By Jamila Pomeroy
Inspired by the benefits and evils of religion, Kevin Morby finds refuge and hope in trying times. The American musician, singer and songwriter extends his emotive and introspective lyrics through his latest release, Oh My God, adding ambiguous politically-driven tunes that provide listeners with a heavenly escape.
Despite not being religious himself, his upbringing in and around Kansas City (the centre of America’s “Bible Belt”) has forever shaped his perspective.
“Growing up out here, I’ve always felt fascinated by religion and the wild west. It offers the history of the wild west and this omen that religion is everywhere. Unlike the wild west, religion was taking place around me in real-time. I always found they were both a good way to tell a story,” he explains.
It took Morby moving to New York at 18 to fully see the impact of his Bible Belt upbringing; where in separation, he found God in music.
“[In Kansas City,] it’s everywhere. I didn’t fully notice that until I moved to New York and would come back to visit. I was then able to take in how wild the billboards were; the anti-abortion billboards and all this God-fearing merchandise that was everywhere you look in the midwest. Religion was always part of the conversation and in the everyday lingo. It’s very conservative out here and there are a lot of rules, especially when I was growing up; that quickly made me rebellious. I think ultimately, it’s shaped me to be ready for the real world,” explains Morby.
And while the world may not always be kind, for Morby, music has the capability to act as savior to an unwritten religion of humanity— a mutual language of understanding that we can all share.
“I’ve never practiced any kind of religion, but I do see the bad and good of it at all times. It’s how when I’m on an airplane, I still find myself praying. It’s almost like a meditation that comes out of me, and It’s buried in me whether I notice it or not.”
Outside of religion, Morby explains the turmoil that caused him to seek refuge, played a big part in his most recent release.
“A lot of this record feels quite political to me. There were a lot of lyrics name-checking current events or politicians or people in the news. I ultimately decided to take all of that out because I didn’t really want to anchor it to a time and a place. I see this record as a place to take refuge in a time where there is so much political, racial and violent turmoil happening.”
With the expression of these themes being so indirect, Oh My God serves as a timeless hymn for the seeker of connectivity and the lover of storytelling.
Kevin Morby performs Wednesday, May 15 at the Imperial with guests Sam Cohen