Carla Morrison Looks Hard At Love's Gray Areas Morrison is part of a small group of independent singers who are challenging the sound of pop in Mexico. She speaks with NPR's Rachel Martin abut her new album, Amor Supremo.
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Carla Morrison Looks Hard At Love's Gray Areas

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Carla Morrison Looks Hard At Love's Gray Areas

Carla Morrison Looks Hard At Love's Gray Areas

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

If you're not a Spanish speaker, you won't know precisely what Carla Morrison is saying when she sings.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TIERRA AJENA")

CARLA MORRISON: (Singing in Spanish).

MARTIN: But it doesn't matter if you don't understand because you can feel it. The Mexican alt-pop singer and songwriter has built a reputation over the past half-decade as a master of songs about love and longing. Her new album is called "Amor Supremo," and it is no different. Carla Morrison joins me now from Mexico City. Thanks so much for being with us, Carla.

MORRISON: Oh, thank you guys. How are you?

MARTIN: I'm doing well, thanks. So let's talk a little bit about your journey. You grew up in Mexico in Tecate, which is a city right on the U.S. border. What did you grow up listening to?

MORRISON: A lot of Beach Boys 'cause my dad's, like, a surfer guy. So (laughter) he was all into this, like, very beach stuff. And then a lot of ranchera and a lot of like, Rocio Durcal and stuff like that. But mainly it was a lot of Patsy Cline. I - she's one of my main inspirations because my dad used to play her all the time. And I would think, who is this lady and why is she so hurt? 'Cause I was so young. And then I just kept listening and listening until, like, I finally understood what she was talking about.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YO VIVO PARA TI")

MORRISON: (Singing in Spanish).

MARTIN: You've released several albums before this. And your songs on those are these acoustic but pretty modern-sounding pop songs that have threads of vintage bolero. But this album has a different kind of vibe altogether. Let's listen to a song. This is "Cercania."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CERCANIA")

MORRISON: (Singing in Spanish).

MARTIN: Can you tell me what you did differently this time around with this body of work?

MORRISON: My first band was a lot about synthesizers. So I kind of wanted to go back to that. I wanted to have a totally different view sonically. It was kind of like, I don't want to be completely attached to a guitar all my career. And usually I always talk about the first part of the relationship or the last part. I don't really talk about the middle part, when you decide to be with this person besides all the issues that you guys can have, when you're saying, OK, I accept this. Or you talk about - like, "Cercania" is a song about fighting, about you said this and then I didn't listen clearly. And then you said this and then you know, you didn't understand me. And then, you know, you used to say you loved me, but you don't anymore.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CERCANIA")

MORRISON: (Singing in Spanish).

I don't know, I just felt like love has a lot of different colors. It's not only, you know, the extremes. There's a lot of gray area that is very complicated that, you know, you got to kind of talk about, too.

MARTIN: Can I ask you about how place informs what you do? Because you - you sing in Spanish. You live and make music in Mexico City. That's where you're based now, right?

MORRISON: Yeah.

MARTIN: The names that tend to pop up, like, out of the Mexican music scene, tend to be really big pop stars who have a certain kind of very pop-y (ph) mainstream sound. Is there space for more alternative songwriting and music-making, the kind of stuff that you're doing?

MORRISON: I think there is space if you fight for your space, for your place. We kind of have to find it ourselves on social media because they're not going to put it on the radio. They're not going to put it on TV. They're just not, you know. And it's like - it sucks.

MARTIN: So when you say you've had to fight, can you give me an example of a moment when it felt really hard and that you were being pushed to compromise when you didn't want to?

MORRISON: Well, a lot of times when I would be approached by labels, they would always tell me, well, we want to sign you up. And I would be like, OK. I'm excited, you know, I would get excited. And then I would get the proposal, and everything was like, we're going to decide over your art; we're going to decide over who you're going to work with. We're going to decide everything. And I would think, well, then what am I going to do? So I just decided not to have a label. Also, there's some times where people have pushed - put me down or talked down to me just because I don't have the image - a skinny image - and second of all, because I'm girl, because I'm tattooed. For the longest time, if you're tattooed here in Mexico, it's like you're kind of gross or you're just not professional or you're just not taken serious. And I was a very serious chick. And also, I was very sweet. So you had this curvy, tattooed, pretty, (laughter) sweet girl singing about love and about real love, not about, you know, stuff that just sounds nice. And everybody just started to accept it. A lot of people weren't - not too happy about it. They were like, who is this chick? But all the people - my fans, the people that actually buy my albums and go to my concerts - were liking it. They were like, man, this is so real. Like, this girl is like me. So it's been hard, but I don't care. Anything that's really great and it's really good, it's going to cost you. And you're going to have to fight for it. And the more you fight, the better it's going to be.

MARTIN: Carla Morrison, her new album is called "Amor Supremo." She joined us from Mexico City. Thanks so much for talking with us, Carla.

MORRISON: No, thank you. Thank you so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UN BESO")

MORRISON: (Singing in Spanish).

MARTIN: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

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