There’s the cliché that the music industry is oversaturated with cookie-cutter pop stars and over-groomed artists, but New York’s finest Morgan Saint is changing that, one raw and honest electro-pop tune at a time.
Saint has been breaking down barriers through her undefinable music and androgynous look since 2017, after quickly being catapulted into the limelight with her debut EP, ‘17 HERO.’ Listening to her music, there’s a dramatic shift in her sound over the years, as Saint comes into her authentic self on her new EP, ‘HELP.’
“I feel more confident, I think, than in the past and happier and more willing, and [don’t] feel like I need to tiptoe around [what I’m] trying to say,” Saint tells Clash over Zoom. “Like, I'm just saying what I think unapologetically.”
Turning to a more brooding and gritty sound, Saint says the new music “feels like a new side of me that maybe hasn’t been shared to the world yet.” ‘HELP’ is a stark contrast to ‘17 HERO,’ but not unexpected, given 2018's album ‘ALIEN,’ which acts as a stepping stone to her darker-toned sound.
“...My first EP was sort of quiet and afraid and then the second EP, a little bit more came out and now I'm like, 'OK, I'm really comfortable with the world now, I'm comfortable with the people that are my fans or whatever,’” Saint shares, admitting she thinks calling her supports “fans” sounds a bit daft. “I think it's just me really showing that more comfortable side of me and that is a little grittier, a little bolder—a lot bolder. It's exciting for me because I'm like 'Yeah, this is actually really me, like you know me.' It feels special.”
‘HELP’ comes after an almost two-year brief hiatus and has Saint diving into more confessional, diary-like songwriting mixed with deeper cuts as she explores the narrative of a complex, rocky relationship. Inspired by a three-year relationship where Saint fell in love quickly, she later began to have feelings for someone else two years in but stayed because she still loved that person and felt conflicted.
“The whole EP is about this interesting thing that happened where I could really [use some help because] I now have feelings for someone else,” Saint shares candidly. “I still loved her and it was this really difficult inner turmoil and [it] sort of taught me a big lesson.” It’s this inner conflict that’s evident on tracks like ‘SWITCH,’ where Saint attempts to turn off her emotions for someone else to save her relationship, although she admits “it obviously didn't work.” But it’s these new, previously undiscovered feelings that tug on listeners’ heartstrings and let Saint truly be herself in her music.
The honest approach to songwriting on her newest EP stems from being more secure in herself and being in a mentally good place. “[In my previous releases] I found myself saying what I want[ed] to say but not actually saying it, like using a lot of metaphors and finding creative ways to [mask it] but not really let it out to the world,” she says. On ‘HELP,’ Saint is blunt and to the point, as she paints a crystal-clear on songs like sultry slow-burner ‘DON’T BE SCARED,’ singing, “Don't be scared in the dark when I come through / Come on top, make me feel like I'm brand new," no longer hiding behind cryptic lyrics.
Saint has racked up millions of streams on Spotify, but being a musician wasn’t part of her original career path, although she says she's “always loved music.” In the summer of 2016, after completing her illustration degree from Parsons, she needed a new outlet to channel her energy and decided to focus on music, explaining "one thing led to another and you know, I'm here." Luckily it’s worked out, although Saint says honestly, “I don't know how this happened but I feel so grateful.”
Saint uses her fine arts background and creativity to be active in all parts of her music, from co-producing each track on ‘HELP’ to hiring her cousin to do the EP’s illustrations. “It's cool to be able to work on visuals and shoot my own video and edit it myself and work on the illustrations and design and also be able to make music and have those worlds come together is really special,” she explains. “I actually can't really think of any other job that allows you to do all that in one.”
Saint’s talent is making the music industry a more inclusive and positive place by transcending labels and refusing to be stuck inside a box - all complete with a cool buzz cut that has a dyed streak down the center. Her gender-defying look has been a process, but being androgynous wasn't a deliberate choice, it just best represents her.
“Sometimes it's hard to be exactly yourself because you worry that people aren't going to perceive you well,” she says. “But anything, maybe me doing that naturally, hopefully, can give people some - and I don't want to say courage - but to really just be themselves authentically because that's gonna make you the happiest and really, I think people are gonna love you even more. I [think to] hear that message, I think that's important.”
Saint had been creating ‘HELP’ over the past two years, but due to work relationships and her personal life, it took longer than she anticipated, but Saint now sees the hiatus as a “blessing in disguise.” Since the EP was released during this never-ending pandemic, Saint is brainstorming how to do some live shows within the new safety confines presented by the pandemic.
While Saint is unsure about the future of live music, she promised to release new tunes soon, even though ‘HELP’ was released less than a month ago. “I don't plan on taking anymore two year breaks,” she shares. “I don't even want to take a two-month break. I'm ready to go.”
We can't wait to see how Saint continues to evolve and transform her unique sound and style.
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Words: Caroline Edwards
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