By Will Yannacoulias
Last summer, TransSask Support Services announced the TransCreate Workshop series, an online program that gives Saskatchewan based two-spirit, trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming artists a platform to teach live classes in a variety of mediums. The fourth class in the series, being offered this Saturday, is a songwriting deep-dive with Regina recording artist Morgan Moats. Moats was kind enough to speak with NSMZ about their expansive musical background, where they find their songwriting inspiration, and shared a sneak-peek with us of Saturday’s class.
(NSMZ)”Hi Morgan! Let’s start by introducing you to the readers. Tell me a bit about yourself, and your interest in music?”
(MM) “Hi! I’m a nonbinary singer/songwriter living in Regina, SK. My parents say that I started singing as soon as I started talking, but my formal music training began with piano lessons at age five. I grew up on a farm, so unfortunately there wasn’t much opportunity to play with other people, but I was involved with choir. I ended up leading it by grade 11, because we had no music-specific teachers in our school until the year after I graduated. I also had many years of musical theatre with Saskatchewan Express (both classes and the performing groups), and a year of voice lessons with Karen Frandsen. I’m self-taught on guitar, which I started playing at around twelve years old. I ended up going to the University of Regina for a Bachelor’s degree in Music (majoring in composition with piano as my instrument), and through classes there I am now able to make sound on pretty much any instrument you can throw at me, though I generally stick to guitar, piano, and singing. I’m very much interested in keeping music and the arts as prevalent in my life as possible! I spent a few years working reception and not making much music, and that just cemented for me that I need to be where the arts are to be fulfilled.”
(NSMZ) “I’m curious about how you started songwriting, and what inspires you?”
(MM) “I remember one time when I was probably seven or eight, singing a song I had made up to my sister and she said something along the lines of “are you sure that isn’t a real song?”, as if it had never occurred to her that I (or anybody!) could write music and have it be a “real song”. Despite knowing that it was something I could do, I didn’t really concentrate on making my own music until after my sister passed away when I was sixteen. I think it was the only way I could channel my grief that didn’t feel like I was being selfish or wallowing, and it was like a dam had broken. I spent the next few years filling notebooks with lyrics and a shorthand I had made up to remember what melody went with the lyrics, and by the time I started University I challenged myself to write, record, and post online a new song every week for a year! I still write a lot about grief, because it’s something that never really goes away, but now I’m also inspired by interpersonal relationships, queerness, and mental health.”
(NSMZ) “I’d like to ask about your songwriting process; is it sudden and inspired or is a song something you take a lot of time to carefully craft?”
(MM) “I actually have a really weird process, from what I’ve heard of what other people do. I spend time when I’m doing something like driving or showering, and first I just let myself sing whatever comes into my head. Then I repeat, with whatever changes seem to make sense (like, I think this word would be better here, this whole line doesn’t sound quite right, or hey that doesn’t rhyme at all!), and just keep singing the same thing over and over with whatever tweaks feel right. I don’t write anything down until I have an entire song, because I believe that if I can’t remember what I did on a particular line then it isn’t memorable enough to be in the finished product - by the time I can sing a whole song through without having to change anything it’s probably an ear worm. I write the lyrics and the melody simultaneously, because in my head they don’t make sense without the other. I will say, though, that I’m familiar with other methods of writing and when I lead songwriting workshops I don’t expect people to copy my oddball method!”
(NSMZ) “TransCreate is a cool program, how did you get involved? Could you give a little peek behind the curtain regarding what you have planned?”
(MM) “TransCreate is definitely an amazing program! I know the person who organizes the program, so when I saw that they were looking for people to give workshops I thought I’d put my name forward. I’ll be guiding folks through some basic songwriting ideas, talking about lyrics, melody, and possibly touching on instrumentation/harmony/theory aspects if there’s time and interest. Part of the fun of this program is that I have no idea who will be attending the class and what they already know, so I intend to do a quick verbal poll of the attendees and then adapt the class to the level of the participants. So we might be quite basic or we might have some more advanced stuff, depending.”
Morgan Moat’s TransCreate Songwriting class will be avaliable on Saturday at the following link: https://fb.me/e/1az58L5TX and their original music can be heard on all streaming services.