Matthew Morrison is back with his second studio album Where It All Began, which sees him take on some classics tracks that started on Broadway.
We caught up with the singer/actor to chat about the new record, his love for these tracks and what lies ahead.
– Your new album Where It All Began has been released today so what can fans expect from this new record?
Let me see. A lot of people know me from Glee but I had a ten year career on Broadway. This is the album that I always wanted to make because I just love singing this music.
Hopefully fans that are fans of Glee can be introduced to an older generation of music and music that I grew up listening to; it was old for me when I grew up listening to it.
These are timeless, iconic and well worn classic songs that I think have been around for so long because of that fact.
– You have touched on my next question as this album is a salute to some classic tracks that were made famous by Broadway so how did this album come around – as you say it is something you have always wanted to do?
I did my first Broadway show when I was nineteen years old but even before that this is the music that was always playing in my house when I was younger; my parents would play Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.
So I grew up listening to this music. These are the songs that I love to sing as I love the storytelling aspect of them.
I think a lot of singers nowadays go up on stage and they just sing a song and they concentrate on where they are going to put their riffs – I prefer it when someone goes up there and tells a story.
There is something so simple to these songs. There is just a simple and classic feel to them.
– The likes of Singin’ In The Rain, Luck Be A Lady and The Lady is a Tramp are all on there so how did you whittle it down to the final 12 as there have been some great Broadway songs over the years?
Absolutely; I could do another four albums. I am a student of the theatre but I really wanted to do my homework so I went all the way back to old Cole Porter and Irving Berlin and even some more contemporary stuff.
The album took control of itself and it settled around an era of the fifties and the sixties; it is where most of these songs are from.
I am someone who always thought that they were born in the wrong era and that is the era that I wish I was born in.
– Clearly you have a hug passion for Broadway and theatre so how great has it been for you personally to get into the studio and put a new spin on these great songs? But how daunting a prospect was that?
I never felt the daunting aspect of it. I do have such a love for these songs that I felt so free and open in expressing myself through these songs. I take each one of these songs and I make each one their own monologue.
For me it is really about the storytelling in these songs and that was the best part about going into the studio and just telling the studio.
I think if I had one word to describe what I did on this album it is movement; I like to dance on stage as well. My idol is Gene Kelly and so I have a huge dance element to my live shows.
One The Street Where You Live is typically a ballad but I gave a bit more movement to it and sped it up and made it swing a bit more so I could dance.
– How have you found the response to the album so far both here in the UK as well as in the States?
In the States it has done really well as people are really loving it and enjoying the salute to that great period of music.
I think when someone does something from the heart and is well and truly passionate about it I feel that people do respond to it better.
– Phil Ramone has produced the album, he has worked with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, so how did that collaboration come about? And how did you find working with him?
The collaboration came about because he was the first person on my list; I had a list of producers that I wanted to work with and he was number one. Luckily my number one said yes to working with me. I had a great conversation with him on the phone and he was really into what I was trying to do.
Getting to be in a studio with him was just a dream as he is someone who has worked with, as you said, Frank and Tony and Ella Fitzgerald. I was nervous going into work with him but he made it seem like he hadn’t worked with anyone before as he was so fresh and so new.
Mostly I just got stories out of this guy as he just had the most amazing stories about working with everyone, I just had the best time.
– Smokey Robinson is also on the album – how much of a thrill was that?
I have been so lucky as on the last album I had Elton John and Sting and for this album I wanted to find someone with the same ilk; and who better than someone who almost started a genre of music in Motown?
He is amazing and I was so thankful and happy that he wanted to do this. When someone like that wants to be on your album and to sing on your album it is a surreal album – and that is what it was (laughs).
– I was reading that you did some recording at the famous Capitol Studios so how was that experience – the likes of Frank Sinatra did a lot of recording there?
Yeah, that is where he did most of it. The room I recorded in is actually called the Frank Sinatra room. But I actually got to record on the same microphone that he recorded on which was… I almost cried (laughs). It was just mind-blowing.
There are not many studios nowadays that actually house an orchestra because people don’t record like that anymore; they don’t use live instruments. So that was a really important process for me to record in a studio that could house a fifty piece orchestra, it was beautiful.
– How did you find working with live instruments? Was it something that you were able to do on the first album?
I definitely did on the first album but not to the extent of this one; there was a sixty piece band. I had recorded a lot of the songs prior to them being in the room.
And once that they were in the room it changed everything for me as it made me a little bit more responsible with this music and take a little bit more ownership of it.
Having those instruments in the room it becomes a little more precious and I absolutely loved it. I just felt that I needed to up my game.
– You are going to be playing Bush Hall in London later this week so how excited are you to get out in front of a UK crowd?
I am very excited. The last time that I played in the UK was two years ago at the Hammersmith Apollo. This kind of music lends itself to a more intimate crowd and so that is why I wanted to find a venue that was that; I heard that Bush Hall was the place to do it.
I am excited to do it – my band is here and we are looking forward to the show. We have had some really great shows in the States so far and I am hoping that remains the same here.
– Well that was my next question as I was wondering if you had had chance to play these songs live and how have they been received?
It has been great. It is great when people can just be in a… I have played a few venues in Los Angeles that typically people just go to it and everyone is talking while the performance is going on; it’s more of a lounge/bar setting.
With this music, for some reason, everyone is just transfixed and everyone is involved in the process. It just reminds me of how things use to be back in the day where people would give so much respect to the artist; that is who it has been going. It has been wonderful and I have been so pleased.
– We know you from Glee, you were in What to Expect When You’re Expecting last year and you are a recording artist as well so how do you find that juggling act?
I think I am incredibly lucky to be able to do all of these things. After having done stage and recording and film and television I find that they stage is where my heart it. I love the theatre and I can’t wait to go back and do that.
We only have two months out of the year off from Glee and so that is not enough time to do a theatre show; that is why I find myself doing these albums so I can get on stage in some shape or form.
– Finally what is coming up for you as you go through the rest of this year?
Well I will be focusing on the music throughout July and we start back up on Glee at the end of July. And that is what I will be working on for the next ten months after that.
Matthew Morrison – Where It All Began is out now