Seabird frontman Aaron Morgan and guitarist Ryan Morgan during the video shoot for Rescue, their song that is featured in ads for the ABC series Pushing Daises. Photo from Seabird's MySpace page.
Aaron Morgan’s band has a recording contract with an EMI label and a song being used as part of an ad campaign for the Emmy-winning ABC series Pushing Daisies.
But he is still going to work in Downtown Cincinnati as an information technology contractor for Great American Insurance, fixing computers and networks.
“People think I’m crazy,” Morgan says, noting that his brother, guitarist Ryan Morgan, and bassist Chris Kubik have both quit their day jobs to focus on the band, Seabird.
“I’m the only one left who still has a job, and really, that’s because my employer has been so flexible, letting me go when I need to and come back when I need to,” Morgan says.
It also isn’t like they planned to do this whole band-with-recording contract thing. Seabird got its start when the band’s original drummer, Aaron Hunt, heard Morgan’s songs and suggested they start a band.
“He somehow convinced me to record three songs in his bedroom,” the keyboardist and singer says, “and he submitted them to a battle of the bands competition at the Underground,” a Cincinnati Christian music club.
They slipped the tape in just 30-minutes before the submission deadline. It put Seabird toe-to-toe with 22 of Cincinnati’s best bands.
“I thought, this is a terrible way to start a band, competing with all these bands we should be making friends with,” Morgan recalls.
Or maybe the bands should be making friends with Seabird.
They finished second in the competition and started to get positive feedback.
Since then, the entire lineup for Seabird has changed, except the voice and keys of Morgan. Ryan Morgan was running a guitar shop in Chattanooga before he came home to join his brother. Hunt and the original bassist left for other pursuits.
As we talked to Morgan, he was scrambling around post-Hurricane Ike Cincinnati to find a place with power where they could rehearse with a new drummer that was hitting the road with the band.
That tour brings Searbird to the University of Kentucky campus Wednesday, where the band will play in the amphitheater behind Memorial Hall. The tour is to support Seabird’s debut on EMI’s Credential Recordings imprint, ‘Til We See the Shore.
The Erlanger-based band’s road to a recording contract was smoothed with a little help from Covington native Adrian Belew, who played with some of the most critically acclaimed acts of the 1970s and ’80s, including King Crimson and David Bowie.
“Adrian Belew and our manager both e-mailed us the same day and said, ‘I got your song and I really like the sound and would like to meet with you guys,’” Morgan recalls.
Things didn’t go much further with Belew, but manager Jeff Jackson agreed to work with the group for free until they got signed.
The hallmark of Seabird’s songs is a strong piano base and dramatic lyrics.
“A lot of times I have an image in my head or a character I want to tell a story about,” Morgan says. “I really just let the story lead the lyrics, just kind of let them fall into place with the chord progression and the melody.”
Morgan says he does try to leave a little mystery in the lyric so that the song is open to interpretation.
“We really take the listener very seriously and try to connect with the audience on a very personal level,” Morgan says.
Two of their songs appear in promotions for Pushing Daises, which will actually conflict with the Wednesday concert -- set your DVR. The rocker Black and Blue gives a nice piano charge to commercials, but it is actually Rescue, with its opening lyric, “I’m pushing up daisies, I wish they were roses,” that is the hook for the ad campaign.
“We got the opportunity to play for about 30 music supervisors from L.A., which was set up for us by the EMI Publishing Department,” Morgan says. “We had a really great response. Five or six people came up and said, ‘I can really see your music on’ Grey’s Anatomy, House, or The O.C. and all these shows. So the EMI Publishing Department has really been out there working for us, and continually sending them songs for TV shows and movies.
“When they determined Pushing Daisies was coming back for a second season, they determined this would be a really great fit for it.”
The song ended up in ads before the band even knew ABC had heard the song. Morgan says he’s often asked if Rescue was written with Pushing Daisies in mind, but he actually hadn’t seen it until after the commercials started airing.
“My wife and I have been catching up with it online and really fallen in love with the characters,” Morgan says of the romantic fantasy series, about a man who can bring people back to life with one touch. He brings back the love of his life, but cannot touch her again, or she’ll die.
The ABC exposure brings Seabird to a wider audience than the contemporary Christian crowd, which is fine with the band.
“We don’t care who’s listening, we just want people to hear it,” Morgan says. “We believe music is a universal language. Anybody should be able to listen to this music and enjoy it, whether they are Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Catholic, atheist or whatever.
“Being Christian guys, we are by no means afraid of the dialogue that comes with the question, ‘Are you a Christian band?’ They’re not Christian songs necessarily, not that there’s anything offensive in them. We’re not writing church music. We’re just writing music people can understand and hopefully relate to.”
The more people that relate to it, the quicker, Morgan can quit his day job.