The 19-year-old English singer-songwriter Flo Morrissey is an old soul—kind of. Her lyrics are tethered to her teenage experiences, but her velveteen voice has a classic, ageless quality that makes her music relatable to youngs and olds alike.
Her debut album is set to come out on Glassnote Records in spring of 2015, and she recently released her first single, “Pages of Gold.” She made a video of a live performance of the track—plus a bonus song at the end!—just for you Rooks, which we are thrilled to present to you right here:
I talked to Flo over the phone last week about her birthday, balancing innocence with timelessness, and her eight brothers and sisters.
MEAGAN: Nice to meet you, Flo! I saw your StyleLikeU video, in which you mention that you’re from a family with nine children. Are you one of the oldest of your siblings, or the one of the youngest?
FLO MORRISSEY: My older brother is 23, and I’m 20 on Christmas Day. I’m the second oldest. The youngest is about to be six, so there’s quite a large gap. I was babysitting last weekend.
What was it like growing up with so many brothers and sisters?
It was an unusual environment growing up, but one that I was lucky to have had. There are obviously difficulties with every family, but for the most part we are very close. We have a [house] in the countryside in England, and we all go there together on the weekends. I’m sort of weird because I choose to go away with my family instead of going to parties. I’m more of that kind of person.
Do you hang out with other musicians?
I’m 19, and I left school when I was 17 to do music, so it was quite a big risk. Music was what I wanted to do. Luckily my parents supported that, but it has meant that I haven’t met many like-minded people, like I might have if I’d gone to university. I’ve mainly hung out with older people that I met when I was recording my album. I get on better with people in their 30s. London has a community for art, but not so much, I think, like New York or L.A.–or maybe I haven’t found my connections, so to speak. Hopefully as I do some more shows next year, I’ll meet more people with time.
Do you live in London?
Yes, I live in Notting Hill, like the film! I grew up in London. I like it. Actually, I was just in Paris for a month to record, and I did a show. I got the feel of a different place. Paris is my kind of place.
Were you recording for the whole month?
No. I thought I’d use my time wisely and do a course in French. I met some people and went to exhibitions—Paris Photo was on. I did a show for this festival called les inRocKs. It’s a weeklong festival, and they had a secret performer every night. One night I was the secret performer, and they sort of pushed me out in front of the stage when they lifted the curtain. I sang “Pages of Gold,” and a French song afterwards. It was scary but a really cool thing to do when I was there.
I read that you went to L.A. to record your album. Had you ever been to the States before?
I had, but only for like a week. This time, I was in L.A. for two and a half months, and obviously being part of a big family, I found it quite difficult being on my own. But my manager lives there, and that made a difference. He introduced me to nice people.
And L.A. is beautiful!
Yes! It’s sunny each day. I was very fortunate to record the album there. There’s this amazing oasis of a recording studio, which was so beautiful, and the guy I [worked with] also recorded Devendra Banhart, and it was quite special to work with him. I’d never worked with someone else before. I wrote all the songs myself, in my room. So to finally actually share them with someone else was very special.
With your music, I definitely get a ’60s folk vibe, similar to musicians like Joni Mitchell and Vashti Bunyan. Are you inspired by that time period?
I definitely I am into it. I actually played with Vashti Bunyan in England. That was very special. I enjoy Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and Nick Drake, but then also Jeff Buckley and Tim Buckley, Devendra Banhart, Antony and the Johnsons, and CocoRosie. And jazz, like Billie Holiday. When I’m writing my songs, if there are influences there, I don’t realize it. I’m not like “Oh, I’m going to make a song that sounds like it’s from the ’60s.” It’s more the way I feel like I should be singing. It’s a really beautiful thing, to see where people’s creativity and influences come from. It’s all so unique.
I’m super into your style. Can you talk about your favorite things to wear and how you express yourself?
I really like jewelry—that’s always been my thing that I’ve collected. Especially bracelets. For clothes, I really like vintage, but I also steal my brothers’ and sisters’ clothes, and I make them my own. I have a pair of vintage Missoni trousers, which are my treasure. I love Missoni. [When I was younger], I was slightly more hippie-esque, but now I’m more bohemian, I guess—and I’m trying to make that not sound cringe-y. I’d like to be more chic and grown-up with the way I look. With clothes, it’s nice that it can show how someone is feeling at the time. And with music, I feel that it all comes from the same place.
With your album coming out, it seems like 2015 is shaping up to be a pretty big year for you! Are you going to be touring next year?
I’m slightly nervous, but I’m excited to finally release it. Some of the songs have been tied up in the past five years of my life, really. It’s a snapshot of my teenage years. Hopefully I’ll be doing some shows around the world. I would like to go to New York. I’m also going to the Netherlands in March to do a festival there.
Are you going to be touring by yourself, or with your family?
For the most part, it’s just me! Hopefully at some point I’ll have a small band, like someone playing piano with me. But for now it’s just me and my guitar and keyboard.
Doing everything yourself, did it make your first few shows nerve-racking?
Yes, and they still are! I haven’t really done many shows, so it’s quite an unfamiliar feeling for me. But I enjoy it, too, and always look forward to doing more.
How do you feel about knowing that more of the world will hear your music very soon?
It’s for myself, but then I when I released my single, I realized that, oddly, it wasn’t really my own anymore. But it was also a special feeling—sharing something that I hope people can connect with in some way. When I was 15, I put my songs on my Myspace and made music videos with my Super 8 camera. I’ve always been in control of my vision and how I want people to see my work. That’s been a blessing. Because I started so early, I have strong ideas and won’t say yes to everything. I’m not going to be pushed around, and I’m lucky that I have a great record label that understands me and my vision. I want to keep my music as real and as honest as possible.
What is your creative process like?
I write songs starting with a title. It helps me understand what the song is going to be about. And then I just go with it! [I draw on] personal things, like growing up and being a teenager, but then I also exaggerate feelings, because I haven’t yet experienced much being only 19. It still feels very close to me. I may be a teen, but I like to think that my music could be written by anyone, of any age. I like the idea of the music being quite timeless. I don’t like the expression “old soul,” but I do feel that inclination. I’m not trying to write for adults or children or teens, and I myself am sometimes surprised by the things I write. If someone can relate to it, that is a special feeling. There should be innocence to things, too. It’s sad when things are so serious. Adults do sometimes forget those feelings, and I like having that balance. ♦