Christen Morrell’s newest single “Love to Love You” starts with slow, endearing lyrics and begins to build — like bubbles about to burst — before surging into a catchy, exuberant chorus that is sure to make listeners jump up and dance.
Released on July 12 and produced with the help of Joe Begalla and Cairo Marques-Neto, the song accomplishes a goal that Morrell strives for in all her music: to spread happy vibes and express her idea of authentic love.
“Gratitude can look different in so many ways,” Morrell said. “I try not to take life too seriously. Like anyone, I experience the spectrum of emotions — anxiety, fear, sadness — but growing through those moments and allowing yourself to feel through them can bring about the most beauty.”
A singer-songwriter, electronic performer and producer, Morrell started writing music while she was a student and three-sport athlete at Severn School. Her earliest artistic memories are of writing poetry, playing piano, taking voice lessons and performing in school musicals. She grew inspired by artists like Maggie Rogers, Bleachers, and MisterWives.
She was later accepted into the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, after auditioning with “Stars” by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Morrell then started her first year at the college’s satellite campus in Valencia, Spain.
At age 19, Morrell was signed to Disrupción Records, a Valencian label, for eight months while she produced her self-titled, four-song debut EP.
“A lot of my music comes through self-reflection, prayer and meditating on what I believe authentic love to be,” said Morrell, who grew up in Arnold and now calls Annapolis home. “A lot of my values are planted in my lyrics.”
Morrell gained valuable performing experience during her year abroad, and upon returning home, she penned “To The Water!” a tune about growing up on the Severn River.
Through a crowdfunding campaign on Plaid Dog, she raised $11,000 to produce new music. Although she has enough material for another EP, she plans to continue releasing tracks as singles.
Morrell described her next single, "Leave it in the Summer," as a "sassy, upbeat hit" about saying goodbye to that summer fling and dancing into autumn. The track will be released August 26.
“So far from the streaming world, artists are emerging from everywhere and you can even release a song from your bedroom,” Morrell said. “It’s created a whole new playing field.”
As of early August, “Love to Love You” had 1,430 plays on Spotify and “To The Water!” had 20,555.
Her success comes as no surprise to Frank Donn, Severn School’s band director, who mentored Morrell when she was in high school, working on her independent senior project.
“Students propose an idea and then a mentor helps them set goals and reach milestones,” Donn said. “When Christen got the hang of something, she took the reins, and she would always put herself out there whether it was open mics or as a soloist in many of the school concerts.
“I’ve had a lot of students with goals of creating albums and they’ll throw out an arbitrary number,” Donn said. “They might say, ‘I’m going to write 10 songs,’ but then I have them scale back. Christen did a full album.”
Donn and Morrell used to experiment with layering her voice and adding violin to some tracks. He also gave her advice about self-promotion and getting into a venue for live performances when she returned home following her first year at Berklee.
“With Christen, it didn’t seem like me mentoring,” he said. “It felt like a creative brainstorm. She came up with as many if not more ideas as I did.”
Marques-Neto, a producer, said Morrell’s flexibility and willingness to explore new ideas makes her music special.
“I also really appreciate how she’s open to trying things out and thinking outside of the box, whether it’s new some vocal arrangements that we’ll write on the spot or pushing the boundaries of the instrumentation to see where it might take us,” Marques-Neto said.
Morrell looks forward to releasing new music this fall. She is also focused on a Berklee mentorship program called She Knows Tech. The program teaches female students how to use Ableton for producing, live performances, or engineering in the studio.
She hopes listeners find solace and affirmation in her lyrics and beats.
“I just want it to feel like a warm hug that comforts people in all stages and seasons of life,” Morrell said.