Quick Q+A: Sarah Morris + hearts in need of repair

sarah morris

Intrepid singer-songwriter Sarah Morris has been a rock-solid staple of many a Twincy small stage, delivering intimate solo guitar-and-vocal performances and more up-tempo Americana in front of a full band. Morris has also recently translating all that stage time into her third album, hearts in need of repair, a record with her strong narrative songwriting skills and the craftsmanship of all her musical experience. 

Ahead of Morris’s release party at The Hook & Ladder on Friday we sent her some Quick Questions about hearts, which boxes she fits into, and doing videos in Northeast MPLS. 

Secrets of the City: It’s always hard to answer this question, but what’s the best way to describe you as a musician? Singer-Songwriter? Americana? Folk singer? “Rootsy”? Do you connect all the music writing you do to your public performer role?

Sarah Morris: I usually use all of those words! I try to say them really fast so it sounds like a single genre. Ha! But really, I love the term singer-songwriter because that’s exactly what I do! And I’d been a singer for years before I wrote any of my own material, so it felt like such an honor to get to add that hyphen there. I do say Americana—right now feels like a big umbrella that welcomes most anything with a rootsy sound or heavy attention to lyrics. I also know that I’ve got a real country background—I lived in Nashville for a while and I soaked up as much about country songwriting as I could. I do connect most of my music writing to my public performer role, although my dream dream dream is to have other artists sing my songs.

Do you take a different approach to writing music for your solo songs versus a full band? Will your next songwriter challenge include a full band?!

Anytime I write, I’m writing only with the intention to write the truest, most complete version of that song that I can. Then I take my favorites to the band, and we work together on the arrangements. They are each incredibly talented, and composers in their own right, and I have learned so much from working with them. I think the timing of the songwriter challenge would make it hard to do as a full band, BUT I have suggested to each of the band members that they join in for the fun! I *think* I might have tipped Andrew the Bass Player into strongly considering it!

How cohesive does an album have to be for you? hearts in need of repair is definitely thematic around vulnerability and love, but did you leave anything off that was a rock solid song that just didn’t fit?

If I’m going to make an album, I do want it to be cohesive. I think there is something to be said these days for singles, EPs—there are so many ways you can release your music into the world. This time around, I felt like I had a group of songs that wanted to be together—they felt like the stories of the hearts in need of repair. I did have 4 songs that I considered that didn’t quite fit, but I could see any one of those songs having a future life in another format.

You video for “Sway Me” is set in the classic Northeast Palace—have you ever been kicked out of there?

Well, only if you count the fact that we had to be done shooting by 10 AM that day!

Is the release party basically a reason to hang out at The Hook with all your friends who make up your contributors and band of notables?

Yes. Completely! It IS my birthday after all :) But I’d love to make some new friends, so people out there—come on out! It’s gonna be a good night!

Tickets are available for Sarah Morris’s album release party at The Hook & Ladder on Friday, Nov 10th, 7:30 PM. $12 advance, $15 door.

Quick Q+A: Pop-Up Magazine + Anita Badejo

Images from Pop Up Magazine at the Paramount Theatre on Wednesday, October 18, 2017 in Oakland, Calif.

Images by Erin Brethauer

Pop-Up Magazine—a “live magazine” experience featuring multimedia stories told by reporters, writers, radio producers and more—makes its Twincy debut on Friday (November 3rd) at the Fitzgerald Theater. The local installment of the show will feature stories by APM’s homegrown, Peabody-Award winning series In The Dark host Madeleine Baran and senior producer and Samara Freemark, and afterward, performers, producers, and the audience stick around for drinks and conversation.

As fans of both traditional and innovative new forms of magazines, we’re pretty psyched to see—and hear!—the show. Before settling in for some killer storytelling, we checked in over email with show producer senior producer and Pop-Up co-host Anita Badejo.

Secrets of the City: How did a live magazine show get developed? Was the impetus for Pop-Up Magazine to just skip the media pivot to video entirely and get right to the pivot of “live shows with multi-media content”?

Anita Badejo: Interestingly enough, Pop-Up predates those pivots! The show was created in 2009, when our founder and editor-in-chief Doug McGray was still a freelance journalist. He had started his career as a writer, and eventually also started producing radio stories, and he found it really odd that storytellers in different mediums don’t cross paths as often as you’d think. He and our other founders started Pop-Up as a collaborative way to bring all types of storytellers together, and to celebrate journalism and storytelling in all its unique, creative forms. The first show was at a 300-seat theater in San Francisco and it just grew from there. Eight years later, we’re performing at really big theaters with three national tours a year!

How does the live show play to the audience? Should we warn people ahead of time that they’re likely going to get goosebumps, maybe tear up a little from the stories? More of our readers will likely go if there’s a promise of pandering.

We craft our stories in order to move people, so laughs, tears, goosebumps, gasps, etc. are definitely part of the experience. Most stories also have original scores by our house band, Magik*Magik Orchestra, which really helps set a unique mood for each of them. We often hear from people after the show that it’s one of the most emotionally compelling events they’ve attended.

