When you hear the great big singing voice that roars from Jean Morisson, it may also come as a big surprise to you. Why? Because Jean is a petite beauty whose diminutive size belies the larger than life sound she emits. Jean definitely brings the vocal range and strength that immediately wows anyone who hears her sing. But Jean is more than just an amazing singer. She’s also a gifted performer who brings all kinds of talent, along with her unique brand of fiery energy, to the stage or set whenever she performs.
It’s only natural. Jean Morisson was born to and raised by a very musical family. As a result, she evolved into an extremely accomplished singer/ songwriter and dancer as well as a vibrant performer. She says she definitely “had it in her blood” and that she has always felt “right at home” on a stage, ever since her first performance at the tender age of four.
Jean followed her musical dreams through her youth, competing in local talent shows, writing songs, and singing every chance she had. Along the way, she met fellow musician Diego Paul (D), and together they formed the band MorissonPoe, who went on to have some success with their songs and videos for “Pearl Necklace”, “Glitter Girl *Evil Side*”, and their powerful remake of Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefied”. MorissonPoe got a lot of high powered attention for their “Glitter Girl” video, which premiered on MTV on their world famous Jumbotron in Times Square! The Glitter Girl was in regular rotation on MTV, and later was nominated for an MTV Video Music Award.
Jean decided to venture out on a solo career, so she could further pursue her desire to get back to her musical R&B roots. She’s performed solo at several Raleigh area events, such as Strut, the CMA Awards, and the Social Magazine Reader’s Choice Awards. At the same time she’s continued working alongside D and has written new material for her next CD called “Glamoured”, scheduled for release in early 2012.
Social The Magazine was lucky enough to pin down the energetic and always-on-the-move Morisson while she was in NYC to attend Nile Rodger’s annual “We are Family” Gala, where she shares the stage with the likes of Nile, Anita Baker, Kathy “Sister” Sledge and Valerie Simpson. She told us some great stories about her childhood and her family, plus she gave us some insight into what went into the writing of her new CD, and more.
SM: Take us back to Jean Morisson, the early years. When did you first realize your talent?
JM: Hmm, now let’s see. I was about four years old. We lived in Long Island and had a huge backyard with fruit trees, butterflies and peacocks. I thought I lived in a fairytale. I would go back there and sing every day. My mom came outside one day and I said, “Mommy, watch me sing!” and she said to me, “You were born singing my little Peter Pan.” It’s just something I’ve always known.
SM: Do you recall the first song you loved to sing?
JM: Well, my mother was very into oldies and Motown, so I remember sitting on her lap and singing the Supreme’s, singing my little heart out. I loved singing Diana Ross because she was so passionate and also because that holds a special place in my heart with my mother.
SM: What’s the first song you performed to an audience and at what age?
JM: One night my mom says, “We are going to see your dad at work.” Being about 4 1/2 – 5 I had no idea what my dad did, as most kids really don’t know what their dads do for a living, so I was very excited. We got all dressed up and went to this building full of colored lights. It was dark inside, moody, smoky, shaded of red and purple. We sat at a long table and were served food. All of a sudden I hear, ” Now for your entertainment we are proud to present “insert band name that I don’t remember.” Suddenly I see my dad onstage, dancing, singing Spanish music, playing his percussion instruments and I was like OMG, my dad is a star! I knew instantly that that is what I wanted to be. I started dancing on the dance floor in front of the stage singing with my dad. He then called me up on stage put the microphone up to my mouth and we started singing together. There were about 200 people there, I felt like I had just been struck by lightning. Not nervous, I knew I was home.
SM: What an exciting night for a little girl! It sounds like your father was an influence. What other artists caught your attention while you were growing up?
JM: My influences vary a lot because I have older sisters and I was lucky enough to hear everything they were into at an early age: From New Wave, to Pop, to R&B and Latin music going to house parties in NYC with my family every weekend. But if I have to pick the ones that truly I feel had the biggest influence on me as an artist, that would go to Prince and Nile Rodgers & CHIC, by far.
SM: The strength and power you emit with your voice is shocking to many when they hear it coming from such a tiny girl. Did you feel the need for a vocal coach, or do you do any training on your own to keep it so sharp?
JM: I honestly didn’t train when I first got started, my “BIG” voice came from pretty much my mom coaching away my shyness and telling me “sing louder, what about the people in the back?” and that always stuck with me. I do train now and I believe as an artist, it is very important to take care of your voice and always know – for as much as you may know what you’re doing, you must always train for your full potential.
SM: How did you and D meet? Seems like a match made in musical heaven. Was it an instant connection?
JM: YES. How we met was definitely destined to be. I became friends and started working with one of his best friends in high school. So one morning I get a call from our mutual friend that I needed to meet this amazing producer and that he wanted him to remix a song. Hesitant and tired I said no at first, but my friend of course persisted so I went, and there was D doing his thing – making this music I had never heard before. I instantly knew I was witnessing a genius in the making. I was introduced to D and we shortly got together after that to exchange music and we have been a team ever since.
SM: You then both went on to form MorissonPoe. So much magic happened with that band, even an MTV Video Award nomination for “Glitter Girl”. When did you decide you’d go solo?
