Collaborating with an OVO affiliate is a bit of a culmination for McMorrow—he’s admired their work for some time. The influence finally came full circle this year: McMorrow’s vocals are sampled on Drake’s “Hype,” and he co-wrote dvsn’s “Angela.” You can hear it in his own music, too—songs like “A Thousand Times” and “Evil” could easily fit on a dvsn album, were it not for McMorrow’s instantly recognizable voice. Had it been marketed through Drake’s imprint, however, We Move would be one of their best releases—it’s an album full of big hooks, gorgeous melodies, and a vocal confidence that may take the seasoned JVM fan by surprise.
McMorrow sounds freed on this new record, giving all of his voice rather than a whispered part. “In the past,” he says over the phone, “I think I’ve added levels of seriousness to it very early… not that it ruins the process or anything, but it’s definitely taken an element of fun and spontaneity out of it. Whereas this time it was like, ‘Let’s try and control our ideas, but keep it as loose as possible.’”
That process of letting go really took shape on the album’s addictive single “Rising Water,” after McMorrow brought it to Nineteen85.
“I spent months just putting together this really elaborate, big, interesting arrangement that I was so sure [of],” McMorrow says. “I was like, ‘I’m living out my best dreams, I’m in the pocket and I’ve got this really interesting song,’ and I felt so excited about it.
“And when [Nineteen85] heard it, he said, ‘Yeah, that’s fucking awesome, we need to make that song,’ but the first thing he did in the studio was maybe use 10% of what I did. If that had happened to me two, three years ago, I would have been out of that studio so fast. He totally negated everything that I believe to be true about songwriting and about that song and about arrangements. But he just looked at me and was like, ‘We don’t need any of that. It doesn’t lessen the song to me that it’s gone. And if it doesn’t lessen the song to you, then we don’t need it.”
Let’s try and control our ideas, but keep it as loose as possible.
That sort of honesty was refreshing, and wholly unexpected. “My world up to that point was being in studios with the types of guys whose approach is, ‘We make shit, we write new songs, and we don’t fuck around,’” McMorrow explains. “For [the producers] to let me know that this is worthy of all of their time and all of their attention is invaluable.
“Up until this album, my idea for making a record was write an arrangement, write a core structure for a song, think of a melody, and then record that melody and find words that fit in it, that fit the natural shape. That’s sort of been my go-to way of making music. I’m a big believer in the shape of a word, and how it can influence how an arrangement goes.”
But it wasn’t just producers who were being honest with McMorrow. Self-appraisal is central to the album’s creation, and pulling back the veil was a process. McMorrow has never been tabloid fodder or gone to label jail. His approach to music could be described as methodical and withdrawn, but that doesn’t mean he is blind to the industry’s changes. “A lot of deals that people signed four or five years ago… were based on CD sales. [Artists] are getting percentages of percentages of this Spotify title album money, based on kind of crummy deals. I was I guess lucky in a way, because I was never a hype artist, I never signed a 360 deal.”