How to Find Your Voice (with Greta Morgan) (Transcript)
How to Be a Better Human
How to Find Your Voice (with Greta Morgan) (Transcript)
July 18, 2022
[00:00:00] Chris Duffy:
You're listening to How to be a Better Human. I'm your host, Chris Duffy, and today we are gonna be talking about finding your voice by any means necessary with singer and a musician who has performed on some of the world's largest stages. She has some incredible lessons for everyone, regardless of whether you are a musician or not.
And trust me, I am not a musician. Anyone who has heard me sing has never asked for an encore. They've asked for whatever the opposite of an encore is. But Greta Morgan does not have that problem. Greta Morgan has an amazing voice, and she plays in one of my favorite bands: Vampire Weekend. And you might also know her from her bands Springtime Carnivore or Gold Motel.
[00:00:39] Greta Morgan (recording):
When each day is over, I wish that you were closer than you are right now. Safe in LA.
[00:00:57] Chris Duffy:
Greta is someone whose work I really admire. Whether it is her music or her writing, or even just the way she thinks about creativity in life. I love the way how, even after finding so much success, Greta has really managed to hold onto that joy and optimism in her art. And that's even more impressive to me right now because Greta has recently experienced a pretty dramatic change to her instrument: her vocal cords. And that change has forced her to rediscover her own voice. And in the process, to rethink what it means to make music.
So on today's episode, we're gonna talk more about how Greta got her start in music and what it has meant for her to lose her voice and then have to find it again. And we're also gonna talk about how we can all turn to art and creativity when life deals us an unexpected blow. But first, we're gonna take a quick break.We'll be right back. Don't go anywhere.
[00:02:01] Chris Duffy:
And we are back with Greta Morgan.
[00:02:03] Greta Morgan:
Hi, I'm Greta Morgan. I'm a musician and a writer.
[00:02:06] Chris Duffy:
Let’s start by just kind of starting at the very beginning. How did your musical journey start?
[00:02:11] Greta Morgan:
When I was a toddler, I think it was about three years old, my grandmother died. So my mom's mother, uh, my grandmother's favorite song had been Ave Maria, and so after she died, my mom started playing Ave Maria on the piano every day. My mom played classical piano. And at that age, my conception of death was very fuzzy. And, you know, I knew my grandmother was gone, but my mom would sit at the piano and she'd says, “Hey, oh, I play this song every day for Grammy”.
And I was like, “But how can she hear it if she’s dead?” And my mom at the time believed in the notion of a Catholic afterlife and my mom would say, “Oh, she can hear it when I play.” And so this concept blew my mind. Like as a very young child, I had the idea that music was the thing that connected the seen and the unseen, like music was this magical language that could do anything.
‘Cause somehow my mom was playing a song for someone who was not there and yet telling me that she could hear it wherever she was. So that was kind of my, my first perception of music and just the sort of mystical power of it. And I was always climbing up on the piano bench to sit with my mom to try to play.
[00:03:21] Greta Morgan:
I was always writing my own songs, although mostly they were silly. You know, for example, I'd take a Spice Girls melody and put my own lyrics to it when I was eight or nine. But then when I was 11, my parents got divorced and that was kind of the first heartbreak in my young life. And that's when I started writing songs ‘cause I actually needed to write songs.
I sort of realized, “Oh, this is the only thing that really makes me feel better.” I would put lyric notebooks inside my textbooks in school, and I would just be working on lyrics when I was supposed to be studying physics. And I ran a zine in my hometown and interviewed local bands. I started my first band when I was 15 called “The Hush Sound”, and we, in a stroke of wild beginner's luck, got signed when I was 16.
[00:04:04] Chris Duffy:
You know, it's really interesting just hearing even that part of your journey, because you did have this like professional success at a really early age. But, it seems like the thing that was motivating you to get into music was actually much more of the deep, profound kind of spiritual side.
It wasn't like you were chasing success. That wasn't like, “I wanna be famous. I wanna be a star” as much as it was like, “This is a really deep way of dealing with emotions and, and big issues, kind of.”
