Blake Morgan

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Blake Morgan
Born Manhattan, New York, United States
Genres Alternative rock, indie rock[1]
Occupations Musician, singer-songwriter, producer, record label owner
Instruments Vocals, piano, guitar, bass guitar
Years active 1996–present
Labels ECR Music Group
Associated acts Lesley Gore, Lenny Kravitz
Website Official website

Blake Morgan is an American musician, singer-songwriter, music producer, and record label owner based in New York City.[2] After releasing the alternative rock solo album Anger's Candy (1997) on Phil Ramone's N2K Sony/Red label,[1] he began producing music independently and founded the label Engine Company Records in 2002, which in 2012 became ECR Music Group. He helps produce all music released by the label, which has included artists such as James McCartney, Janita, Mike Errico, Patti Rothberg, Lesley Gore, David Cloyd and Melissa Giges. His albums Anger's Candy, Burning Daylight,[3] Silencer, and Diamonds in the Dark were positively received.[4]

Early life[edit]

Blake Morgan was born and raised in Manhattan. He is the son of American feminist activist and writer Robin Morgan and poet Kenneth Pitchford. He began playing the piano and going to music school at age five, with the aim of becoming a professional pianist. At age six his interest began to switch from classical composers such as Mozart and Bartók to The Beatles, after his mother introduced him to Meet The Beatles.[5] In first grade he began attending the United Nations International School in New York City. He stayed there for 12 years, and graduated with an International Baccalaureate. He concurrently continued his piano studies at Greenwich House Music School in Manhattan.

Morgan's first gig was at CBGB's in New York, when older students from his school recruited him to play keyboards in their band.[5] Since he was legally too young for the venue, they used his then short stature to smuggle him inside the club in a bass drum case. As the show began, Morgan came out of the case to jump on stage and play the synths.[6]

Music career[edit]

After highschool Morgan attended Berklee College of Music, where he completed a four-year program in three years and graduated Magna Cum Laude. After college he began to play in various band formations and began pursuing music full-time, chiefly alternative rock.[6] He has stated he has been influenced by musicians such as The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Radiohead, Björk, Jeff Buckley, Death Cab, Neil Finn, Peter Gabriel, and The Police.[5] In 1996 he released the EP Sneakers.[4]

Anger's Candy (1997)[edit]

Blake Morgan in studio

He signed a seven-record deal with Phil Ramone's N2K Sony/Red label in 1996,[1] and released the solo album Anger's Candy later in 1997. The ten tracks included Lenny Kravitz performing backup vocals on "Why Don't You See." The track "To Say It's Your Love" was co-written by Nandi Johannes. All other tracks were written by Morgan, and he performed vocals, acoustic and electric guitar, piano, and organ.[7] Both Morgan and Terry Manning produced the album at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas. He toured the United States in support of the album for over a year, sharing stages with musicians such as Joan Jett.[1]

In response to the album, Billboard wrote "Morgan has a voice that was made to be heard on the radio . . . inspired songwriting and passionate performances." The New York Times wrote "Blake Morgan's singing and performances are disarmingly unselfconscious."

Morgan has stated he quickly became frustrated with being on a corporate label. After the tour was completed he found a loophole in the contract,[1] and despite being the label's most successful artist at the time, he told Ramone he wanted out of the deal.[8]

Engine Company Records, ECR Music Group[edit]

While producing Anger's Candy, he had started helping other local artists and bands produce projects on the side. These on-going projects, as well as frustration with A&R pitches from labels akin to N2K, led Morgan considering his own independent label. He went to bands and artists he was recording at the time, and pitched a label where they would have control over their own material and output.[6]

He launched Engine Company Records in New York City[1] in 2002, and remains CEO and owner.[6] It was re-branded as ECR Music Group in late 2012, expanding into an umbrella company that includes Engine Company Records as well as a roster of other labels and artists.[9][10] The associated publishing company is called Big Red Firetruck Music.[5] Similar to Rick Rubin's relationship with American Recordings, Morgan produces the music for the label. Genres have ranged from emo/punk, to alternative rock, to Classical.[6] He has recorded in locations such as The Hit Factory in New York and Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas.[8]

