Note: During this coronavirus crisis period, Asheville musicians continue to do what they do best. They’re using their music to capture the moment and reflect back to us listeners some of the emotion they’re feeling. Here’s the first in an occasional series about that – an email interview with musician/singer-songwriter Morgan Geer of Drunken Prayer. Find Drunken Prayer’s music here on bandcamp.
Q: Morgan, can you give me the basic background info on you and your musical career?
Morgan Geer: My first serious band after high school was The Merle with Jamie Stirling and Chris Yountz. We got together at Warren Wilson. After that I had The Unholy Trio with Lance Wille and David Wayne Gay (Krektones, Reigning Sound). Since then I’ve been doing Drunken Prayer which I started when I moved to Portland, Oregon. It’s pretty much me with a rotating cast of musicians, sometimes solo. I have a group here, another in Austin, Albuquerque and Portland. My last record, Cordelia Elsewhere was my fifth full-length, recorded in West Asheville with Brian Landrum (Heyday Music, Tyler Ramsey) and Erich Hubner (Pleasure Chest).
Q: Are you from Asheville, or how long have you been in Asheville and how did you come to be here?
MG: My mom and I moved here when I was in 5th grade. We moved out to Black Mountain when she took a job at Warren Wilson. I went to high school at Owen and hung out with the WWC kids. That’s where my first band experiences were. I moved away to Portland for about eight years and moved back when my little boy Leon was born. We live over in Emma now.
Q: How long have you been writing songs? How long has Drunken Prayer been together? (Do you mind listing current bandmates?)
MG: I come from a music family going back generations so I’ve been playing and singing as long as I can remember. I wrote the first tune I remember when I was about 9 or 10. It was called “Black Smoke.” It was a heavy metal protest song. The current Drunken Prayer is: J.J. Tourville (guitar), Justin Whitlow (drums), and Paul Oldham (bass and synth), who just moved here from Louisville when the plague hit. For the next record I also have Alex McMahon (steel guitar) and Greg Williams (drums) from Albuquerque playing with me. They’ve play with The Handsome Family and have a heavy psychedelic duo called Gral Brothers.
Q: For “Crazy Alone (Quarantine)”, you wrote that it was inspired by Jamie Harmon and his Amurica Photo quarantine portraits. Do you know Jamie, or is it that you’re just a fan? What is it that draws you to his quarantine photos? What inspired you?
MG: He’s the brother-in-lay of a friend from Montana, Caroline Keys. Through her, my wife found his portraits. It’s a riveting series and he has great sense of style. He’s part of a group of interesting Memphis artists. I think he’s friends with Ami Worthen and Jason Krekel, probably Suzie Millions too. Asheville and Memphis are sister cities in a lot of ways, along with New Orleans. A lot of overlapping characters.
Q: When did you write the song? Why did you write it?
MG: I started it at the end of the last tour for Cordelia Elsewhere. It was always very much a song of loneliness and isolation, but it found shape in the current landscape. It was pretty easy to finish for obvious reasons. Silver linings, I guess.
Q: Please tell me more about how you and Christa de Mayo went about getting video. Did you call or email friends to ask them to participate? What part of town was the video shot? Who did the camera work, and did you use any special video equipment?
MG: Christa is my wife. She’s a photographer with an almost supernatural eye for seeing what’s hiding in plain view. This version of the song is actually a demo. I wasn’t planning on releasing it. It was her idea to pair this recording with the Amurica concept. She had the sense of urgency to do this now. There’s another version sitting somewhere in the cloud. …
I put a shout out on social media. It took about two days from that to the final shots. Not knowing what to expect lockdown-wise, we didn’t feel like we had a lot of time to get the filming done. We stuck pretty close to Asheville, going as far out as Black Mountain. We went around for a day-and-a-half shooting, drive-by style, using a Canon EOS Rebel T5. I edited the footage in iMovie and Sony Vegas. For their participation, we handed out sanitized chocolate as thanks to our cast. The day, like the treats, was bittersweet.
Q: How are you dealing with being stuck at home? How are you passing the time? I have several musician friends who are really down about missing festivals and live shows, so I’m guessing you feel the same. How are you dealing with that?
MG: We’re lucky to live close to a lot of nearly deserted ball-fields, so I’m teaching Leon to ride a bike and play baseball. My mom sends him video piano lessons, so that’s happening, too. … I’ve been editing video for friends and doing some commission work. Since I was in the middle of tracking all new material, normally that’s all I’d be working on. Oddly, I’m finding it hard to get motivated to work on my own stuff. Not sure what’s up with that.
I guess I’m also lucky for once that my tours don’t draw well and I’m not asked to play many festivals. In that respect, the playing field has been leveled between me and the in-crowd.
Q: A final, open question: any final thoughts, or some aspect I didn’t bring up that you’d like to mention?
MG: I don’t have high commercial aspirations for this single. At the risk of coming across as opportunistic, we did this as a creative outlet, a community wishing well to throw the sadness, anger, nervous laughter, and gratitude into. As I said, I wasn’t planning on releasing this version. The “real” version is part of a larger group of songs I was working on when the sky fell. I’ll be finishing up at home what I would normally do in a studio working with Paul Oldham. He’s done great work with Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Palace Brothers among others. I’m pretty excited about that. If I could only get out of bed.