We love that this show has “issues” instead of seasons, what other fun print elements does the program covert over from physical magazines? Is there a masthead? Back of book? Long delays on payments to freelancers?

In the program, each story has a slug in addition to its title, and they often play off of popular magazine sections. So, you might open it up and find stories that are slugged anything from, “Politics,” “Business,” and “Food,” to “Advice,” “How-To,” and “Relationships.” And the show itself is loosely structured like a magazine, with a front of book and a feature well. Our shorter pieces tend to open the show, whereas longer, more narrative pieces tend to be concentrated in the second half.

Each performance has contributors from all over the spectrum, including Peabody-Award winning series “In The Dark” host Madeleine Baran and senior producer and Samara Freemark at the St. Paul date. But everyone will likely ask: Why isn’t Levar Burton at the St. Paul date? Where’s Levar Burton?

Ha, LeVar was wonderful! While many storytellers do tour with us, each show is unique, and we want to make the experience of seeing Pop-Up Magazine in each of the cities we visit special. The Twin Cities edition of this issue is really, really great, and one of the more unique ones among the tour in terms of the mix of themes, story formats, and live, interactive moments. It’s going to be fun.

There was a mention of a potential foray even further in different modes of story-telling, including augmented reality. Should people be “subscribing” to Pop-Up even if they can’t make the show? (You can make the show, there’s a few tickets left, though.)

Definitely! Our mailing list is the best way to keep a pulse on it all, and there are going to be more and more ways to get involved.

We’re always experimenting with new mediums and there are so many things we’d like to play with. In the past, we’ve staged a special musical collaboration with Beck and McSweeney’s, that was part-concert, part-storytelling event. We’ve hosted a dinner with chef Samin Nosrat, where every course and part of the meal — down to the napkins — was tied to a story told by someone at the table. In Friday night’s show, there’s dance, which is a first for us, as well as a pretty glorious moment of audience participation (all I’ll say is it involves singing). Our format offers so many opportunities to figure out “What’s the best way to tell a story?” “How do we bring people into it?” and there’s no end to what we might try.

Some tickets are still available for the inaugural installment of Pop-Up Magazine here in MPLS + STPL. Friday, Nov 3rd, 7:30 PM. $31.50. Fitzgerald Theater.

Burger Hunter: Red Stag Supper Club

Red Stag Supper Club

Week after week, Mike S. impresses us with the depth and breadth of his burger knowledge. He’s like David S. Burgers! Check out all The Burger Hunter’s meaty exploits at the #GreatAmericanBurgerHunter tag on Instagram and at @BurgerHunterUSA on the twitter.

Just over the river and into Northeast Minneapolis you’ll find a little honey hole of good foodie finds. We’ve hunted in this area before but this time we’re heading to investigate some talky talky about Red Stag Supper Club. Now this place is all charming and hosts a v strong menu. I’m practically dating their fish & chips and their Mac & Cheese. Anywho, once in awhile you have to look past your steady and go hunting on the menu. This probe is honing in on the Peterson Farms Heirloom Limousin Burger. And we’re off . . . Bun is sesame and poppi, toasted yet soft. It’s in collusion with this roasted garlic aioli. Attacking from the top and bottom. Soooo delicious. The meat is limo cattle (French) from a top shelf Minnesota farm. These are grandpa cows. The burger is full of flavor, finely textured and clean. Loose pack. Lots of drips! Cooked to order by pros. Knowing medium is the ultimate complement to a chef. They know medium. The cheese is white cheddar and completely smothering. Light salty and good. Topped with a sheet of crispy lettuce and I added the double smoked bacon. At least it tasted that way. Comes with pickles on and I took um off. Had plenty of crunch and really with this quality beef you can’t have to many distractions. There’s a hint of sweetness and it comes from the sneaky red onions under the meat. The burger is a standout and my findings are that the talky talky is true. Great burger from first bite to last.

Scorecard:   Flavor: 9.4   Presentation: 9  Originality: 9

Red Stag Supper Club, 509 1st Ave NE, MPLS;

Quick Q+A: Monica LaPlante

monica laplante

Regular Readers know we’ve been tremendous fans of Monica LaPlante‘s music and we’re very excited to finally be able to have some of it on vinyl. Ahead of her Noir LP release show with Catbath and Blaha—one of the last shows happening at the Triple Rock—we sent her a Quick Q+A to check back in on LaPlante on her rigorous schedule, recording, radio play, and any costume ideas (the show is of course going have costumes on stage and off).  

Secrets of the City: You’ve played sooooo many shows in the two years since we first interviewed you—so many!—was it hard to take a break from playing to record Noir or was it a sort of welcome vacation? Or was it just in-between all the shows?

Monica LaPlante: It was super easy to record because I was working with my manager Noah Hollander, who was part owner of The Pearl recording studio. We just recorded everything one song at a time with his brother Zach when there was open time at the studio. When Noah left The Pearl a year later, we had to find a new place to finish the album. It was really difficult and took a long time to find one we felt as comfortable in. We tested out a lot studios in the Midwest, but ended up finishing the record at Key Club in Benton Harbor, MI.

