For many, the first time they saw or heard of Matt Morris is when he sang with Justin Timberlake on the Hope for Haiti Now Concert, produced by George Clooney. They sang Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, a gorgeous and haunting song. It was certainly a moving performance, on a show filled with some of the biggest names in the entertainment business.
For my money, Matt Morris was the stand-out voice on that performance, which didn't surprise me. You see, I have downloaded his album the previous week. When Everything Breaks Open is Matt's debut with Tennman Records, the company owned by Timberlake. Morris was the first artist signed to the fledgling company. Seems Matt and Justin go way back together, when both appeared on the Mickey Mouse Club in the early 90s. Matt's vocal talent should come as no surprise, as his father is Country singing star Gary Morris, who also had success on Broadway, singing the role of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, and singing opposite Linda Ronstadt in La Boheme.
After his time on the Mickey Mouse Club, Matt continued to develop his talents, one of which was that of a songwriter. He has written for former MMC co-star Christina Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson (he wrote her hit Miss Independent), Timberlake , and Reba McEntire.
Morris is an out and proud gay man, and married partner Sean Michael Morris in California during the brief period it was legal prior to Prop 8. He not only speaks about him in concert, but he also mentions him in the liner notes of the album.
The music on When Everything Breaks Open is a combination of pop, rock, soul, folk and a touch of jazz. There are 13-songs on the Amazon version, produced by Timberlake and Charlie Sexton. The first song, Don't You Dare, a pop number allowing Matt to establish up front he has the vocal chops to carry a strong career. It is a strong song I could hear on the radio, much like mentor Timberlake. It combines funk and pop, sounding very current. Next up is Money, a soulful song with a great vibe. While lyrically it comes down to 'money is the root of all evil,' it is the delivery that sets this one apart. He performed it on the Ellen Degeneres Show below. Ellen, it seems, is a big fan.
The next cut is Love, a song written and performed straight from the heart. It speaks to the essence of love, the strength and beauty of it, and while never stepping up with a direct statement, is obviously speaking as a gay man who loves his partner very much. Here he performs an acoustic version of the soulful pop tune at a show in Denver, at a show headlined by the Indigo Girls.
The fourth song is Bloodline, a very interesting song. At heart it is very much a folk song, although the production and Matt's natural tendencies take soulful liberties with it, truly making it great. The background vocals of Patty Griffin, are perfect. When Matt performed it on the Ellen Degeneres Show, it was Justin who came out to perform with him, along with co-producer Charlie Sexton on guitar.
Other tracks on the album are Live Forever, nice pop song, through and through. The Un-American Interesting song, is remarkably like the acoustic Queen song, updated and current. Let It Go is Classically-inspired piano-driven pop, so melodic and beautiful. You Do It For Me Classic funk updated, Motown classics brought into today's sound. Just Before The Morning is just beautiful pop with great hooks. In This House is a soulful pop ballad with great vocals. Matt does some amazing singing on this one. Forgiveness is pop, almost a power ballad. Someone To Love You soulful ballad, blending the sound of R&B with a touch of Sarah McLachlin folk. Eternity is classic folk, updated with an R&B twist. There isn't a bad track on the album.
At the moment, you can download a copy from Amazon for just $5, quite the bargain, by clicking here. I am not sure how long that will last, so do hurry. When I bought it, it was at full price, and well worth it, so I'd suggest if you have any interest in his music, go for it. You can also check him out at his official website here. That page also has links to his MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, and FaceBook pages.