Morty Shallman takes a creative and intelligent approach to his craft which is so refreshing in today's music landscape. A talented literary and song writer, Shallman combines the two worlds resulting in songs with depth and meaning. His single, "Freak," is at #12 on this week's chart with 73,412 plays last week.
Your songwriting process mirrors the way a novel is written. Can you explain the process and how you came up with it?
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been writing songs and writing fiction. So, it was a natural evolution for me to find unique ways to mash-up the two art forms. My first experiment in what I call “Literary Pop” was “Love’s Oblivion, A Novel in Twelve Pop Songs.” In this concept record, each song is equivalent to a chapter of a book. And even though each tune stands on its own, when experienced in the proper order, they complete a larger narrative. My second experiment was my literary novel with songs, “Last of the Zacharys.” The work is a novel first, with songs that support, inform and illustrate the events in the book. For example, if a character is singing a song in a scene, the song is included as lyrics and links (in the E-Book version). This year, I’ll be releasing new versions of the work as both an enhanced E-book and an Audiobook. For my latest EP Pop Fiction, I decided to use the three-act structure of a Hollywood movie to create my neo-pop, indie-noir concept thriller. Like Love’s Oblivion, the songs stand on their own but also function as the building blocks of a mini-movie. As I move forward with my career, I plan to continue to experiment with new ways to combine songs and stories, incorporating new technologies like Virtual Reality, and traditional forms like musicals and operas.
Congrats on the release of your latest EP, Pop Fiction. What was it like working with Jeff Blue and Steve Dresser and sharing the songwriting duties?
Thanks! It was a fantastic experience working with two such accomplished pros in the studio. They really pushed me to do my best, both as a writer and a singer. Our process was straightforward and remarkably efficient. Each day around 11 AM, Jeff, Steve and I would meet at Steve’s studio in Hollywood and immediately dive into songwriting, first chord progressions, then melodies and lyrics. Then we’d break for lunch. After lunch, we'd tweak the lyrics, and I’d lay down rough vocals. Next day I’d be back in the studio recording vocals for real, usually completing all the lead and background parts in a focused – and somewhat grueling -- eight-hour session. After that, Jeff and I let Steve dig into the production and mix, and were blown away by the final product. I had a great time working with Jeff and Steve in the studio, and look forward to working with them again in the future.
Your current single from Pop Fiction, “Freak” has such a strong and memorable hook. Aside from in-store play across the country, what other exciting things are happening with the single?
Thanks for the kind words about “Freak!” I’m currently in pre-production for a short film for Pop Fiction, where “Freak” serves as the climax or final act. Beyond that, I’m working hard to break Freak on Radio, Spotify, and to obtain sync placements in TV and Film too. I really believe the song’s message about embracing your individuality or "freakiness" and living your life your way, no matter what, will resonate with people of all ages, and in all walks of life. Maybe I’m a freak to think so, but so be it!
You’ll be touring this year to support Pop Fiction. What city are you looking forward to visiting and why?
The city I'm looking forward to visiting most is Stockholm. Sweden is such a mecca for brilliant pop music that I can't wait to make the pilgrimage, to soak up their local arts and culture and to share mine as well. I visited once when I was a kid – it's a beautiful city, and I can't wait to see it again, this time with a guitar in hand.
Favorite author and current book on your nightstand:
My favorite author is Gore Vidal, especially his novels about American History. The way he breathes life into historical figures like Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt is truly amazing and provides an excellent perspective on our current leaders. As for what’s on my nightstand right now, in addition to a stack of New Yorker magazines, I’m reading Herzog by the Nobel-Prize-Winning author, Saul Bellow.
Finally, a shameless plug: What would you like our readers to know about you?
I’d like readers to know that even though my records tend to be full-on pop productions, I also love to perform acoustically, with just my voice and guitar. I believe you can tell if a song is strong if you can pull it off live, in a completely stripped down setting that transcends “genre” and lets the melody and lyrics stand or fall on their own merits. I really enjoy performing like that, and I plan to continue doing solo shows – and full band shows, for that matter – until the day I die, or until they drag me kicking and screaming from the stage!