INTERVIEW: Cashavelly Morrison
Photo Credit: Heather Evans Smith
1) Hi Cashavelly, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
I caught my toddler licking a dustpan this morning. So, pretty good! At least it wasn’t the toilet this time.
2) Can you talk to us more about the song “Gunmaker”?
Honestly, “Gunmaker” is my attempt to understand someone who most of the time I just don’t understand. The people I know who need a gun, I know they have felt powerless at some point in their lives, or they feel a chronic powerlessness. That’s not an easy thing to feel. But in all these people I know, their guns don’t offer them power. More, they seem to increase their fearfulness. In all these killings–the massacres and the daily murders of husbands shooting their wives–these men are obviously the opposite of brave. The gunmaker in this song knows who he’s predominantly selling guns to, and it isn’t someone he trusts with the safety of his daughter. He is wracked with guilt that she is more and more at risk because of the guns he proliferates for profit. He can’t deny his part in the massacres that keep repeating themselves. I imagine him making some big changes after this realization.
3) Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
After the Sandy Hook massacre, I wrote down one phrase, “20 tiny ruby shoes.” There were 20 children killed that day. Kids don’t wear red shoes typically. It’s not a color you see for sale often. But all those kids’ shoes were turned red that day. It was years later that I wrote “Gunmaker,” but I guess my thinking on a song about gun violence began that day.
4) How was the filming process and experience behind the video for “Hunger”?
The filmmaker S. Cagney Gentry is a friend of ours, and most of the time we see each other as we are running after our kids at the park. It’s a treat to get to work together creatively. He came over to our house one evening after he had been listening to the song, and together we conceptualized the video. We wanted to create visuals that would expose the dark underbelly of American greed and privilege. The first shooting day was late at night in a dark, dirty basement of a large building in town. Me and dancer Dominica Greene, who choreographed the piece, were covered in dust by the end. Cagney and Logan Williams, who co-directed this project, were so organized and efficient, it was quite fast. The rest of the shooting happened a couple weeks later. The set of the dinner scene blew our minds, with the mounds of green beans, potatoes, broken dishes, and a barely-cooked roast bleeding onto the table. It was beautifully sinister and eerie. I did that walk to the table over and over to get it just right. When we watched the first playback, I looked so melodramatic since slow motion exaggerates every slight little move. It was pretty funny. I had to tone it down.
5) These songs come from your latest album Hunger – what’s the story behind the title?
“Hunger” was one of the last songs written for the album. Yet it was the song I worked on the longest. I just couldn’t figure out what it was until the rest of the album had been completed, because it’s a kind of mission statement for the album. Every song on the album has some kind of hunger, hunger for the truth, for justice, for the kind of self-introspection that doesn’t necessarily make you feel good. I’m as privileged as they come. I’ve had to recognize my own racism. My own sexism. I’m still working on it and I will always need to work on it. Everyone in America is in some degree both racist and sexist, because our country’s identity was formed from these oppressive roots. I think these past two years have revealed that without a doubt. These songs have helped me find compassion for the people I see now so comfortable with spewing hate and blaming, dividing people into “us versus them.” Really, I think it all stems from suffering, and hate is seen as a remedy. Maybe some people are broken and hate will rot them away. But, I will never think that of my own child. I’ll never think my own child is beyond help for his suffering. So, I’m going to keep trying.
6) How was the recording and writing process?
Most of the album was written in 2016 during the campaign for the Presidential election. I was angry about some personal things going on, and then the news just kept on reflecting the same issues. This album began in short phrases written in a journal. I wasn’t really trying to write an album at first, but these little clusters of words started to connect into song concepts. The anger felt very productive. Recording took about six 12-hour sessions. We had to take an 8 month break in the middle of recording when we had our baby daughter. I didn’t want to work on it at all for the last 4 months of pregnancy, and we didn’t record again until she was 4 months old. We had both our kids in the studio with us from that point on. Don’t ask me how many movies our son watched or cookies he ate in one given recording day.
7) Was this always meant to be a political record or did that happen throughout the process?
No, it wasn’t at all. I was worried about bringing my daughter into the world, because of the suffering I feared she as a woman would have to go through. And there was Trump on the screen confirming what rotten lot she would have. I was dropping off my son at school every day, when shooting after shooting showed up as a News Alert on my phone. It felt like my private world was a microcosm of the peculiar American experience of the moment.
8) What aspect of body image and empowerment did you get to explore on this record?
Three songs on this record try to explore some things about being female that I just haven’t found much in music recently. I wrote “Night Feeding” for my daughter. It’s what I hope is to come from the #MeToo movement, that she will never have a #MeToo story. All the women telling their stories now are changing things for my daughter’s generation. I’m grateful to them. “Sixteen” tells a parable of a girl turning against her body in an attempt to satisfy all the expectations on her to be beautiful, desirable, and perfect. She tries to both satisfy and rebel against these pressures, but it destroys her. I think too many girls are still caught in simultaneously trying to please everyone while also striving for autonomy. “School Girls” was the first song written for the album. It’s an exploration of women being viewed only for display and for pleasure. And what this bargain does to women as they age and the young girls who witness it.
9) Any plans to hit the road?
We are planning on a summer tour with our kids and a babysitter in tow. It’s sure to be chaos.
10) What else is happening next in Cashavelly Morrison’s world?
We have been inching toward a third album, just in our heads. I’d say it’s in the zygote stage.
Hi David, welcome to VENTS! How have you been? Things are good, thanks so much …