan Myles. Her dramatic cover of the Song of the Year came in February, and the video is captivating.
"I was in tears that night,” Myles admits, recalling watching Stapleton. “I didn’t even go out. I was like ‘This is what I’m talking about!’ Everybody is digging this soul country sound. It’s just that country music has come into that sound and that’s where I’ve lived for so long."
Big voices paired with songs that offer real depth have been missing from country radio, and while it’s too early to claim the tide has turned, the success of Stapleton’s “Nobody to Blame” on country radio (it's nearing Top 20 on Billboard's Airplay Chart) indicates the audience has warmed up. It takes a certain singer to sell songs with meaning, however. For starters, you have to believe in your message and yourself. Self-confidence can be the devil of teenage insecurities. This '90s child has beaten back fear, and found perspective. Although, she had help with the perspective.
For six years, Myles has been a part-time nanny. It’s a job dozens of rising stars take to pay bills, but few are as proud of the work they do as the woman two Nashville area kids call “Miss Morgan.” She was there during their mother’s 3-year-long battle with ALS, and her eventual death. At one point, Myles admits, being a Berkley grad with a job as a nanny bummed her out. Self pity would grip and squeeze.
“Now I’m proud to be that name,” she declares, describing how the 11 and 8-year-old were often in studio as she cut songs like “Whiskey Dreaming” and “What You Do to Me.”
“I’m proud to have worked as hard to get where I’m at. And their support has allowed me to have a really cool balance and different perspective in this point of my life to write really honest, genuine music.”
A country female has to support what country represents. It represents faith, family. We’re more conservative in the way we dress. We’re not an alter-ego.
Miss Morgan Myles is a sensual album that avoids adolescent traps and hooks. When she sings about love during “Nobody Better Than You" it’s the real kind of love that men and women rely on, not the pithy fringes that blow away like foam from a cup of coffee. She’s dramatic. Her experiences as a nanny allow for it and remind her to keep drama out of her day-to-day experience.
“What that family has gone through,” she reveals, “it puts so much of my life in perspective. And their mom was the one person to say ‘Please, never give up your dream. I’m 45 and I never wrote that book I wanted to write.’ It’s been such a journey, and it allows me to do what I wanted to do.”
The second half of the double-sided nature of her EP’s name reflects her sound. In the south, having “Miss” in front of your name is a very natural, feminine and cordial type of thing. It the R&B and blues community, it adds a declarative, “That girl can sing!” and she leans into that. Williamsport, Pa., is hardly in the hollers of a deep-rooted blues community, but Myles offers phrases like “Oh, honey” as effortlessly as you’d expect from someone of her persuasion.
Sweet Southern influences mixed with an appreciation for big country voices (Faith Hill, Martina McBride and Trisha Yearwood are her three greatest influences) aid a strong midwestern work ethic. Myles’ parents are high school sweethearts from Columbus, Ind., and the family is very close. No one in her family was musical, so they didn’t quite know what to do with the singer when she was young. That meant a long, winding road to get to Nashville, but now Morgan Myles has found a home. The timing couldn't be better.
“A country female has to support what country represents. It represents faith, family. We’re more conservative in the way we dress. We’re not an alter-ego,” she says.
"Whiskey Dreaming" is her single, and she celebrated its release by handing out miniature bottles of branded whiskey during a showcase in Nashville last fall. In 2016 she plans to continue working toward a full album release. She's also looking for the right management company, but isn't necessarily seeking major label support. The relationship has to be right, she says, recognizing the obstacles an independent artist has to overcome to get a song on the radio.
For now, she makes indie look good with dynamic music videos, a strong social media presence and music that sticks to the ribs. This Hot Artist to Watch isn't a flash in the pan her fans will forget in 12 months. She'll persevere, as she's always done.
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