Kendra Morris

Late Show

Kendra Morris

Celeste, Kimberly Nichole

Sat, March 2, 2013

Doors: 10:00 pm

Mercury Lounge

New York, NY

$10 advance / $12 day of show

This event is 21 and over

Kendra Morris - (Set time: 12:00 AM)
Kendra Morris
“For some reason, a lot of my life has revolved around recording in closets and tiny spaces,” laughs Kendra Morris. It’s been a bit of a recurring theme in the New York–based singer-songwriter’s career thus far, and it can be traced back to one Christmas at Morris’s childhood home in St. Petersburg, Florida. A mini-Kendra, aged eight, discovered that her karaoke machine could also be used as part of a makeshift studio set-up. “I would go into my closet, take these cassette tapes, and I’d start singing, record it, and switch it to the other side and sing over that,” she recalls.

Morris grew up imbued with a sense of music—her parents played in bands together, and she often broke into their cabinets full of vinyl to listen to their favorite records. As Marvin Gaye, the Spinners, War, Stevie Wonder, Jackson 5, and the Temptations washed over her, they soon became hers too. She sang along to her favorite albums with a voice she discovered soon after she learned how to talk.

“I was three years old, and I got up and asked my parents’ friends if they wanted my little voice or my big voice,” Morris remembers. “And I did this little voice, but then I did this big operatic voice. Maybe that was ingrained in me, because they say some of the main parts of you develop before you’re even six years old.”

After studying musical theater at a performing arts high school and deciding not to pursue it, Morris half-heartedly went to college in Tampa. She spent less time studying than singing in bands, which ultimately led to her flunking out. She moved back to St. Pete and got a job at Johnny Rockets. “All the kids that I used to go to high school with would go there, and I would have to wait on them, and make their french fries,” Morris says.

It was a blow, but Morris used it as a catalyst to do something better.

With her dad’s help, she started learning guitar and began writing her own songs. “I didn’t want to be in other people’s bands anymore,” Morris says. “I felt like I had something to say.”

In 2003, Morris moved to New York with her all-girl band, Pinktricity (“Probably the world’s worst band name,” she says. “We got it off of a box of Nerds”). The grind of the city caused the group to split but spurred Morris to go it alone. She came across an eight-track and brought it back to her wall-less loft. Morris summoned her eight-year-old karaoke days and set it up in the only room in her house—her closet—and began to record. “I had all these songs in me, and I didn’t know where they were coming from,” Morris says. She also took the knack for harmonies she’d learned as a child, and began embroidering her tracks with intertwining threads of melody. “I’d been harmonizing with my mom since I was a little girl, ’cause my mom’s a singer, so I’ve always had a good ear for that.” These raw bedroom recordings of earnest soul became her first two self-released EPs, This Won’t Hurt a Bit (2007) and Milk and Cookies Never Lie (2008).

Another secondhand find that marked Morris’s path was a Sharp GF-777—the Holy Grail of boomboxes made famous by ’80s hip-hop (and, namely, Run-DMC). Once again, she innovated and incorporated it into her live shows, lugging the gallant silver stallion that she used as an amp, in addition to her loop pedals and guitars, all over the Lower East Side. “And that was my thing,” Morris remembers. “The sound guys would be like, ‘What the what?’ And after the show, they’d be like, ‘That thing sounds great!’”

While performing solo around New York City, Morris met and began collaborating with producer Jeremy Page and released a self-titled EP in 2010. She’d been conscientiously working on her craft as a songwriter, which was acknowledged by ASCAP and the Songwriters Hall of Fame the following year. The institutions awarded Morris the 2011 Holly Prize, which recognizes new singer-songwriters whose talents honor the legacy of Buddy Holly by way of excellence in songwriting, performing, and musicianship.

A tour with Motown Funk Brother Dennis Coffey this past summer and support from DJ Premier via his remix of her blaxploitation-dipped single “Concrete Waves” pepper the year that Morris took to write and record her full-length debut. Inspired in name by wailing female demons from Irish folklore, Banshee is an amalgam of stories, both imagined and Morris’s own, produced by previous collaborator Jeremy Page and slated for a summer 2012 release by Wax Poetics Records. “In a way, banshees just cast spells with their voices,” Morris says, “and I just think some of the greatest singers do the same thing.” [Biography by Marisa Aveling]
Celeste - (Set time: 11:00 PM)
Celeste – the Alabama-bred Brooklyn transplant – writes songs rooted in the rhythm and vocal flow of her favorite music: hip-hop, soul, and r&b. Celeste studied and performed West African and hip-hop dance prior to focusing her energy on music making. She’s now weaving the two together: creating songs fans can break it down to and releasing dance-centered videos. Her shows – often featuring guest MC (and fan) Lord Khaliyl of Talib Kweli and Da Bush Babees – pack the room with audiences captivated by her sensual, empowered presence.

