Claire Morales Mines Her Inner Perfectionist on "Prettier"
Claire Morales and her band. Left to right, Ryan Williams, Russ Connell and Claire Morales.
Amid the clatter of diner plates, Claire Morales methodically eviscerates her waffle into equal-sized square morsels, explaining that she's trying to be a "cutting ahead" waffle person instead of a "cut as you go" type. As a graphic designer by trade, it's definitely not the strangest habit she could have adopted as a result. Reluctantly, though, the young singer admits that she might just end up being a figure-it-out-as-you-go type, coming to terms with the perfection in imperfection.
Coincidentally, Morales just today released lead track "Prettier" off her upcoming full-length record Amaranthine. The song weaves around a narrative regarding her childhood mannerisms and propensity for perfection, and is her first time tackling the electric side of songwriting with a full band. With her album coming out mid-February, she's primed to transition from an acoustic act to a tour de force singer-songwriter.
Amaranthine, which means "unfading or everlasting," largely functions as a coming-of-age album for Morales, dwelling on nostalgia from childhood and then deciphering it from the perspective of her older self. This concept results partially from Morales' frequent concern about what her younger self would think of her now, and whether she is becoming someone she would be proud of. For context, she's been performing music for other people since age 13, so she's got a lot to think over.
And "Prettier" is the perfect example of this, as the song rings with an upbeat positivity, but lyrically laments the struggles of trying to be good enough. Morales says the idea comes from several self-imposed bouts of perfectionism, but that in particular she recalls her ceaseless commitment to trying to master visual art as a child. At age seven, she painted dozens of depictions of Madonnas (depictions of Mary holding a wee baby Jesus) in order to get the piece just right. "I know everyone says they were weird as a kid, but I was especially weird," she says, laughing.
Lines from the song depict inner turmoil, trying to compartmentalize things and keep life in order, as she sings, "I've got something awful in me, too/Won't you purge it out?" In the last verse, she even describes the struggle between her mind and body as a war between rivaling colonies, and the song hangs on a note of uncertainty as it comes to a close. As the leading track to her album, it makes sense to create that kind of suspense. But Morales says the song is meant to set up the idea of the album and the coming-of-age progression.
Her transition to using a full band was partially related to her work with Denton band Old Potion, where she gained confidence working with other musicians. With that in mind, she approached her solo material with a newfound reassurance that her ideas could be shared and people would help take it in the direction she had in mind.
"I wanted it to be a certain way, and I was worried other people might not quite see what I had envisioned," she says. "And there were definitely some insecurities, too, wondering if I was even good enough to play with a band."
Adding to her interest in branching out her sound was the input of a peer who mentioned that her songs never quite had a hook to them. Although she never intended to make songs less meaningful, she took the idea to heart that significance and catchiness weren't mutually exclusive qualities. "I think there's something to be said about songs not only having meaning but also being memorable," Morales explains. "That's what I've wanted to gravitate toward."
The release of Amaranthine has a concert paired with it on February 21 at Rubber Gloves, where she'll be performing songs from the album with her band. After the Denton release, she plans to do shows in Fort Worth and Austin to follow-up, and then possibly try to get a record pressed afterward. Between her solo work and Old Potion, Morales has quite a few options ahead, but throughout it all she shows no sign of losing the substance in her work.
"We're planning shows that are farther away, so I'm excited to play in front of new crowds," she says. "Being able to share the songs I've written with new people definitely keeps me excited about what I get to do."
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