Among artists and producers that have worked with the label are James McCartney, Lesley Gore, Janita, Mike Errico, Patti Rothberg, Terry Manning, and Azam Ali.[6] In summer of 2005 the label landed five albums in the Top 20 simultaneously, including Lesley Gore's Ever Since and Rick Henrickson's Reaching for a Gun.[8] In June 2008, the label released 20th Century Duos for Violin and Cello with works by Zoltán Kodály, Roger Sessions and Maurice Ravel, which received a glowing review for performance and engineering in The New York Times.[2]

Burning Daylight (2005)[edit]

Sample of Morgan's 2005 track "Better Angels" off Burning Daylight, illustrating his acoustic style

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His next solo album, Burning Daylight, was released on Engine Company Records on July 12, 2005. Co-produced with Grammy Award-winner Phil Nicolo, it reached #1 on eMusic's album charts, holding the number spot for both album, single ("Danger to Wake You"), and artist at the same time. The bonus track of his cover of Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed" became the most successful track in the history of the label, and climbed high on iTunes charts.[8]

The album received a positive review and 4/5 stars on Allmusic.[3] The Washington Post wrote "He's got killer pop-rock instincts . . . a natural when it comes to fashioning sharp melodies and catchy choruses."[8]

In 2006 his song "It's Gone," performed by Lesley Gore, was featured in the final scene and closing credits of the independent film Flannel Pajamas, by Jeff Lipsky. The film, which was lauded by Roger Ebert, was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. On March 18, 2009, the track "Better Angels" from the album was featured in MTV's The Real World: Brooklyn.[8] The Lesley Gore version of "Better Angels" was also featured in the 2005 season premiere of CSI: Miami.

Silencer (2006)[edit]

On October 25, 2006, he released the album Silencer'[4] It features Morgan on vocals and piano performing acoustic versions of both new and older material, dating back to 1996. A cover of "No Surprises" by Radiohead was also released as a digital bonus track.[8] The album again received a positive review on AllMusic, which gave it a 3/5 stars and said "These are darkly heartfelt, enigmatic and melodic songs that often bring to mind a mix of the yearning, expansive rock of the Smashing Pumpkins and the soulful AM pop of Todd Rundgren. Meditative and sanguine, these are afterglow torch songs for the alt rock set."[4] Blender wrote "Great songs and great singing is apparently all you need if you have the goods, and there are plenty of goods to be had here . . . with imaginative arrangements that underscore his raw, iconic singing."

As of 2009, he continues to produce and work on original material for upcoming albums.[5][11] He is sponsored by Gibson Guitars.

Discography[edit]

  • Sneakers EP (1996)
  • Anger's Candy (1997)
  • Burning Daylight (2005)
  • Silencer (2006)
  • Diamonds in the Dark (2013)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Monger, James Christopher. "Blake Morgan Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2011-11-22. 
  2. ^ a b Tommasini, Anthony (June 1, 2008). "Turns From Indie Label, Piano Pair and Philip Glass". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-11-22. 
  3. ^ a b Viglione, Joe. "Burning Daylight: Blake Morgan". AllMusic. Retrieved 2011-11-22. 
  4. ^ a b c d Collar, Matt. "Silencer: Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 2011-11-22. 
  5. ^ a b c d e "Interview: Blake Morgan". Such Cool Stuff. Retrieved 2011-11-22. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Featured Record Label Owner: Blake Organ". Unified Manufacturing. Retrieved 2011-11-22. 
  7. ^ "Angers Candy". Discogs. Retrieved 2011-11-22. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g "Blake Morgan: Home". Engine Company Records. Retrieved 2011-11-22. 
  9. ^ "Engine Company Records Announces Its Re-Launch And Expansion As ECR Music Group". HM Magazine. -09-12. 
  10. ^ Weiss, David (August 1, 2012). "Engine Company Records (NYC) Expands, Relaunches as ECR Music Group". Sonic Scoop. Retrieved 2012-09-12. 
  11. ^ "Blake Morgan Rehearsing New Songs". Gibson Lifestyle. December 29, 2009. Retrieved 2011-11-22. 

External links[edit]