Kevin Morby

Kevin Morby (Amy Harrity / June 15, 2014)

When you're a working musician, rambling comes with the territory. The life consists of touring, strings of one-nighters in interchangeable bars and clubs punctuated by brief spells in studios. But the singer and songwriter Kevin Morby seems perhaps more at home when he's in motion, at peace in the blur.

Morby, who was a member of the psychedelic pop band Woods and also of the Babies (a collaboration with former Vivian Girls member Cassie Ramone), is set to release "Still Life," his second solo album on the Woodsist label, in October. As with his well-regarded 2013 solo debut "Harlem River," Morby recorded this new album after moving to Los Angeles from New York City.

Morby, who played Hamden's The Space on Sunday, Aug. 24, spoke to CTNow by phone from a tour stop in Oakland, Calif., recently about writing, touring and recording.

Morby's singing and vocal phrasing brings to mind music from over 40 years ago, the classic albums of Leonard Cohen and just-electric Dylan. But he also has something in common with modern troubadours like Cass McCombs and even Conor Oberst. Morby has heft and gravity to his voice, especially when he opts to push to its lower registers. His singing is serious but not ominous. The music moves in confident mid-tempo pulses, with space for echo-heavy guitar, backing vocals or horns to fill things out.

Despite the suggestion of a "still life" in the title of his forthcoming record, Morby's life has been the opposite. Morby, 26, got the rootless thing going in childhood, living all over with his family, from Texas, to Detroit, to Oklahoma, to Kansas.

"We moved around a lot," he says. "I got super good at always changing schools and changing friends and really not fearing the change."

And so Morby wasn't much ruffled by the move from the Midwest to New York City, without knowing anyone when he wasn't yet 20, connecting with the prolific folks in Woods, establishing a place in the Brooklyn-based world of indie rock and then upping and heading across the continent while spending sometimes around 200 days a year on tour.

The new record is similar to the last, with a metabolism that's only slightly more punched-up than the mostly-mellow "Harlem River." Morby says the new record is intentionally incrementally more assertive, to more closely mirror the live band's sound. Both albums contain songs that are, if not haunted by, at least filled with, death and motion.

"[The new record] kind of picks up where all that left off," says Morby. "I almost see it as a part two."

Both records include songs that sift through and flow from Morby's time in New York. He's been in L.A. for about a year, but Morby's new roots there haven't really shown up in his songs yet. The new record hasn't even been released yet, and so Morby is a little reluctant to talk about what comes next, but he expects his next batch of material will be more anchored in his new location, more West Coast.

"None of the songs [on my first two records] are California songs," he says. "None of the songs are in any way reflective of what the past year of my life has been like. It's all kind of like a road record."

Having moved away from being a member of bands, Morby is keen to continue working as a solo artist, savoring what he calls "complete freedom," despite his fondness for calling on musical contributions from friends like White Fence's Tim Presley and Welsh singer Cate Le Bon.

"I like only being tied to my name," says Morby.

The music may have his name on it, but as a songwriter Morby is growing more comfortable filtering his experience through a narrative, or using other perspectives to get at ideas that flow from his own life.

"Creating a story is a good way of channeling yourself."

 

Editor's note: This story has been updated to remove performance times.