Henry Morris’ Debut Album ‘Jawbreaker’ is a Pulp Masterpiece

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His new album Jawbreaker sounds exactly like its namesake. With Henry Morris, his music feels like the stinging pain of a sharp left hook, and soon after the dull throb all you feel is a heightened adrenaline and a piercing numbness. Providing the ultimate soundtrack for an old Hollywood noir flick, Morris creates music to decorate dry desert highways and the debauchery of the Sunset Strip. Through tales of love, violence, addiction and redemption, Morris’ sultry and emotive musicality charms listeners through its relatability, honesty and acceptance of the human condition.

Formerly known as PlayyardJawbreaker symbolizes a new artistic era for the Los Angeles singer-songwriter. A master of storytelling with a sound that can only be described as Chris Isaak meets Lana Del Rey, Morris seems to represent an era of artistry that has nearly been lost to time, swept away like sand along hot pavement in the summer breeze. Jawbreaker could very well be the soundtrack to the next Joaquin Phoenix indie flick, and in light of his debut album under his new artist name, Henry Morris sat down with Melodic Magazine to tell us exactly why.

Your new album Jawbreaker came out on June 21, congrats on that! I wanted to ask about your song “Hollywood Sextape” that you recorded a special live performance of. The message of the song isn’t a very positive one, but I think it’s very topical. What inspired you to write a song about that topic?
I have a bunch of female artist friends who are either in the music industry or pursuing acting. And for me, the whole album is about fucked up thoughts that I think about that I feel scared to bring up in a normal conversation. And it is so much easier for me to be a guy and do what I’m doing because I don’t have to worry about somebody literally trying to take advantage of me or kill me. Do you know how much easier it is for me to walk into a room for a session with a person who I’ve never met before in my life and just be okay? It’s insane. And I was like, it would be crazy to make a story about somebody from a smaller town in the Midwest who obviously is completely enthralled and wants to be famous – which, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that – who wants to go to LA, drops out of high school, and meets this guy who seems he has it going on and completely takes advantage of her. She’s there for a year and she ends up doing a bunch of shit that she really hates and she kills him, takes a bunch of his money and then goes back home.

As a male musician, how did it feel for you to take to address this very feminist topic while acknowledging your privilege? How did it feel to tackle that scenario?
I mean, I didn’t think about this topic even once until one of my girlfriends was talking to me about it and made me feel like a total idiot. I was like, why would it be easier for me to do this? And then I got destroyed and I was like, I’m such an idiot. I also have such a personal bitterness towards Hollywood anyway, that it felt right to make it selfishly, too. Because I’m like, even though I’m not the one even close to the demographic of person who gets screwed over in this industry, I still have a personal vendetta against it. Making this song almost made it easier for me not to be bitter in real life and just get it out and just be positive while living, if that makes sense.

Obviously the treatment of women is a big reason, but why do you feel such a dislike towards Hollywood? Do you also feel that towards the music industry?
I feel like Hollywood to me kind of refers to both. And I feel like part of it is because there’s always just part of me that’s like, why aren’t you doing better? Why didn’t your album go number one? How come your stupid TikTok didn’t blow up? Then you go down a rabbit hole of saying ‘Why do I have to do this’ instead of ‘Why do I get to do this?’ And I’d be lying to you if I said that that doesn’t fuck me up. Even though it shouldn’t. Sometimes I get super negative and everyone’s like, you should never think like that. But I’m not going to ignore it. That’s genuinely what I think sometimes. But then I have to make a song like this or make a project about all the fucked up thoughts I have in my head in order for me to not think about that so much. So it’s really just me personally being genuinely bitter because I’m not happy with where I’m at numbers wise. But it makes me feel better to be negative like that in a song.

When things like that happen, what pushes you to keep going and to keep pursuing music despite maybe the struggles that come with it?
I keep going because I’m able to luckily remind myself I get to not do manual labor, and sit around and write songs instead. And if I have to post a video to reach fans and people that love what I do, I’m grateful to even have that. If I get the opportunity to do that every day, that is so amazing. It’s weird because I’ll wake up on the wrong side of the bed and hate everything that I do and it’s so hard but like, at least I’m not having to do something crazy. And my life is, in the grand scheme of things, so awesome. So, that keeps me going too. And I’m not good at anything else. I can’t do anything. I forced myself to get into social media a few years ago because I was about to graduate school and I was like, if I don’t have this go well I’m screwed.

