There's a unique brand of confidence to Morgan Wade's Reckless. Throughout her solo debut, the Floyd, Virginia native takes on a bevy of intimate subjects while embracing moments of acute vulnerability. Despite it sounding contradictory, it takes a considerable amount of courage to write about personal sobriety, anxiety, loneliness and mental health.
"I like writers who are honest," says Wade, as we chatted over a call. "When they just write whatever they want, that helps me," she continues. "I'm able to tell myself, don't worry about what everybody else thinks. Just say it. We might not make the same music, but they're influential. I try to be as authentic and real as possible."
As she lists five of her favorite songwriters for Cuts The Deepest, her eyes glow with fiery passion and enthusiasm. As she expands on how their catalogs have helped her process and address her own mental health, the various hurdles of doubt and hesitation in her budding career become apparent - particularly in the way they all intertwine.
I'm a big Lana Del Rey fan. She's super authentic; she says what she wants. I remember discovering her music while still in high school. Her Born to Die record is one of my favorites of hers, but she's the kind of artist who will put out a record and I'll always enjoy it. Some artists are so focused on making all their tracks sound like radio singles, but Lana is all about the lyrics. She's definitely got those real 60s and 70s vibes to her, and she's stuck with that. She does whatever she wants and I love it.
The first song I heard by Halsey was 'Gasoline', years ago. Obviously, her voice is different - the way she sings just emphasises everything she's trying to say. She's also someone that doesn't care what everybody else thinks. In 'Gasoline', she’s asking, “Are you insane like me?” There's something about that line that gets me. She says whatever she feels and stands by her word, and has one of those unique voices where you know it's her singing. I think a lot of people found her because she sang a song with The Chainsmokers, but I challenge them all: go listen to her songs that were out before that. She's the real deal.
Miley will put out a super country song, something super pop and she'll sing a rock song with Joan Jett; it's great to see someone do so many different things. She's a Southern girl and she's out there doing pop, rock, and country music. That’s shown me that, just because I have a Southern accent, I'm not stuck in the mindset of, “Well, I have to write strictly country music. That’s it. I can’t do anything else”. That’s stupid! You can do whatever the heck you want to do - Miley really shows that. She gets a lot of flack for all the different seasons of her life, but I've loved her during every one. I love how she handles herself and how she's changed and grown.
NF has a song called 'How Could You Leave Us?' on his 2016 album Therapy Session. On it, he discusses losing his mom to drug addiction and reflects on his childhood. He's crying as he records - you don't see other rappers doing that; they're not gonna show that side of themselves. He's singing about mental health, and how he tackles OCD and dealing with paranoia. These are things that I also struggle with; so when I'm having a tough day, he's somebody that I’ll go listen to. He just doesn't hold back - again, he's another super authentic writer. You can be edgy and dark, but he's not putting it on, that's literally who he is. He came from nothing and worked really hard to get to where he's at. I love that about him.
Eminem has got such an impressive catalog. I always go back to 'Stan', it’s such a good song. I sit there and just think about how he writes and how he thinks. The song 'Darkness', off Music To Be Murdered By, has you thinking he's talking about going out to perform, but you get to the end and realize it was about the Las Vegas shooter. The guy is a musical genius. He’s able to take something that heavy and really delve into it; he’s very poetic in a dark kind of way. He just baffles me - what he can rhyme stuff with. It's insane.
Morgan Wade's debut album Reckless is out now via Ladylike Records / Thirty Tigers.
Photography by David McClister.