Singer-songwriter Matt Morris got his start as a Mouseketeer alongside Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera. After spending his early teen years apprenticed to the Mouse, he returned to his native Denver to attend John F. Kennedy High School. These days, he's an accomplished singer-songwriter who's co-written tunes with Aguilera and Timberlake but is now focusing on his own material. His first release, the Backstage at Bonnaroo and Other Acoustic Performances EP, is an intimate, soulful affair miles removed from the pop stylings of his friends and past collaborators. We caught up with Morris as he prepared to embark on a tour to promote the EP.
Westword: How did you become a Mouseketeer, and how did that set you on the musical path you're on today?
Matt Morris: I think in a lot of ways, the path that I'm on now with this musical career started even before I worked for Disney. I sang with my father [Morris's father is the country singer Gary Morris], on the road with him, when I was like seven or eight. I got some stage time pretty early. At that point, when you're seven or eight, it's just fun, you don't really think about a career or what that will mean. I think that the Disney experience was the first time I thought, "Oh, you can make a living with this, you can make money, it opens up all these doors." I was eleven when I auditioned for it here in Denver. My mom took me out of school early that day, and the rest is sort of history. It gave me great experience in the recording studio, in front of a camera, working with professionals in the entertainment industry, but it also just introduced me to some great friends that I've maintained relationships with to this day.
Your own work sounds very different from the material you co-wrote for Aguilera and Timberlake. Do you put on different hats when you're writing for yourself versus for or with someone else?
Well, when I've written for other people, I think I've served a really specific function for them. And that's mainly to help them sing the songs that are true to their voice. I think that my whole function is to make that clear for them. Stylistically, there may be producers involved, they may have their own musical vision, so a lot of my work ends up being conceptual. I'm also sort of a chameleon when it comes to my own musical abilities and what I'm capable of. I don't have to put on all those hats when I'm writing for myself, because it can just be about the concepts that are important to me. It can be about my perspective, and my ideas or what music has resonated with me.