[00:04:29] Greta Morgan:
Totally, And it's interesting ‘cause the guys in, in the band had an idea that we could be successful and I always thought, “Oh, I'll just go to college in Chicago, and then we can keep playing on the weekends.”
You know, I, I always just kind of thought, “Oh we, we can just have fun and keep doing this.” And I just really loved writing, but I didn’t believe that it could be a career. And even after our band was signed, I remember telling my parents and my teachers, “Oh, I'm just gonna take a year off before I go to college and go on tour for a year and see the country.” And then a year somehow became 14 years. You know, now it's 14 years later, so…
[00:05:07] Chris Duffy:
And, and what was it like going on tour? Was it fun? Was it scary? Was it, uh, a combination of all the above?
[00:05:13] Greta Morgan:
Oh yeah. Well, I was a Catholic school virgin when I went on my first opening—I was the opening act on an arena tour.
[00:05:22] Chris Duffy:
Oh, wow. So an arena tour, that was your first tour.
[00:05:25] Greta Morgan:
Yes, we, my first band was signed by one of the members of Fall Out Boy, Pete Wentz, when I was in high school. And that was our first tour was… They invited us to open for them before their record went number one. And within a few months they had this huge record, they were on the cover of Rolling Stone, and we were the only van on a bus tour. So we were driving eight or 10 or 12 hours, like stopping to sleep in Walmart parking lots. It was such a wild, running-on-adrenaline kind of experience for a teenager. And then I would sit in the catering area before the show and try to finish my homework.
I would be, like, memorizing Wordsworth poems and memorizing America since 1945 historical facts. And, and then I went back to school after this tour and had to put on my uniform and take my finals.
[00:06:15] Chris Duffy:
That is so surreal. Oh my gosh. I had no idea. That is a, that is a wild way of starting.
[00:06:20] Greta Morgan:
[00:06:20] Chris Duffy:
Um, well, I've seen that you've written and you've shared before in other interviews that growing up, you often would hear from male producers, that your voice was, like, quote unquote “girlish”, and that they wanted you to, like, they told you to quote, “Sing with balls.” How did that influence you as a singer and as a musician?
[00:06:37] Greta Morgan:
Well it’s interesting. I always had this sense that my voice wasn't enough. That I couldn't get enough tone from it. I couldn't get enough dynamics from it. It would never be beautiful enough. The pitch would never be good enough. Like I really was just starting from this place of needing to build my voice so it would be more and more and more powerful. That was the whole notion.
And there are singers with these really big kinds of belting cries in the voice. You know, someone like Linda Ronstadt, who I was always aspiring to be able to emulate. If I had been secure enough at the time, I would've said, “Look, you just don't get it. Listen to Bobby Gentry. She has a gorgeous voice and she's practically whispering the whole time.” So I think if I had had the self-assurance to speak my mind, I, I might have been a little bit better off.
[00:07:22] Chris Duffy:
So at the time, did you feel resentment or did you feel insecurity around it or was it not that at all?
[00:07:29] Greta Morgan:
No. I think at the time I felt like, “Yes, I wish I knew how to sing with my balls.” You know, like the thing, yeah, the thing. Although Betty White has that great quote about how “Why does everyone say that you should, you know, grow some balls? Balls are soft and sensitive. And you know, if you wanna grow something, you grow a vagina that could take a pounding.” Like she has a great line about that. So really what people should have said if they wanted me to be more powerful was “Sing with a vagina. “
[00:08:00] Chris Duffy: You had all this success. You have people who love your singing. They follow your music. You eventually get to this place where you're playing with Vampire Weekend, one of the biggest bands in the world. And then, there’s this big moment that happened in your life where kind of everything changed.
[00:08:20] Greta Morgan:
Yeah, so right before the pandemic started, Vampire Weekend played one last festival in a very questionable window. I think it might have been March 8th or 9th. And the, most of the government kind of lockdown sanctions began that 12th or 13th in March of 2020.
So we played this one last festival in an area that later was known to be a hot spot. And when we came back from the show, I got very sick. There wasn't testing at the time, and there were just so many unknowns, and Everett was terrified and we were all staying at home. And so I was very sick with a really high fever. Truly the most psychedelic fever I have ever had. After my body healed, I went to my next vocal lesson, which then was online, and my vocal teacher and I discovered that my voice was wavering, just uncontrollably. And I also couldn't access the top half of my range.
