It's not easy being a singer-songwriter. Long days on the road, playing for small crowds in out-of-the-way places and then doing it all again the next day after a few hours of sleep in a random location. Such has been the life for Athens-based Ken Will Morton, though as one of his new songs says, he's happy enough with the life he's chosen.
The majority of Morton's shows are solo affairs, though he does have a band together — one that will be stopping in Charlotte this week for a show at Puckett's Farm Equipment. If Morton had his druthers, he'd always tour with a band.
"It's a group of guys that I wrangled together, but it's hard to get too far from Athens with them," Morton says by phone from his home. "One just got married and has another band. Another guy is married. Also, if I take guys on the road, I want to be able to pay them. In this age and economy, it's sometimes easier to do solo shows and keep the money and sleep on someone's floor or in my car. When you have other guys, you want to make sure they're comfortable since they're playing my songs. If I could afford them, I'd take them a lot more."
Morton — who released his fifth album, True Grit, earlier this year — prefers the depth that a band can give his sound, whether it be through harmonies or instrumentation. But being solo also has its advantages — he can play whatever he's in the mood to play and not have to worry if everyone knows the song or not.
He recently changed his writing process and has a handful of new material, though some aren't quite ready for the full-band treatment yet.
"Lately, I've been writing from title on down," he says. "I'll find a cool phrase that I write down because it'll make a good song title. It's been easier — the title can dictate the vibe of a song. It's been pretty fruitful for me. After all, everybody likes a good song title. 'You Can't Lose What You've Never Had' — I wrote that down. Someone once called me 'Scattershot' because my memory isn't so good. I have a new one called 'Happy Enough.'"
That last one Morton feels is a theme that just about anybody can relate to. He says, for most people, their ideal situation doesn't end up as their reality. It's also about coming to terms with his own life and where he's landed so far in his career.
Another part of his process has remained the same. "It's the old adage — if it stands alone on an acoustic guitar, you know it's a good song," he says. "You start from there and get to honing and sculpting it until I get it just right. If I feel it would be a good rock song with a band, I throw it out to them."
He is currently recording in three different studios and hopes he has enough to "hodgepodge" an album together by the end of the year. He is also in contact with movie and TV producers and music supervisors on trying to get more of his music onto the screen. It's not something new for Morton whose song "Oh Lord" was featured on the show Deadliest Catch.
"They were looking for something that involved the ocean or stormy seas — I pitched it and it worked," he says. "When something like that happens, you expect the worst but hope for the best as far as how they'll use it. They used two minutes of it and I was really excited. Financially, it was great. Hopefully it will happen again for me. After all, driving hundreds of miles around the country is not as exciting as it used to be."