You wouldn’t expect an accomplished pop artist to also be a funeral home director, but Owensboro’s Nathan Morris is completely comfortable balancing both of those roles. Mortician by day, musician by night. Interestingly, the two professions actually complement each other nicely. “I think being a musician is really beneficial in this profession,” Nathan said, referring to his role at Haley McGinnis Funeral Home. “Families are starting to learn about my music so they’re coming to me more and more to ask my opinion about song selections during funeral services and things like that.”
In fact, Morris says the dynamic of a mortician/musician who is also a husband and new father is one of the aspects that helped get him signed with Sordid Noise, a licensing company that could be a huge boost to his music career. “They want to work with artists who have an interesting story. They look at things like what you do when you’re not doing music or where you get your inspiration. My story’s pretty unique.”
Based in Nashville and L.A., Sordid Noise works with a select group of artists (Nathan is one of eight artist on their roster) to get their songs placed in commercials, TV, and film. As part of his two year contract, Sordid has licensed Morris’ entire back catalogue for placements. That catalogue includes two EPs, three full length albums, and a Christmas album, which have come from nearly 15 years of writing, recording, and growing a fan base in true DIY fashion. Along the way, Morris has worked nearly every job imaginable; pizza delivery, car salesman, even a barista at a Nashville Starbucks. That is until he finally found something he truly loves – the funeral home business.
Now he might be embalming in the morning, assisting a family for funeral preparations in the afternoon, and recording vocals that night, all the while writing lyrics in his head and stopping to change a diaper.
It’s not two worlds colliding. It’s just life.
He explains it like this: “People think they are failures if they do something in addition to what they always dreamed they’d do. For instance, in 2002, I thought I would always do music for a living, and anything other than music would be a failure. But now, I have this realization that I am a successful artist who also does something that is extremely profound and special for many people. And that’s pretty amazing. I think it’s important for people know that your purpose is to live a driven life and do something that is different and better than the day before.”
In striving to be better, Morris recently tried a new strategy that has been getting him lots more attention lately: releasing videos of himself covering popular songs by other artists on YouTube. The hope is that fans of the original artists would watch Nathan’s those cover videos and end up on his YouTube channel. It’s working. Last week, Morris had 6,000-7,000 total views on his YouTube channel, which equates to a lot of exposure. Each week he releases a vlog or a “behind the scenes” video. Once a month a new music video comes out. “It’s a lot of work,” he says. “There’s the video director. Music producer. Editor. I have to record my vocals. And then my YouTube guy releases it and tags it to drive views.”
Nathan’s cover of Sia’s “Chandelier” got a major boost when it caught the eyes and ears of WBKR radio personality Chad Benefield. “Obviously I spend my time listening to country music since that’s what we play here at WBKR. But when Nathan’s video came across my Facebook feed I knew I had to share it with our listeners, Benefield explained. “It doesn’t matter whether Nathan is singing pop, country, or polka. This guy has an incredible voice and the fact that he’s here in Owensboro is a huge bonus.”
Chad played a clip during his morning show and posted it on WBKR’s website. Because of that, their sister station 106.1KissFM posted the video and they also started mentioning it on the air. With all those factors combined, that song now gets about 200 views a day.
A few days later, Morris released his cover of Taylor Swift’s “Out of the Woods,” which he filmed entirely himself in an empty house using a single camera and tripod. “I took a different take on it. I wasn’t thinking of it as a breakup song. I was thinking more like a battle, whether it’s cancer, or adoption, or anything where you’re thinking ‘is this it? Are we in the clear yet? Or do we have to do that again?’ There are a lot of people in that situation. That’s life.”
Nathan’s next video is to a Christmas song he recorded a few years ago: “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Morris put out a request on Facebook and Twitter for people to submit pictures of their loved ones in uniform. The response so far has been great. “I love the story of that song. It was written in 1943 during WWII when soldiers were dreaming of being home for Christmas. We’re going to show the truth of war with the imagery and also show the faces of the heroes.”
As for his original music, his next release is actually a live album which was recorded at The Crème with only an acoustic guitar player and background vocalist. It was an intimate night with a full house of family and friends. “What better place to record a live album than in my hometown? That’s pretty special,” he said. A release date will be announced soon.
With all that going on, it’s clear to see that Nathan Morris is growing up – in more ways than one. As an artist, he’s still a dreamer, but there is a drive about him. A focused determination. I get the sense he’s not out of the woods yet either. He’s still trying to find his own way. But he definitely knows who he is. “I represent so much more than myself now – my family, this business and all the families we serve in the community. There’s a responsibility there.”