When were you first introduced to music? When did you realize music was the only road for you to go down?
It’s all that I’m good at, but luckily the one thing I’m good at in my life is something that I want so badly. I got a bachelor’s in economics and I killed myself trying to get that. I was so bad at it. Econ and math, it sounds like something so hard to do and you want to force yourself to do that so you feel like you’ve accomplished something and that you’re going to be safe in your life. But then I was talking to my friend Marwan, who’s this artist Saint Levant who I was in college with. It sounds so corny, and I don’t know how to make this hit how he made it hit, but he told me, ‘If you’re not doing what you want in this life, no one cares and you’re just going to die. But the beautiful thing is that if you unlock this part of your brain and stop being so scared of what your friends are going to say about you and put your music out there, you actually have a shot.’ And he also looked at me in the face and he said, ‘If you don’t start promoting your music, your music can be amazing, but you will never make it.’ And I was like, why am I wasting my time trying to be an accountant when I’m not good at it? If I was somebody’s accountant, they would fire me after realizing what they’ve done. But then I ended up producing with him, which was an easy foot in the door because I started making some money to be able to sustain myself. So now I’m here.

Going back to the album, you had said the album itself is full of these very vulnerable themes like love and addiction as well as these darker, more negative thoughts that you were having. How did it feel to release a body of work that was so personal?
I feel like a bottle of shampoo that’s just been completely fucking squeezed. There’s nothing in there. But I’m so happy and relieved. Honestly, it feels like I worked myself to the bone and I don’t regret it at all. It’s the nicest feeling I’ve ever had in my life. Now I don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to do. But it’s great.

For Jawbreaker you had given people directions on how to best listen to the album. You also told people to pick their four favorite songs. It might be hard to choose four, but what are your favorite songs off the record?
“He Could Never Love You” is my favorite song by far. I made that song at the lowest point in my life. I just came back from my second world tour with Saint Levant and I’d seen so much shit. I pretty much had my eyes completely opened. Especially visiting the Arab world, America portrays it in the worst fucking way. Everybody in the world that I’ve seen in these places, they just want their kids to be safe and they want to have the resources they need to live. And that’s pretty much it. I had just seen all this shit, I felt so out of place everywhere I would go. I went right on those tours after graduating college, and then I went back to my mom’s apartment where we live, and I just felt stillness trying to kill me. It felt like stillness was dangerous to me and it was scary. And I felt so low about myself because I didn’t know what style I wanted to do, my band just blew apart. So I made “He Could Never Love You” because it was finally the one thing that I was like, if I make this, I don’t give a shit if anybody else likes it. Because at that point I felt like I didn’t really have much to lose anyway. Then it unlocked something and I found my style. 

The album overall is very personal and vulnerable. What kind of feelings did you want to invoke in listeners? How do you want people to feel when they listen to the album?
I wanted it to feel like after you just been through such a fucking terrifying situation and your adrenaline is super high up and then you just kind of feel numb. You know how you get hurt physically and it hits you and then in that part of your body the adrenaline makes it so you can’t feel it? It’s kind of like that. But emotionally, I want you to feel as if you’ve just been through a really terrible situation and then you just did a huge hit of opium or something. But there’s still that visceral feeling of something really bad just happened. 

Do you want that to be a positive feeling or a negative feeling?
I want it to be real. I don’t want to piss people off, but at the same time, in my opinion, it’s heavy and I found myself connecting to the heavy, darker shit in this life more. I feel it more for some reason and I have a macabre interest in it. I mean, at this point in my life, I’m just putting out what I want and I want to collect people who also like it, and if they don’t like it it’s okay. I don’t need that. But I also think listening in to negative shit and getting that out while listening to music lets you live the rest of your life more positively. So I actually hope it’s kind of negative and you can go away from it and feel 10 pounds lighter or 100 pounds lighter.