Are you surprised at the wider success of “Hope You’re Alone” as a single? It’s awesome to hear it on the radio.

It’s a relief to finally hear it on the radio!! I wrote Hope You’re Alone almost 4 years ago! We actually played it at our Jour release show at the Ritz theater in 2013. We’ve been Hail Mary passing it out to radio stations for a while, and the timing finally worked out. I always thought it was a good song, I mean the chorus is three words repeated over and over again, so it’s catchy enough! I finally feel reaffirmed in my songwriting with all the recent acknowledgment from local radio.

Will the show be the only spot people can grab the album? Will it make it out into record stores for wider consumption?

The vinyl will make it out to record shops as well! The Electric Fetus and Barely Brothers will for sure have copies. They’ll be coming with a poster, an insert with lyrics, and a digital download card.

How bittersweet is it that the party is one of the last remaining shows at the Triple Rock?

Noah and I booked the show without a faintest idea that this would happen. I just feel fortunate enough to have an opportunity to play the Triple Rock one last time. It’s a great chance to have one last wild night there, that’s for sure!

Do you feel a lot of pressure for your costume since you’re headlining? What if you dressed up as the Triple Rock? (Actually don’t do that, we’re going to do that.)

There’s always pressure in a group costume in general! We toyed with a number of ideas. Last year I was Robert Palmer and the rest of the band went as his supermodel lady band. It kind of went over most peoples’ heads, but pretty entertaining for us. This year we’ll be doing something a little more recognizable, but you’ll have to come out to see it!

Monica LaPlante releases the vinyl edition of Noir with Catbath and Blaha. Friday, October 27th, 9 PM. $8. Triple Rock Social Club. 

Quick Q+A: Mike Fotis + Strike Theater

strike theater

Even though MPLS + STPL has established scenes for comedy, storytelling, and spoken word, the different showcases frequently bounce around between a few regular venues or piggyback on other events. That’s all about to change in a big way with the launch of Strike Theater, a brand new venue in Northeast MPLS kickstarted by Allison BroerenJoe Bozic, and Mike Fotis that caters to and combines the three styles of material and performance into one cool space.

Ahead of this weekend’s grand launch and gala rewards parties at Strike, we checked in with co-founder and Director Of Fill In The Blank Awesomeness Fotis about their incredible fundraising, the weekend’s shows, their rogues gallery of initial performers, and more. 

Secrets of the City: Is the Strike Theater kickstarter—which was actually met, and even surpassed!—the most successful kickstarter of all time? What are your fundraising secrets. (Please tell us!)

Mike Fotis: It definitely the most successful kickstarter of all time…that I’ve been a part of.

Seriously though, it was successful because we’re trying to create a space for original comedic work, storytelling and spoken word. That type of space doesn’t exist and it seemed like people were excited to help make that vision come true.

How many “Mike’s sexy eating” kickstarter rewards do you need to fulfill?

About 10. I’ve recorded them a few times. One time I lost the hard drive they were on and the other time the files simply crashed. I got to get back on it. But there’s a chance my eating has gotten TOO sexy for technology to handle.

The new theater is located in the Thorp Building, also home to Tattersall Distilling. Aren’t you very, very worried that the proximity will either inhibit productivity or make you all very very creative?

So far, in my experience, it has made me VERY VERY CREATIVE.

How do you see the intersection of sketch comedians, storytellers, and poets here in MPLS + STPL, especially performance space-wise?

I think it will be really interesting and rewarding because not only is a physical space necessary to create new and fun work, but it will allow for relationships and collaborations to form that otherwise might not have. Basically when creative people are allowed to be around other creative people, really good things tend to happen.

We’re excited to finally have a theater space that can do whatever the hell it wants because it’s politically untouchable—what other favors will Strike Theater leverage out of Javier Morillo besides his opening weekend set?

Hahaha. I don’t know about that, but I do know that Javier is an amazing storyteller and partnering with the SEIU is exciting because the members of the union will have a place to tell their stories and create their work and we think that’s really important. Also, this type of partnership is unique and a sign of how arts orgs can find ways to exist and succeed in a very expensive world.

Will Strike Theater become the Sixth Humor of Four Humors’ troupe?

No, but we sure do love them and look forward to working with them a lot.

There’s a bunch of other great performers lined up for opening weekend and the vibe is going to be crazy. What are you most looking forward to? What should attendees most look forward to?

I’m most looking forward to standing in the back of the theater with Allison and Joe during the show and taking a moment to enjoy seeing something that has taken a long time to come together finally come to life. Attendees should look forward to a really fun night filled with a lineup that is weird and hilarious and amazing. It’s groups paired with groups that normally wouldn’t be paired together and I think that’s really beautiful.

Even if you didn’t back their kickstarter, tickets for the Friday and Saturday night opening night(s) festivities for brand spanking new Strike Theater are still available to you.

You can also check out our Quick Q+As with other busy bees helping to build up Twincy’s arts and culture scene here.