JESSICA MORRIS TALKS ‘LADIES OF THE LAKE’ & BEING HERSELF 0 44

Best known for her role as Jennifer Rappaport in One Life to Live, Jessica Morris had a very busy but successful 2017 and following the announcement that her most recent show, The Ladies of The Lake, has now renewed for a second season, fans will be seeing a lot more of Jessica in the coming months. ThisIsTheLatest chatted with Jessica to find out more about her childhood ambitions, her thoughts on social media and her love of all things ‘cheese’.

TITL: At what age did you first realise you wanted to be an actress? Has that always been your ultimate ambition or did you have other career dreams going up?

Jessica Morris: I made the definite decision to become an actress at around age 16. Before that, I wanted to be a dancer and had taken classes since I was a young child. And I was toying around with becoming a psychologist. Studying human behavior is incredibly interesting to me and luckily that activity still exists in my acting life.

TITL: When it came to pursing your career, which actors/actresses did you admire and was there one film or TV series that ultimately made you think ‘Yeah, that’s what I want to do?’

JM: It wasn’t one actress or film that made me want to become an actress myself. I just always loved getting swept up in a story and imaginary world. The actors always looked so glamorous and free and I yearned to have an outlet like that where I could express all of the feelings that I had inside.

TITL: You’re perhaps best known for your role of Jennifer Rappaport in One Life to Live. Just how much did that role and the show change/impact your career trajectory?

JM: Well, it got my career started and I’m so grateful for that. I also learned so much about myself as a person and an actor. It helped to build my confidence.

TITL: 2017 was a particularly busy year for you, with December in particular bringing you to much wider attention thanks to two TV movies, A Christmas Cruise and The Wrong Man airing on December 16th and 29th respectively. Were you ever at all apprehensive about taking on ‘Christmas’ movie related roles given that they occasionally get a bad, or ‘cheesy’ tagline of sorts? What drew you to the roles and what was the viewer response like?

JM: I wasn’t hesitant at all. I love cheese! Who doesn’t? Cheddar, Brie, Christmas movies, bring it on! It got a great response and I think that sometimes people appreciate a light-hearted, easy-to-watch movie like that, that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

TITL: How did you get involved in your current project, Ladies Of The Lake? What was it about the show and the character you now play, Crystal Amhurst, that drew you in? Had you read the novel it’s based on prior to auditioning?

JM: I was offered the part of Crystal on Ladies of the Lake and I thought the character was so entertaining and that she had many layers. I was also drawn to the fact that the female characters became very empowered at the end, even if it was in a criminal way.

TITL: How excited/relieved are you now that the show has been renewed for a second season?

JM: I’m very excited to go into production on Ladies of the Lake season 2. It is going to be sexier, edgier and much more action-packed.

TITL: Of all the industry professionals/fellow actors and actresses you’ve worked with over the years, who do you feel you most clicked with and do you have any funny moments or stories from sets you could share?

JM: When you film a movie, or shoot a TV show, you become so close to the other actors and the crew. You see them every day for many hours and share emotionally intimate moments with them. Also, the adrenaline is pumping and moods are elevated because most people there are doing what they are most passionate about. So, after every production I feel like I’ve met my new soul mate or new best friend. But after the high wears off, you are happy to just stay in touch with some of them. Best case scenario, they actually do remain one of your best friends. Like Melissa Archer, who I worked on One Life to Live with, or some of my other best friends, Robin Sydney and Roopashree Jeevaji who I also met on set.

TITL: Are there any other projects in the pipeline you can tell me about?

JM: I’m just finishing up my second draft of a script that I will also star in.

TITL: How do you feel about social media, and do you pay much attention to what users post, both positive and negative, on sites like Twitter?

JM: I think that social media is a great tool for actors. Everyone has a right to their opinions but I don’t think it’s cool for people to post negative comments. I just don’t understand the mentality behind wanting to make someone else feel bad. It’s totally different if they are talking about the character. But if it becomes personal, I think it’s disrespectful and unnecessary.

TITL: What’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said about you/your work?

JM: I’ve luckily gotten a lot of wonderful feedback from fans on social media. It’s amazing when they tag certain shows or networks, basically pushing ideas to try and help move your career forward. It’s way above and beyond and makes me feel so supported to have people that I’ve never even met believe in my dreams like that. It means so much.

