Just a few miles north of downtown Los Angeles in a quiet neighborhood surrounded by trees and hills, musician Kevin Morby was inspired to write his new album, "Singing Saw."
Morby lived in New York performing with the folk band Woods until 2014, when he decided to relocate to Los Angeles, specifically to the Mount Washington neighborhood.
"All around the mountain, there's York Boulevard and Figueroa Street and downtown is super close," says Morby. "My friend Kyle and I, he's my neighbor and has his own band called King Tuff, he's become a close friend and we call it the poor man's Laurel Canyon."
The Frame's James Kim went on a walk around the hills of Mount Washington with Morby to talk about how that environment sparked his creativity.
When did you find out that hiking around Mount Washington was conducive to your creative process?
When I was writing this record, my days were all spent inside. My girlfriend would go to work and I would just write all day long. As soon as I noticed the sun starting to set, I would force myself to go on a walk and get out of the house.
There's a willow tree that makes its way into several of your songs on "Singing Saw." Why was that such a focal point lyrically?
It's just one of those things where not seeing anybody all day long and then going on these walks, this sort of became a character, almost as if I was seeing another person that I got used to seeing everyday. I think it feels like it's watching you, it feels like it sees you coming, and once you pass it, it's still looking at you.
When you work on anything all day, you don't leave the house and you don't see anybody else, you start to feel sort of crazy. I think that why that when I would go on these walks, I feel everything is watching me or reaching out at me or something. I think that L.A. has this — especially somewhere like here where it's seemingly rural but you can always see the skyline of downtown — it's very cinematic. I don't know, it's almost like I wanted to score my walks, and not just my walks but my life here. I wanted to soundtrack them in a way.
Where were you in your life when you moved in Los Angeles?
When I moved to Los Angeles, I was 25 and I'm about to turn 28. I was touring a lot while also living in New York. It's kind of like you could do one or the other, but doing both is sort of its own suicide, because neither place offers time or space to oneself. I was going to quit playing music so I had to sort of quit New York.
I feel like I turned the corner around my twenties in the past couple of years and just becoming more comfortable in my own skin, and also very reflective. I've had a good chance to breathe and look at myself and the things that I do, the things that I've done, and that I'm trying to do.
What is it about the environment you're in that inspires you to write?
I'm just sort of susceptible to my environment. It's not something that I really noticed about myself until I suddenly had two albums that were very much influenced by New York or travel. I guess it's just you sort of write what you know, and when your day-to-day life is spent in a place, it could make its way into your songs.
Kevin Morby's new album “Singing Saw" is out now. He kicks off his worldwide tour May.