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What did make sense was moving back to Denver. Craving a sense of normalcy, he enrolled full-time at Kennedy High School, intent on experiencing all the things that other kids his age were experiencing. The biggest shock was going from fifteen hours of instruction a week to entire days in school, but he eventually adapted.
As Morris enjoyed a quieter life with new friends, his old friends and fellow Mouseketeers were moving on with their careers. Before American Idol, the New Mickey Mouse Club and its lesser-known counterpart, Kids Incorporated (which introduced us to Martika and Stacy Ferguson — better known these days as Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas), served as veritable launching pads to superstardom. Walking away from the franchise, Morris could have second-guessed his decision. But rather than becoming embittered by the enormous success of his castmates, he marveled at the whole thing.
"I had this really interesting vantage point, watching the careers of my peers from the New Mickey Mouse Club explode," he recalls. "I listened to their records, and I saw them present their music to the world, taking on these huge tasks and seeing the world really respond in epic proportions. It was fascinating to me." But as fascinating as it was, Morris was comfortable being out of the limelight, where he continued to work on his music at his own pace.
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"I think it's important to abide by your own timing," he notes. "I think it's been important for me to be very conscious of the alignment of events and the timing in my life, and to move when it makes sense for me. Experience has shown me that if I move too soon — if I move when other people think I should, or if I follow something other than my instincts — then everything gets kind of jumbled up and stops making sense."
By taking his time, Morris was able to relish every moment of the journey. It gave him the chance to mature as a person, to gain perspective on the whole notion of success, to hone his craft at his own pace. All of which is echoed in his songwriting: His songs touch on personal topics that reflect his experiences.
When Everything Breaks Open is a pleasing, if not completely mesmerizing, effort that mostly eschews the blue-eyed R&B soul that you might think Morris would favor given the suppleness of his falsetto. It's hard to say if this will be his breakthrough record; over the course of thirteen tracks, it tries on a variety of styles, but ultimately sags under the weight of too many down-tempo numbers. Regardless of the impact that it has commercially, however, the real joy is in the journey.
A few weeks ago, Morris — who appears to carry a Flip camera wherever he goes — posted a clip of himself sitting in his car outside a station in San Diego, listening to his song being played on the radio for the first time. Before that, he'd posted a number of other videos — marveling at being on the set of Letterman, hand-delivering his album to Twist & Shout. Watching the joyous expressions on his face, you get the sense that he just wants to share the experience with someone.
"I caught a glimpse of the TV screen, and it was beautiful," he says of a recent shoot. "All I kept thinking was, God, I wish Sean was here, and I wish Dottie, my manager, was here, and oh, it would be so great if my mom were here! And that's the motivation to turn on a Flip cam and say, 'Look what's happening. Look! This is so amazing!'
"As exciting as it is, though," he concludes, "it's also what keeps me grounded and humble. As quickly as it went from that to this, I have to acknowledge that it can go from this back to that just as quickly. We have these moments, and we can make the moments feel eternal and can come back and relive them, but we don't know what's coming tomorrow. We don't know what's going to happen after this trip, or this tour or this album. You just don't know."