GIVEN her family background, it is not too surprising that Newcastle musician Morgana Osaki has chosen to follow her own original music instincts in staking her claim on a career in the industry.
Osaki’s heritage is half-Japanese, half-Irish. She spent most of her youth in the Byron Bay hinterlands (Goosengerry, to be exact) before ending up in Newcastle. Her family owns Madame Mo’s Tea Rooms in Islington, and Osaki’s original artwork can be see hanging throughout the oriental setting.
A little over a year ago she linked with Newcastle musician and music producer Huw Jones (who performs as Fox Control) and they began a musical partnership with Osaki’s original songs and lyrics and Jones’ rich electronic arrangements. After three attempts, they’ve laid down a six-song EP, titled Kraken Lady, they are proud of that will be released in late November.
Last month the duo played all of the songs on the EP in an intimate listening party at Madame Mo’s; their sound is texturally rich, with Osaki’s impressive vocal range and emotive lyrics offering strong evidence of why there is a buzz about her talent. Their signature single, Life Support, wouldn’t be out of place on JJJ high rotation.
She was invited to play on the line-up at the Rock Symphony in the Vines Bowie tribute concert on Saturday at Hope Estate, and plans are firming to play a few key showcase gigs in Japan early in 2017, according to her manager, Marcus Wright of Music Development Company.
“It’s very early days,” Osaki, only 19, readily admits, as she and Jones concentrate on the intricate music first, and hope for enough exposure for an audience to find them.
Osaki is a fan of classic rock, like The Doors, but also loves Tom Waits and Nick Cave (her favourite) and finds inspiration in the music of stars like Meg Mac and Kimbra. Osaki and Jones say their own sound may never find a following on radio, but that doesn’t mean they won’t succeed, pointing to a performer like Bjork who was never a commercial star.
“Not many people play the harp. It’s kind of experimental,” Osaki says. “Like one of the songs we just did, we thought if would be interesting if we changed the time signature.
“We try to do different things, we try not to make it too easy. It’s not formula-driven, like a lot of pop music. We are trying really hard not to be like that. We want to create something that can grow.”
Although Osaki has just begun playing a new electric harp, on which every string has its own pick-up, she was raised on a more traditional model of the ancient instrument.
“My Irish side comes from a long line of harpists. My mum had a small claw harp. I was started playing right away, it was always there. I tried to play piano and violin, but it didn’t interest me that much.”
Singing is her other passion, and writing songs. “I might write a poem in my journal and something will come from it,” she says. “Usually I have a guitar at home and write from the guitar and transpose it on to the harp.”
“I like to write about a feeling, a moment, an experience that made me feel some way unique to other experiences I’ve had. So it is quite personal.”
Working in the studio with Jones, a wizard on several instruments and with production equipment, has added brought Osaki’s songs into another dimension.
We try to do different things, we try not to make it too easy.Morgana Osaki