I had read that you don’t listen to music, but you spend your free time playing guitar and looking out the window. Is that true or is that more figurative?
I have like one playlist on Spotify, and it rarely gets an add. It’s the one on my Spotify page called “Looking out the Window.” Funnily enough, I have a really hard time listening to new music because I feel overwhelmed by it, if that makes sense. But my really core inner fans have been forcing me to listen to new stuff and we made a huge joint playlist. It’s over a day or two long at this point. I’m forcing myself to listen to a lot of the stuff they add. And I discovered Chase Atlantic on it. They’ve got a cool sound, like The Neighborhood. I found so much cool shit through them that I’m like, maybe I should start listening to not even just modern music, but new music to me. Old music that’s even new. I don’t know why, but I’d rather play guitar and make my own stuff.

If you don’t listen to a lot of music that is new to you, who or what else do you draw inspiration from for your music?
Definitely movies. But a specific amount. I really like the movie Trainspotting. Donnie Darko is a huge inspiration for the next album. Pulp Fiction and Quentin Tarantino. I really like war movies. Full metal jacket. Movies like Gummo, Buffalo 66, Natural Born Killers. Joaquin Phoenix is a huge inspiration for my music. Anything he does is just so inspiring for me musically. One day I would love to meet him.

In your recent press release you have these different tidbits of your artistic values. There’s one line that says you were born in 1999, but you prefer to spend time in the 60s. Or, you don’t have any beliefs, but you believe your music can change the world. And I feel like overall your songwriting is very much of a different era that isn’t really around anymore. My question going off of that is, do you find that there’s something today that’s lacking, that maybe the past had?
I’m going to say some shit, but this is going to circle back around. You know how there’s all these micro trends in music? Like right now, really campy songwriting is super in. Like Sabrina Carpenter. Super campy, but it’s fun. Now that that’s been established, there’s going to be a bunch of shit that tries to do camp and it won’t be as good as that. Country is huge right now. Now everyone’s country. And a lot of stuff they’re making is really great, but you see some not so good stuff too. I think that there’s always been that. I think genres had a longer shelf life back then. But I think that music is so cyclical. I don’t think anything’s lacking today, or maybe it is. I genuinely sometimes feel like I’m kind of out of touch and I don’t know what’s going on, which kind of sucks. But in that respect, I’m going to keep making my shit and if I make my style of music for 50 years, there will be one point at which this is the genre and the style that people are looking for. Then once that’s the case, they’ll have 50 years of music to listen to. I’m not good at writing campy lyrics. I wish I was sometimes. But the one thing that I won’t freak out about is my songwriting, because it’s how it is and I’m not about to mold that to a trend.

Ultimately, what can people find in the world of Henry Morris? What’s it all about?
I think they could find a special level of self-awareness that not a lot of people talk about. In the world of Henry Morris, there’s a level of self-awareness about the things that we do that are terrible, without fixing them. Our world is created about finding issues, and the main purpose behind that is to solve them. Mine is acceptance. I think in my world you can find a place that will accept you as fucked up as you are. And the point isn’t to try to fix you. Let’s just try to accept ourselves for a second. Even if you’re psycho. Which is not good for society at all, but that’s just what I wanted to do when I made this album. So you’ll find that with a tinge of Old Hollywood and old money aesthetics. I like that style. So the most fucked up thing you’ve ever heard, with a really, really beautiful sunset.

It was great talking to you! Do you have any final thoughts or anything else you kind of wanted to add?
I’d love when the second album drops to do another one of these!

I know it’s probably way too early, but is there anything you can say about the second album?
It’s a visual aesthetic of CBGB in New York. The punk aesthetic like the Ramones and the Sex Pistols, but mixed with the music style of Studio 54. So the Bee Gees and disco. It’s going to be even darker. Less subtly violent and more outwardly violent. It’s called A Murder At Studio 54.

Keep up with Henry Morris: Instagram // TikTok // Spotify // YouTube

Justice Petersen
Justice Petersen
Justice Petersen is a Chicago-based music journalist and freelance writer. She is a recent graduate from Columbia College Chicago, having earned a journalism major with a concentration in magazine writing and a minor in music business. Justice regularly contributes artist interviews, On Your Radar features and various other articles for Melodic Magazine, serving as an interviewer, writer and editor. She also writes for several other online magazine publications, including Ghost Cult Magazine, Chicago Music Guide and That Eric Alper, and her work has been featured in Sunstroke Magazine, Fever Dream Zine, ChicagoTalks and the Chicago Reader. Her favorite band is Metallica and her go-to coffee order is an iced vanilla oat milk latte with strawberry cold foam on top.

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