JM: MorissonPoe was, for me like you mentioned, true magic. This was a band that forced me to get out of my comfort zone and really find inside who I was as an artist. I was lucky enough to have some of the most amazing musicians in this band and we accomplished a lot. I decided to go solo, which was a big risk, only because I knew as an artist I had much more I wanted to offer. Even though I loved the band, the songs we did were starting to move a bit more “metal” than I originally wanted, and I wanted to move closer to my R&B songwriting roots. The great thing about this new sound is it’s all the things you love about MorissonPoe with soulfulness and heart that I am now ready to reveal. MorissonPoe was high school for me and now I feel like I’m ready to be in college working on my independent art film. It’s just time to be more vulnerable. Luckily, I get to do it still with the best musicians out there: D, Nick and Darion (MorissonPoe)as well as new friends I’ve met along the way, Super-Producer / Guitarist Nile Rodgers (CHIC, Madonna, David Bowie, Duran Duran), Vernon Reid (Living Color, Janet Jackson), Raymond Angry (Joss Stone / The Roots), Engineers Jason Goldstein, Ian Schreier and the legendary Bob Clearmountain. For this I’m blessed.
SM: You recently did a flip-book entitled “encounters” in late 2010 to raise awareness for The Trevor Project. What made you choose this group and what was the response you received?
JM: We did raise a lot of awareness. I knew I wanted to do something bold to catch the attention with “The Real Me”. The Trevor project touches me, personally. As someone who struggled with defining herself at a young age, I struggled with what does it mean to like girls, boys, “Is something wrong with me?” I felt alone a lot in my life, and not because my family and I weren’t close, but because I knew I was different from them, from friends and I felt like no one would understand me. I was afraid to talk to anyone about the feelings I was having and about maybe being gay or bisexual. It was a hard road as a teenager and I remember feeling like it was something that I wore on my sleeve for everyone to see and I was terrified. I grew up in a catholic household and although my parents were supportive, I still had no idea not only what they would say, but who I was. I had some dark times. That’s why it was a no-brainer for me to want to give my full support to a cause that makes themselves available to teens to express themselves before they feel so lost they commit suicide. Trevor was already lost, and in honor of him this could really save lives. I was honored to help and will continue to do so for any and all causes throughout my career. As long as I have a voice, I will gladly use it to speak for those that cannot.
SM: This takes us to the past year or so. When did you start writing material for the new album?
JM: This project has taken many forms over the past few years. I knew it would come in waves and I didn’t want to rush what was to be organically my story.
SM: Did you have strong inspiration for this project or did the experience and emotion come with your writing?
JM: This project started one way and life took me to another. These songs have some of the strongest emotions I have ever put pen to paper with. I had a very hard few years and that, by far, is the inspiration for this album. Ups and downs, tears and reflection.
This album will make you dance, reminisce, live, breathe, cry – you will know exactly what personal struggle I went through. The heartache and pain was worth it to find my voice, share my truth and let the blood, sweat and tears of this music flow.
They say everything happens for a reason. You might not understand when you’re in your darkest time, but I’m starting to realize this all happened for me to have these songs, and for me to have a life I could have never had I not gone through this loss.
Sometimes in life you have to lose what you thought you wanted in order to have everything you actually really needed.. and I get it.
SM: The first rumored single is “Better Than You” in which you have a special appearance by VernonReid of “Living Colour”. How did that connection come about?
JM: The first single is debatable at the moment, since we’re considering a double A-Side. Either way, as for theVernon story, my mom called me Peter Pan for a reason.
She said I had this magic and believed I could fly no matter what anyone told me. So with that said, we were working on the production for the song and I said to D, ” I hear Vernon Reid-like guitars on this song” and he smiled and said, “Well let’s get Vernon Reid.” Now, anyone else would have thought D was nuts but I knew the power of magic was real, so I put out into the universe my wish and lucky enough a mutual friend knew him well and hooked us up. Vernon Reid is by far one of THE most amazing people I have ever met or worked with. Great talent, great heart. I adore him.
SM: You’ve worked with so many amazing artists: Is there anyone that would just put you over the edge if you got to be onstage or in the studio with them?
JM: Prince for sure! I think that would be the only time I might actually faint. The other was Nile Rodgers, but I kinda had that one come true at his “We Are Family Gala” on October 24, 2011 – where I got up onstage with him, Anita Baker, Kathy “Sister” Sledge and Valerie Simpson. He closed the show singing his hit “We are Family.” I’ve known Nile for years now, have worked with him in the studio etc, but nothing was like standing next him, hearing him play his song to perfection on his special night, where the likes of David Bowie, Slash, Peter Gabriel and many others honored him. I looked to my right and thought, No matter how much he is my friend, I will always be in awe of his legend. As for current Top 40, Adam Lambert, for sure. He impressed me not only with his songwriting, amazing voice, great personality – in the studio he is the real deal. After the Adam Lambert session, I am currently writing a song inspired by that session. All I can say is stay tuned, Peter Pan always finds a way to fly, even with a little Glam.
Our thanks to Jean for taking time to talk with us and give us a peek inside her world. We look forward to her new CD, and to witnessing one of her upcoming performances of these future hits!