“Morgan has a voice that was made to be heard on the radio . . . inspired songwriting and passionate performances.”
“My grandfather drove snow plows in the harsh winters of Moorhead, Minnesota during the Great Depression. Two generations later, I’m a recording artist, a record producer, and the founder and owner of a successful global music company. That’s the American dream.” Blake Morgan smiles. “This new record has brought me full circle, in so many ways. It turns out I had to build the label of my dreams before I could make the record of my dreams.”
Fighting to realize a dream is in Blake Morgan’s DNA. He seemingly had it all—a multi-album, major-label deal with a music legend in his native New York City. But uniquely, Morgan had the foresight to see he was being taken somewhere he didn’t want to go. “I got off the Titanic just before it hit the iceberg,” says Morgan. “It’s why I survived.” Morgan broke free from the standard corporate music model to build something better: the ideal, modern record label. A decade later he’s done it, and his new album, Diamonds In The Dark, is the embodiment of that hard-won victory.
Soon after signing a seven-album deal with Phil Ramone’s N2K/Sony label resulting in the critically acclaimed Anger’s Candy, Morgan saw danger ahead. Successful tours and rave reviews earned him a loyal critical and commercial following. But in an era when music careers are written in sand, Morgan says he knew that if he wanted his to last he’d have to find another way. “I knew I had to get off that ship before the disaster hit, even if that meant swimming the ocean by myself until I found my way back home.” Although he was the label’s most successful artist, Morgan saw how precariously the label was positioned. He risked everything, and told Ramone he wanted out of his contract. Prophetically, and only six months after Morgan won his freedom, N2K folded.
“It was so hard, having to let that go. Having to start all over, from scratch. But it’s even harder to have your dream within your grasp only to watch it get mangled because your label has turned into a nightmare. I wasn’t going to let that happen again.” Instead of looking for a new label like so many other artists would have, Morgan decided to do something different. “I went to all the artists and bands I was already producing and recording, and said I was starting a label myself. A label where the artists would run the asylum, and own their own recordings.”
His gamble would be a winning one. Born from humble beginnings in a one-room makeshift recording studio and office and launched on Morgan’s laptop computer, that label has since flourished with Morgan’s own idealism at its core to become the globally distributed family of artists and labels it is today—ECR Music Group.
The acclaim for each of Morgan’s albums, Anger’s Candy, Burning Daylight, and Silencer, has helped fuel the anticipation for his new release, Diamonds In The Dark—an album he feels is both the culmination of the journey he’s taken, and the most visceral and powerful of his work to date. He explains that the first song, ‘Water Water Everywhere,’ was also the first song he wrote for the album. “It’s about someone heading out into a storm, alone and at sea. He’s holding out, he’s holding on, and all the while he’s hoping that something better is ahead.” Laughing, Morgan adds, “Sound familiar?”
Diamonds In The Dark is filled with that same dark hope throughout, as well as what Morgan describes as an additional yet familiar theme. “I wrote this record during a period when, once again, I had to decide if I’d have the courage to let go of some things in my life so that I could have the fuller and richer life I was after. You can really hear that in songs like ‘Haunt Me,’ ‘I Can Hear You Say,’ and ‘Best Bad Idea.’ It was a remarkable and bittersweet period, and I’ll be forever changed because of it. These songs are, in fact, the diamonds I brought with me out of the darkness.”
In addition to his producing, recording, mixing, and mastering duties, Morgan also performs all the instruments on the new album, except for the drums.
As for the future, and running a global music company while being a recording artist and producer, Morgan has the satisfaction of knowing his dream has become reality. “In order to do right by my own music, I had to build the label first—because there was something bigger at work here than myself. Something worth building, that would define our future. Something my grandfather would have understood and been proud of . . . something worth fighting for.”