TITL: What advice would you give to anyone looking to follow in your footsteps? What three things/skills would you say they need to master or acquire? 

JM: I would say that they need to learn how to be vulnerable and open in front of the camera, but hard as a rock off camera. It’s a strange dichotomy. But finding that balance is key to surviving the industry.

TITL: If you were to win an Oscar and had only thirty seconds to deliver your thank you speech, what would you say and who would you dedicate the award to? 

JM: I would thank the people who have had faith in me, even in times when I have lost it in myself. My mom, my manager, my friends who have encouraged me. There is a long list!

TITL: Finally then, whose career would you most like to emulate and what would you most like to be remembered for in terms of your work and career?

JM: I don’t want to emulate anyone. I want to be me. I want to be known for that. For showing a part of myself that hopefully makes people feel something when they watch me.

For more information on Jessica Morris, visit her website or follow her on Twitter. Header photo credit: Tim Schaeffer.

 

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CHRIS STILLS TELLS ALL ABOUT HIS NEW ALBUM & THE IMPACT OF SOCIAL MEDIA 0 21

Having just released his first album in 10 years titled ‘Don’t Be Afraid’, it’s safe to say the last few months of 2018 in particular have been pretty big for Chris Stills. With the collection already championed by the likes of Mojo among others, while playing a few shows here in the UK, ThisIsTheLatest caught up with Chris to find out more about his artistic influences, the one venue he’d most like to play and how it felt to have his work featured in two Oscar winning films.

TITL: For those unfamiliar with you and your music, how would you sum yourself and your sound up in a few words?

Chris Stills: I grew up with the fundamentals. A folk, blues and rock foundation. Dylan, Stones, Beatles, Pink Floyd, CSN, Neil Young, The Police, U2, AC/DC, Motown… all of it. Depending on my mood and what I’m trying to achieve with a song, I reach to the music I love for inspiration. That also includes my contemporaries like Rufus Wainwright, Radiohead, Jeff Buckley etc…What you get is a nice mixed bag of songs… kind of like a mixed tape you’d make a friend.

TITL: With so many other bands and artists around, what makes you stand out? If you had to sell yourself to a music fan, what would you tell them? 

CS: I write songs, then I work hard to record, mix and master them. I play them in various venues large and small with different formations. I’ll sell you at the show. And maybe over dinner.

TITL: To what extent have your musical influences changed over the course of your life and how do and have those influences impact the music you’ve made and make now?

CS: Music has a funny way of influencing you at different times for different reasons. I hate to admit it, but I’ve only recently discovered the Harry Nilsson record Pussy Cats which is at this very moment affecting me profoundly.

TITL: Which one band or artist might you say you sound most similar to? 

CS: Only the best ones.

TITL: Who or what is your biggest inspiration when it comes to music and song-writing? 

CS: It’s a funny thing that one… you don’t wanna look too high otherwise you get cold feet and wanna give up because your heroes can make you feel like you just pale in comparison. I think my biggest inspiration is making the time, then actually taking it, and not taking myself too seriously. Things tend to get better and better as you go.

TITL: Your new album has been praised by the likes of Mojo and Classic Rock among others, but do you actually care much about what critics think or are you more concerned with the thoughts of your fans? 

CS: It’s always nice to get a nod here and there but if I was here for it I might as well be selling yogurt. My favorite place to know whether people are into what I’m doing is on stage. It’s immediate and clear. No filters.

TITL: The album features co-writes/collaborations with Ryan Adams and Zac Rae of Death Cab For Cutie. How did those collaborations come about and what did each bring to the writing/creative process for the album?

CS: I met Ryan when we were just kids. We were guys in the 3rd room at the time of The Rolling Stones who were working on Bridges to Babylon. We were just a couple of kids back then but really became close when he and Ethan Johns asked me to come play on Gold. At some point later Ryan had built his studio, PaxAm and invited me to come be creative there. With him… without him. He was ever so supportive. He ended up helping me finish Criminal Mind.

Zac Rea is force of nature in his own right. If you want that X-Factor in your music he will deliver every time. He’s one of my favorite people to work with and like Ryan and really everyone else really helped me make this record.

