When she was still in high school, singer Greta Morgan’s band the Hush Sound got signed to Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz’s label. For the next four years, she got a crash course in the music industry, releasing three albums and opening arena shows for Fall Out Boy and Panic! At the Disco. To round out her musical education while Hush Sound went on hiatus, Chicago-based Morgan studied abroad in … L.A., out of which grew the first songs for her new breezy pop quintet Gold Motel.
Could Gold Motel’s songs have been written outside of Southern California?
In the year between when I was in the Hush Sound and when Gold Motel started, I was searching for a sound … So I came out here kind of looking for inspiration and I was fortunate enough that I’d saved enough money where I didn’t have to work for a year. I decided ‘I’m gonna take this year and get a new band together and study with a lot of great teachers and see a lot of concerts and open my ears to some new stuff.’ This sound with the band just happened naturally and kind of automatically. I was writing songs on a little guitar in my backyard and they ended up being more light and more carefree and simpler and more streamlined because of the nature of the surroundings when I was actually writing them.
Did you become a fan of any of the local acts you saw in LA?
Beyond the people who I became friends with, I would go and see Jon Brion play every Friday night. He did film scores for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I Heart Huckabees, he produced a Kanye West album, he produced a bunch of Fiona Apple’s stuff, Aimee Mann’s stuff. He’s kind of like this musical Einstein where you can request any song and he can play it on any instrument. He does kind of a musical variety show every Friday night at Largo; it’s a really small theater. He’d have guests … Gillian Welch would come out to sing or Michel Gondry the filmmaker would come out and play drums. Fiona Apple would come out and they’d do Buddy Holly covers. It was kind of like music school, but everything I could possibly want out of music school. It was assured inspiration; I would go away feeling like I wanted to write music for the next few days.
You’ve since moved back to Chicago.
Yeah, I moved back to Chicago since my whole band is there… I’ve been talking about this with a ton of LA friends, they all ask me why I moved back to Chicago if I actually started the band in LA. My answer is that Chicago is such a loyal and supportive city. I went to see the pianist Ramsey Lewis play a charity dinner and he was talking about how much he loved Chicago. He said, ‘ the old saying is, if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. I say if you can’t make it in Chicago, you can’t make it anywhere.’ Which is so true. Chicago people and Midwestern people are so supportive and so loyal. If your music isn’t catching on for some reason, I would guess that you probably wouldn’t have hope for the rest of the country.
I’ve heard you have a really energetic set, what accounts for that?
I think a lot of the energy comes from the songs in the first place because they have a faster tempo. To play them well, we almost have to have the attitude to match. When you’re in a touring band, you spend about 23 hours a day getting to the show, setting up for the show, sound-checking for the show, and you only actually spend an hour on stage. The way I feel is, if you’re going to do it and you’re going dedicate your entire day to playing music for an hour, it needs to be incredible.
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