Describing his music ambitions, acoustic newbie and Princeton native Christopher Morse says, “The time when I knew I wanted to pursue this as a career was when Gettysburg College gave me a coffee house.” No, he wasn’t the winner of a Starbucks franchise, but the then freshman singer/songwriter — he just completed his junior year — was never the less jolted by the musical equivalent of caffeine. “Every once in a while we have professional songwriters come in and play on campus — they have coffee and stuff. So they gave me a full hour just to play and I told all my friends. The place was packed — it was amazing. I was blown away by how many people were there — probably 100 to 120, which was awesome for one of my first real shows.”
Morse has enjoyed a harmonic blossoming since, largely thanks to Hamilton-based management/ publicity advisor, Kathy Falcey a.k.a. Kat-tunes2ya on MySpace. After his first two summers of modest self-booking, Morse was contacted by Falcey after she discovered him as a MySpace friend of Katmandu’s weekly acoustic showcase. “We clicked right away, and she’s done wonders for me since we’ve been working together,” says Morse. “Now this summer in comparison to last, I have 22 shows in May and June, so we still have July and August to fill up.” One venue he is especially excited about is the National Underground in New York City at 159 East Houston Street, recently opened by VH1 favorite, Gavin DeGraw. Others gigs include at least four more Katmandu showcase appearances in additional to Triumph Microbrewery in Philadelphia. “I’ll be playing all over NJ this summer from New York City to Point Pleasant and almost everywhere in between,” says Morse.
Morse was born in Wayne, PA, the eldest of two sons. His father, Mark, is an orchestral conductor whose work brought the family to Canada when Morse was seven. Today he works primarily overseas. His mother, Emily, teaches violin and viola privately. In 1998 Morse was accepted at the American Boychoir School, which he attended from grades five to eight (he graduated in 2001), and the family moved to Princeton.
Morse, the vocal stunt-double of the Grammy-nominated Jason Mraz, is riding high on his showcase MySpace tracks, “Super Me,” “Chin Up” and “Friend Line.” Morse’s songs glide and pluck on coiled springs balancing immediacy vs. conveyance, inspiration vs. melancholy. The definitive fan favorite is “Super Me,” which mirrors the theme of John Mayer’s “Bigger Than my Body.” Morse says he wrote the song as an expression of confidence after “I had just heard of this 16 or 17-year-old singer/songwriter who got signed to a major label and he had this big single and I heard it and said ‘you know what? I can do better than this, I can write something at least as good as this.’ The idea behind it is that is if someone like him can do this, why can’t I?” From “Super Me’s” bridge:
Why can’t I be who I want to be, and do what I want to do now, and not have to wait for it to come, or not come at all?/Run faster when I’m down, a sacrifice I’ll have to make./In a good place for action I’ll make it happen somehow.
“Chin Up,” rearranging minor-key chords from Coldplay’s “Sparks,” keeps the message simple and merely asks us to be happier by trying to sing. “When I’m in a bad mood I listen to a song that picks my mood up and sing along. Singing will keep you happy so don’t worry about the rest as long as you have a song to sing.”
Somewhat less sublime is the yearning of “Friend Line,” in which he laments about wanting more from a relationship and having to settle for the “Friend Line.” “You ask a girl out she says
‘Ahhhhh, I’d rather be friends. We’re such good friends — I don’t want to destroy that relationship.’ I’ve had that happen in high school and even now.”
The emerging musician garners his share of female attention on his MySpace page. “Its really hard because they’re from all over the country and most of them are (just) 14 to 16, but it’s great — I’ll take it.” He is also quick to qualify, “But, they’re just fans, which is awesome.”
Other MySpacers who have boosted Christopher’s burgeoning career include indie acoustic breakout artist Corey Crowder. After opening for Crowder, he was added to Corey’s top friends, which bumped Morse’s plays up “big time.” He conducted his first media interview via E-mail with non-profit South Jersey promotion collective, the Coffee House Players, which he then blogged on his page.
Not content to stagnate, Morse has two more tracks, “Caught in the Headlights” and “Untitled,” which is he is currently recording. “Caught,” layered with multi-tracked harmonies, encourages us to overcome our fears by not being “caught in the headlights.” “Instrumental,” briefly clocking in at 1 minute 11 seconds, is insistent and ambient; the track could easily establish Morse as a sonic-scape portrait painter.
Music however, is not the sole focus in Morse’s life. A sociology major with a life-long passion for sports, he has played soccer since the age of five, and while attending the Gunnery School, a private college preparatory school in Washington, CT. Morse also wrestled for four years and played tennis and rowed on Gunnery’s crew team. Comparing music to sports, Morse says, “I was able to mix and match with both crowds. I was riding between being a jock and a music nerd. In college I had to choose between sports and music and figured music would get me a lot farther than sports. I don’t know how I figured that because there’s a pretty slim chance of making it in either field.”
Nevertheless, Morse carries forward the determination of alleged ancestor, famous pioneer Samuel Morse. When pressed about his historic relative he responds, “At least that’s what I’ve been told since I was born!”
Acoustic Singer-Songwriter Showcase, Wednesday, May 28, 6 to 11 p.m. KatManDu, Waterfront Park, Route 29, Trenton. 15-minute back to back sets. Featuring Christopher Morse, James Leming, Jon Kinsella, Brian Ericson, Jessy Tomsko, Kursten Bouton, Dana Desimone, Kelly Carvin, and others. Produced by Lance Reichert of qbdigital.com. To sign up E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. 609-587-4735.
Also, Saturday, May 31, 8 p.m., the Connections Cafe, 18 Turntable Junction, Flemington.
Also, Monday, June 2, 10 p.m., the Harvest Moon Brewery, 392 George Street, New Brunswick, 732-249-6666, www.harvestmoonbrewery.com.