TITL: If you had to pick your favourite song on the album, which would it be and why? 

CS: They all hold a very special place. I guess some of the more fun sessions were the ones that were recorded with the most folks playing at the same time. “Lonely Nights”, “Don’t be Afraid”… those were some exciting times in the studio.

TITL: Your music has been included in several films, including I, Tonya and American Hustle as well as in the US version of the hit show Shameless, in which you also appeared. What impact did having that happen have on your career in terms of audience/fan base interaction and interest? 

CS: Well, it doesn’t hurt to be a part of Academy Award winning film. Or working with David O’Russell, Mark Batson, John Wells or Sue Jacobs. I mean, they’re the best in their fields. If anything it’s a good confidence booster, isn’t it?

TITL: As a modern day artist, and given how long you’ve been in and around the industry, how are you finding social media’s impact on your career? Would you agree it’s a vital tool in today’s world or do you think we as a general society have become far too reliant on it?

CS: I think social media has leveled the playing field. Sadly it also seems to have sucked all the life out of any mystery in this world. But you really have to have lived when that still existed to know what I’m talking about. Is social media vital? Yes. It’s running everything and everyone into a big opaque blobby data mine.

TITL: You’ve got a final number of 2018 shows coming up. For anyone who hasn’t seen you before, what can people expect from your performances?

CS: For me, my shows are like a release… all the energy that goes into it… the work, the travel, the road, the life… it all culminates on stage.

TITL: If you could play one venue that you haven’t yet, which would it be and why? 

CS: I have always dreamed of playing the Royal Albert Hall. Do I really need to ex.plain that one?

TITL: Finally then, now that 2018 is almost over, have you started planning for 2019 yet? What can fans expect to see and hear from you in the near future? 

CS: Plan nothing. Be careless. Enjoy yourselves. And somewhere in 2019, another Chris Stills record will come rumbling in.

To keep up to date with Chris Stills, visit his website, give his page a like on Facebook or follow him on Twitter and Instagram. His album ‘Don’t Be Afraid’ is available now. Photo credit: Dove Shore.

FOX & BONES CHAT ‘BETTER LAND’ AND LOOKING FORWARD TO 2019 0 26

Described by the duo themselves in their Twitter bio as “The Bonnie and Clyde of folk pop”, Fox and Bones, AKA Sarah and Scott, have had a busy time of things lately, culminating in the release of their album Better Land. But, with still a month to go before we all bid the year goodbye, the pair aren’t resting on their laurels and spoke to ThisIsTheLatest about their favourite tracks on their album, how they’re rounding out the year and what 2019 has in store.

TITL: Exactly who are Fox and Bones?

Fox and Bones: Fox and Bones are fictional characters we created so that we could be more imaginative with our songwriting. We didn’t want to limit ourselves to only writing about our own experiences, instead, we wanted some breathing room and the option to use our imaginations a little bit. That said, the adventures of the characters Fox and Bones closely mirror our own lives, and we use their story as a canvas on which to paint the picture of the life we want to live.

TITL: Given the success of duos such as The Civil Wars over the years, what makes Fox and Bones different? What’s your unique selling point?

F&B: I think we are a lot more lighthearted than many of the indie folk bands like the Civil Wars. Someone once told us at a show, “You guys sound just like The Civil Wars, except that listening to you doesn’t make me depressed.” We don’t write about love and heartbreak in the traditional sense, we write stories about traveling, unconventional modern love and what that really looks like, rather than just the intense puppy love of pop music or the depressing breakup vibes of indie folk. And we write about the world as we see it, and what we want to see come into the world. Our songwriting feels a lot more versatile, and the music is generally heartwarming and uplifting. If The Civil Wars represented the brokenness of a human being, Fox and Bones represents the cure.

TITL: Which bands and artists are you most inspired or influenced by, and how do those influences impact the music you make?

F&B: Lately we’ve been influenced by the new retro and neo-soul movements, like Nathaniel Rateliff, Lake Street Dive, the California Honeydrops, Mingo Fishtrap, and Paolo Nutini as well as artists who are true storytellers and have compelling lyrics like Brett Dennen and John Craigie. We also love older stuff, Scott was very influenced by the Beatles, The Band, and Dylan, and I’ve always loved Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, Janis Joplin and CCR.

