Exclusive: MŌRIAH Explains How Songwriting As Therapy Turned Into A Relevant New Album
Mexican-American Christian recording artist MŌRIAH (Smallbone) is set to release a new EP and visual album on October 29, titled Live from the quarry. Composed of honest and transparent lyrics, MŌRIAH drew inspiration for the album from her own personal experience with friendships, faith, personal insecurities and worth. The new album is all about contentment. Like many, MŌRIAH experienced a whole host of emotions in 2020: sometimes feeling angry, hurt, scared, insecure and remorseful. Yet all of these phases were necessary steps on his journey towards a greater sense of calm and gratitude. In addition to the EP, containing the live recordings, the visual album will provide listeners with an intimate experience of the recording experience. In this TCB exclusive, MŌRIAH openly explains how her initial desire to write songs as a therapeutic way to process her experiences turned into a new album that she was encouraged to share. MŌRIAH also talks about the importance of the visual component of Live from the quarry and his definition of success for the collection.
Congratulations on the upcoming release of your EP Live from the quarry! Can you share the first time you had the vision for this project?
Thanks for the congratulations – I really appreciate that! With any creative project, it tends to have an initial start / stop start. And I really wrote these songs for myself. It sounds super selfish, but I’m just going to say it. I had no intention of sharing this music with anyone beyond my husband and parents. I really got down to writing these songs as therapy to overcome the heartache, the pain and the pain. I had never written or produced by myself. My husband packed my car as I walked to a writing booth. He packed my computer, my MIDI keyboard, and my mic. He created a tutorial on how to set everything up. He told me not to just take my guitar and my vocal notes, but to go do some demos. My favorite producer and mentor, Matt Hales, told me I was a producer. My manager told me I could do it. So I had all of these amazing guys in my life surrounding me and cheering me on. When I finished writing these songs, again never for people, and when I finished them I had more people around me, my mentors, my friends, who were around me and telling me that these songs were to be shared. There are wounds that other people could relate to, and it can help heal. So despite a lot of constraints, I was comfortable sharing, but because of the past 18 months, I don’t want to just deliver an audio clip and be done with it. I want to create an experience. There are some things that you can communicate through the visual medium, through your body and your movements, that you cannot express in the song alone. So I’m really happy that everyone’s first introduction to this music, and my first reconnection, was through a visual medium.
In addition to the writing, you also produced the project. Being so involved in all aspects, how were you most surprised by the process?
The surprises are endless. If you start with the production side of things, I never knew what an amazing world that could be. I think when you, at least in my experience, move to Nashville and are surrounded by these amazingly talented people, you tend to find your niche and stick with what you know. And for me, I really only consider myself a singer. I’m an average guitarist at best. I tried to get into production and it just didn’t make sense to me, so I just felt like it wasn’t my territory. But what I achieved by committing to it, I have so many people to thank for giving me those 10,000 hours. The number of producers that I sat down and just watched them work, polish, and layer. And then, walking into TRALA, a project I did with wonderful musicians in Nashville, I got to watch my friend Julie Odnoralov sit behind those computer screens and get down to business. I think sometimes you can’t be what you can’t see. So I was grateful to see so many people in this role, and all of them were generous to me in the process. So I was very excited about this idea of encouraging other singers and songwriters, especially women, to have more autonomy in the production process. You might be able to get a song at 50% and then team up with people to bring it to the finish line, people who are better and more experienced than you to polish and finalize it. But I think it’s important, because not only does the lyrics communicate something and a melody communicates something, but the sound, an instrument, a rhythm, all of these things are part of communication and the birth of vision. that God has given you. And I can’t wait to see this evolution!
You pre-released two of the tracks – “Known Seen Loved” and “Trust”. Since you first wrote these songs for yourself, are there any lyrics or impact of them that strike listeners a little differently than you do personally?
Yes, there is, and I wasn’t expecting it or hadn’t seen it coming. The pre-chorus of “Known Seen Loved” is:
i thought i wanted answers
I thought I wanted to heal
But what I need the most
It is to be known, seen, loved
I thought I wanted justice
I thought I wanted power
But what I need the most
It is to be known, seen, loved
When I felt hurt and betrayed, these are the things I thought would make me feel better, or give me resolution and peace. And I did all I could to chase after these things. I got to the end and it didn’t solve any of my problems. And I had to fight for all of these things. And all of them are important, we want healing for the people we love. We want justice for those who have been wronged and for the victims. We want power for those who are powerless and we want it to be distributed fairly. But if you have them and you feel invisible, unloved, and no one knows or understands what you are going through, then none of it matters. It’s all in ashes. I think that in writing these lyrics I came from a very personal experience with all of this. And I was nervous to share this with people because there is a lot of room for misinterpretation. The fact that of all the lyrics posted, this is the one people tell me about the most. i am here in [Washington] DC and I just completed a worship set for an intimate group that works in the legislature to fight sex trafficking. There are people in this group who are themselves survivors. The person leading the retreat asked me to sing “Known Seen Loved” and after playing it, these are the lyrics people said they took with them. We are all fighting for justice and power and it is important that these women who have been saved are above all known, seen and loved by God, none of this makes a difference.
How does your definition of success change for the collection as a whole, compared to individual individual releases?
I think success means something very different to me now than when I first started making music. I never wanted to be a professional musician. I feel like I fell into it by accident. Being 17 and being in this world of writing and releasing music, I was a sponge and I was learning. So, initially my definition of success was based on flow, audience and numbers. I am naturally a competitive person, so I wanted to grow. Over the years and genres leaping and trying to be authentic to the creative ideas God gave me, I have realized that success for me is rooted in inner peace and contentment. I wrote a mission statement some time ago and I come back to it often. There is part of it that says just that – creating from a place of deep inner peace and contentment. I try to align everything I do with my top five values. I did an exercise where I started with 100 and got down to my top 20, 10, and 5, and my two favorites are growing and working with open and honest people.
Who or what currently inspires you, whether musically or spiritually?
I think it really changes from day to day. Today, I am inspired by the men and women who are on the front lines of the fight against human trafficking in America and abroad. People who have dedicated their lives to creating safe homes for the survivors and the women who have been rescued. I spent the last few days with these people and hearing their stories and how they fought it inspired me. I tend to live a lot in the present.
What are you most looking forward to for the rest of 2021?
This is a difficult question for someone who is very present. I think I have a vision for the people around me more than myself. I work with some really wonderful people and I live with some amazing friends. My husband and I are having something called a slow church in our house, and people from our area come to our house and we live together. I think COVID and quarantine revealed our need for community. I am hopeful that by the end of this year, that many of the struggles that my friends and colleagues are going through, they will overcome them. I’ve seen such progress and I think a lot comes from verbalizing and sharing, and when you do it in a space of trust, there is an opportunity for growth. So I hope they will find healing by the end of this year.