Celeste’s musical path began after her college years in Athens, Georgia when she moved back to Alabama. She sat down at her mother’s piano, and unprompted, played three chords and sang “It’s been a long time coming, I feel awake." These were the opening lyrics to the first song she ever wrote. She had taken a few piano lessons in third grade but had never really played or sang before. “I always felt like I was an artist without an outlet,” Celeste says, "I was so thankful to find writing and singing were my release of what felt like a life-time of emotional build up.” Celeste quickly formed ‘Monarchs’ - a name chosen to represent both her southern “royal, dysfunctional family” and the “family” of musicians, fans, and collaborators that so rapidly moved her project off the ground.

With the help of Taylor Hollingsworth – guitarist of Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band – she recorded her first record, “The Oak EP” and became a prominent piece of Birmingham music scene. She then moved to Austin and grew Monarchs to a mainstay of the Live Music Capital of the World and garnered the attention of SXSW. Working closely with guitarist Van Hollingsworth to hone the genre melding alt-soul and folk-rock of Monarchs, she released “Those Words, Those Frames,” which was played heavily on regional radio stations. Producer Mike McCarthy of Spoon and Patty Griffin heard this record and decided to produce her next album, “The Rise and Fall,” which was positively reviewed by The Austin Monthly, The Austin American Statesman, and The Chronicle.

After moving to New York from Austin, Celeste took time to explore her love of hip-hop, writing hooks over beats by some of the industry’s best and brightest producers, such as J. Dilla, MF Doom, and Jake One. The result is the “ft. Celeste Mixtape,” a collection of songs with equal parts swagger, emotional intelligence and melodic-pop hook. Being more direct, she dropped the moniker of Monarchs and is now simply performing under Celeste.

“My music has been an ongoing process of discovering who I am as an artist," Celeste says. "It’s like I keep arriving more and more. For the album I’m working on, I’m combining the craft of writing songs – bridges, chord changes, all that stuff – with the groove and feel of a hip-hop loop. For me, it’s the perfect way to be expressive, sing my heart out, and get to shake it down.” Look for the new release in Spring 2013.
Kimberly Nichole - (Set time: 10:00 PM)
Kimberly Nichole
VOGUE, MTV UK and Seventeen Magazine have all recognized KimberlyNichole for her sense of style, stage presence and captivating voice. An “avant-rock n soul, tutu-clad”, song stylist and songwriter, Nichole hails from Seattle, Washington, the city that spawned music innovators Quincy Jones, Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix. Similar to her hometown music legends, her passion for music began at a very young age. KimberlyNichole grew up listening to the gospel/soul music played by her parents and the grunge/alternative music, which dominated the Seattle music scene. These musical styles have all influenced Nichole’s sound.

After spreading her wings and relocating to New York, her journey went into full speed. She’s performed at packed venues coast to coast and even internationally. KimberlyNichole has shared the stage with Janelle Monaé, English Rock band The Heavy, Aloe Blacc, Bilal and Nona Hendryx. The Seattle Born, Rock princess’ mesmerizing performance style has also captured the attention and support of Quincy Jones, writing legends Ashford & Simpson and fashion savant André Leon Talley. Talley was so impressed by Nichole that he invited her to the VOGUE Magazine office and featured her in the fashion magazine.

KimberlyNichole’s most amazing milestone has been writing and releasing her debut album "The Yellow Brick Journey", which was self-funded and self-distributed. Music from the album has been placed on MTV, VH1, LOGO and Showtime. In 2011 KimberlyNichole caught the attention of BET and made her national TV performance debut on 106 & Park and on the BET 11’ Awards for their MusicMatters Campaign (“featuring tomorrow’s stars, today”).

KimberlyNichole is continuing to expand her brand and increase her buzz by wowing audiences in some of New York’s best alternative music venues. She’s also writing and recording new music. To help in her recording efforts she is the 2012 recipient of the ASCAPFoundation's "Reach Out and Touch" Award in honor of the late Nick Ashford. The award was established by Valerie Simpson to advance the careers of promising young songwriters by providing financial assistance for professional recordings of their works.

And by night, she serves as the Mistress of Ceremonies at New York's wildly popular The Box - Theater of Varieties (owned by Simon Hammerstein, grandson of Oscar Hammerstein II). She has achieved an incredible amount of success as an unsigned artist with no agent, PR or management. Her journey is a testament to what determination, hard work and raw talent can achieve.
Venue Information:
Mercury Lounge
217 E Houston St.
New York, NY, 10002