TITL: Which band or artist might you say you sound most similar, or are you most compared to? Do you mind such comparisons or do you take them as compliments?

F&B: We hear The Civil Wars a lot, I think mainly because they are one of the most famous male/female duos out there. But we also get Johnnyswim, Of Monsters and Men, and Johnny and June, which we definitely consider a compliment. And of course, everyone thinks Scott sounds just like Cat Stevens.

TITL: You released your album Better Land recently. How have you found the reaction to it to be so far?

F&B: I think we both feel it’s the best musical work either of us have ever put out and the sentiment from fans definitely reflects that. We’ve had a solid reaction from press as well. We knew when we were making it that we had something special, and it’s so nice to discover that we aren’t the only ones who feel that way.

TITL: Is there a song on the album you’re most proud of and if so, which is it and why?

F&B: I think we’d have different answers.

Sarah: Mine is “Roots.” I’d been on a songwriting dry spell for a while, and that song came to me just before we went into the studio to record. We put a gospel choir on that one and something about that song still gives me the shivers even though I’ve heard it and played it a million times by now.

Scott: Mine is “Better Land.” It is the song that I’ve been trying to shake out of me for a few years and finally, after staying up all night, it tumbled out in one sitting. We tried to keep the recording as true to the original demo as possible and I just love how it all came together.

TITL: Who or what is your biggest inspiration when it comes to music and song-writing and with that in mind, which song would you say is the greatest ever written and why?

Sarah: For me, it’s a hard choice, because I have so many. But I’m going to have to go with “A Case of You” by Joni Mitchell. The first time I ever heard that song I had all over goosebumps – the songwriting is so deep and so interesting, I don’t know what some of it even means but the way Joni puts words together is genius, and the melody of that song gets me too. She has these amazing high notes that she hits, and it’s just so real and vulnerable. Brett Dennen’s “Sydney” is also a brilliant song, and it always puts a smile on my face.

TITL: You’ve been championed by and featured in/on the likes of Glide Magazine and Pop Matters. How big of an impact are you finding coverage like that has on your career?

F&B: It seems vital these days to have major outlets backing up your music, it kind of legitimizes you in a way. Someone at that level telling people your music is good goes a lot further than the artist themselves going on about how their music is good. It’s just an extra layer of legitimacy.

TITL: As a modern day duo, to what extent are you finding social media to be a vital tool in getting your name and music out to people? Is it fair to say you might not have the fan base and support you do without it?

F&B: Social media is such an amazing tool if you learn how to use it! We’ve been growing our socials quite a bit over the last year and I don’t know how musicians ever promoted themselves without it. It’s amazing to have direct contact with our fans and I think they enjoy seeing what we are up to, especially when we are on tour. Plus, as a creative, I love coming up with fun content to post.

TITL: With the year coming to a close, do you have any performances coming up people can look forward to?

F&B: We have a bunch! We are spending the few days left in November and half of December on tour all over California – we’ve got 25 dates on that tour. Then we come home to Portland and have a number of shows in the area to close out the year. We like to stay busy.

TITL: Aside from your album release, what’s been your highlight of the year?

F&B: We just finished an incredibly successful, two month long European tour booked by ROLA music. We’ve been there three times now but this time blew the others out of the water. We are seeing a real following developing over there, and it’s really exciting.

Finally then, what does 2019 have in store for you? What can fans expect from the two of you in the coming year?

F&B: We plan on spending the majority of the year on the road. We embark on a US tour in February that will last through June, stay in Portland in July, then head back to Europe mid-August for festival season. We also hope to get back to songwriting and crafting our next record, although it’ll be a nice to ride the tails of Better Land for a while before we start that process again.

We are also hosting the 2019 Portland’s Folk Festival on Feb. 1st and 2nd, an event that Scott and I created and curate each year. We have 20 acts over two evenings at McMinamen’s Mission theater and are partnered with Breedlove Guitars, Iheart Radio, Jim Beam, Vortex Music Magazine, ROLA music and Royale Brewing.

For more information on Fox & Bones, visit their website, give their page a like on Facebook or follow them on Twitter. Their album ‘Better Land’ is available now. Header photo: Amandala Photography.