Music guru’s big insecurity
50 years on, Morris still doubts his talent
YOU would think after 50 years in the music industry, a swag of hits and a truckload of awards, ARIA Hall of Fame artist Russell Morris would be confident of his talent. But as he shares with Matt Collins in their Coffee Chat, his doubts about his abilities remain. Still touring and making great music, Russell says he owes a lot to plain old luck and one Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum, who tapped him on the should as a teenager and asked to manage Russell and his band. The rest, as they say, is history. MATT COLLINS: How much of a part would you say luck played throughout your career?
RUSSELL MORRIS: I remember our third show at the Anglesea Surf Life Saving Club. We were supporting a band that Brian Cadd was in and after the set this guy came up to us and said, “That was fantastic, guys. Do you have a manager?” That was Molly Meldrum.
MC: The great Molly!
RM: Yeah, and back then he had no qualifications whatsoever, it was a total fluke that he turned out to be such a fantastic record producer. So luck does come into play. MC: If Russell Morris was talking to that teenage boy when he first entered the music industry way back in the ’60s, what would he say to him?
RM: Don’t listen to what people say about your guitar playing. There were quite a few people who really gave me a hard time. I don’t have a really good sense of time. A musician listens to music in fours. One, two, three, four and they hear the bars. I have never been able to do that. My mind follows the melodies. And the musicians would really give me a hard time and they would all snigger and laugh, so I stopped playing guitar.
MC: Did you learn from that and from then forward could you disregard a lot of the critics?
RM: No, it ruined my writing for quite a while actually. It restricted me creatively. It inhibited my guitar playing and still to this day I carry those paranoias.
MC: Russell, you are an ARIA Hall of Fame musician, surely you don’t care what some musicians think?
RM: Oh yeah, you always do, and I have spoken to some of my friends in the music business about this as well. And a lot of singers I have spoken to all have that paranoia. They all expect that someone is going to go up to them at some point and say “you’re a fake”.
MC: Get that tap on the shoulder.
RM: Yeah, paranoia and insecurity are a big part of the music industry. The more confident people are, I find they are the most paranoid of all.
MC: I chatted to Tyrone Noonan from the band George and he said the number of people who commit suicide in the artistic world is by far the highest. That’s your singers, painters, musicians.
RM: Yeah, they feel unworthy. They don’t feel they are worthy of where they have gotten.
MC: Where does Russell Morris sit in that equation? RM: I still suffer from it. I have just done a new album and even during that I was paranoid about certain things.
MC: What sort of things were you paranoid about? RM: Writing was one. Because you always think, have I written a good song here or are people just saying it is good?
MC: In 2008, you received an ARIA Hall of Fame award. Do awards give you the recognition and validation to say “I deserve to be here?” RM: It was a great honour and you do feel like I have qualified. But it is a two-edge sword. I felt like when they gave me that award it was their way of saying, “You have done your duty.”
MC: Did that feel condescending?
RM: Ahh, no, it wasn’t condescending because the people were genuinely wonderful, but on the other hand you think, “Does this mean I have to now go and put my guns in the rack?”
HALL OF FAME MEMBER: Russell Morris, Australian music royalty, has sat down for a chat and shared his self-doubts with Matt Collins.