Artist Interview: Max Challis and John Cattini of Morningbird – Rapidly emerging young rockers!

If you’re not already familiar with the sound of Morningbird, please take a moment to click on the lead track of their album Only Believe in Love. You will immediately hear why we are so high on these emerging artists. With some genuine depth of soul, a dose of eager songwriting channelling some 70s harmonies, and a dash of studio magic, this album is sure to please. I had to ask the guys how they did it.

Morningbird began out of a friendship in a Berkelee School of Music dorm room. The two friends, Max Challis and John Cattini, found themselves of link mind when it came to music. They began making bedroom recordings of different song ideas they had until one of the guys got an internship at a recording company. That internship led to some studio time and the opportunity to make the experiments come to life. After a positive reception of their first few tracks, the guys added a few other world class musicians (what it must be like to live at Berkelee!) and began touring their songs in the local and regional scene.

But here’s the impression I take from these guys. They’re the type of songwriters that would love to “make it big” in the way that young college students should dream. At the same time, you can tell that these songs are expressions of their pursuit of love and life. These are not trite platitudes over power chords for free beer at the venue. These guys are articulating deep truths that seem far beyond their years.

When I asked the tired old question about musical influences, these guys blew me away. Of course they mentioned some big modern names like John Mayer, U2, Bon Iver, Frank Ocean, Dawes, and Tame Impala. But they also know the classics. They talked about Electric Light Orchestra, George Harrison, and the Beatles. You can hear several of these artists in the Morningbird work. It’s a contemplative rock style that sometimes moves into deep harmony work (like ELO), but other times stays true to lyrical rock (Harrison). Great stuff.

The spirit of the record, they explained, is that it’s about wrestling with the human tendency to close in when heartbroken. This album is about opening up to share the heartache with others. Let’s marinate in it. Let’s experience our pain together. The album itself follows a kind of development from a doomed relationship through to pain of heartache. But this is not “my woman left me” blues. This style is different.

When I asked about their songwriting, the guys told me that it is truly collaborative. When Max or John present a song idea, the other takes on the producer roll and works with it to change it. Honestly if you listen to this album, you’ll hear some depth that major acts never get to and these young men are just in the infant stages of the band. There’s so much promise in their songwriting. They explained that they use something called the “morning after test.” This is when they record a demo one night, they listen to it the next day to “see if it’s still your favorite song.” If it is, then it sticks. If not, scrap it and try something new.

I had to ask about the lead single “It Takes a Woman.” I love that track and wanted to know more about it. The sentiment is simple: it takes a woman to make a man feel so much pain, but the beauty in the harmony exposes the converse truth that it takes a woman to feel so much joy and love, too. Like I said, the depth with these two is pretty impressie. “Heartbreak is a necessity to be more human,” they told me during our interview. What a quote to have as a legacy for a young songwriter. Oh and for any of you out there who are music educators or give lessons, it’s important to note that this rapidly-rising Queen-esque hit came from a class assignment to “write a pop song.” If only all students took homework so seriously…

So when I asked the guys to dream about the future, they were full of more excitement than when I talk to seasoned vets of the music industry. They aim high! Like U2 and the Beatles, some of their key influences, Morningbird picked Wembley Stadium for their “dream gig.” Oh they said Bono and friends could open for them, too. How nice! Or, they chuckled, maybe just having a month-long run at Madison Square Garden would be okay. Can you tell they’re dreamers?

When it comes to the immediate future, the gents have a tour in the works they hope to be announcing soon. They recently played Hennessey’s in Boston to an excited and receptive crowd. They’re hoping to use that enthusiasm to fuel their recent album. Give it a spin and check out these extremely talented young men. Maybe we’ll see you at a show some day – and if it’s at MSG, just stop by and say hi. I’m sure it’ll be easy to spot ETTG in the midst of tens of thousands of other music lovers.

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