[00:09:17] Greta Morgan:
It was the strangest, most surreal sensation I've ever felt to just open my mouth to sing the way I have millions of times in my life and have my voice not be there in the same way.
It was so strange and it felt mysterious, but we sort of wrote it off to, “Oh, it's stress or it's oh, you've been flying on the airplane so much or, oh, maybe, you know, maybe you should just take a little vocal rest.” So for the upcoming weeks, I did a fair amount of vocal resting. I went and got misdiagnosed by a very famous Beverly Hills doctor who told me I had acid reflux. And as I left, my friend was like, “Oh yeah, he's the acid reflux guy. He tells everybody that.”
[00:09:59] Chris Duffy:
[00:10:00] Greta Morgan:
But, but so it, it took a long time to really find out what was happening, and so I couldn't hold pitch for about six months. And finally, I found out I was diagnosed with a neurological vocal disorder by a neurologist, an ENT, and a speech therapist. And they all said, “Is there any chance you had a high fever? In the last few months or before the onset of this happened?”
I said, “Yeah, actually I did.” So spasmodic dysphonia is, it's a neurological voice disorder, which Western doctors believe is lifelong. It usually shows up in a person's thirties. It's usually quote-unquote “flipped on”, you know, that you flip the switch through vocal overuse, psychological stress, and a high fever, which at the time I kind of had all three.
So. Yeah. Once I was diagnosed with that, I watched videos online. I had never heard of this condition. It's extremely rare and just everyone's voice sounded like mine. So it felt really heartbreaking. It really felt like the kiss of death because I, I just thought “They're right about this diagnosis.”
[00:11:02] Chris Duffy:
So you get this, you know, unexpected medical diagnosis that they tell you is lifelong. And it obviously, that’s something like that, especially because it has to do with your voice and the ability to sing in the way that you had been singing, that, that strikes at the heart of what you've been doing. How did that change your conception of self and, and ideas about what your future and your career and your life might look like?
[00:11:24] Greta Morgan:
Yeah. I went through a real ego dissolution. I think people experience identity deaths at certain points in their life. It could be when you move away from the town where you've always lived or where you get a divorce from the person you've been married to for 30 years. Just a huge part of a person's identity can fall away when there are shifts like this.
And that really happened to me because I couldn't reliably access my voice for over a year. The whole first year, I couldn't reliably sing. I had to surrender the notion that I would be a singer anymore, which was the biggest heartbreak of my entire life.
[00:12:04] Greta Morgan:
Once I started to realize, “Okay, I might not be a singer anymore”, the next layer was “Okay, I might have trouble speaking in a serious way, in a way that might inhibit my ability to socialize as effortlessly as I have.” I was just peeling all these layers away and going, “Okay, well, what part of my identity really can't be taken away?”
And I just came down to my presence. Like the quality of my heart, the way I see the world, the way I listen, being able to write on the page. That is a voice that will never go away. And I just really deepened into these much, much, much deeper layers of my identity to the point where now I feel… I feel kind of unshakable because these are the parts of who I am that nobody can take away from me. And that won't go up or down.
[00:12:52] Chris Duffy:
I think there's something so powerful and relatable about the idea that when things happen, that they throw off our plan and our idea of where we're going, that we do gain something from them? And I, I hesitate to say it in that way, because I think that that makes people feel like it's worth it, or like, it's good that this happened to you. It’s part of a plan.
And I, at least for me in my life, I've increasingly had to, like, come to the realization that things can be both, right? Like you can get a better understanding of yourself, and it can really suck and be horrible. One doesn't negate the other. Like it's terrible. I wish this hadn't happened. And also, I have a deeper understanding as a result of it.
[00:13:29] Greta Morgan:
Right, yeah. A friend of mine, who's a playwright, he had a professor that would say, “Most young writers wanna go out and search for tragedy so they have something to write about. Don't worry. Tragedy will find you one day. Don't rush it.” And so I kind of feel that way with challenges in life; it’s like, certainly you would never wanna rush into a challenge just to ripen your art in some way, or, you know, ripen your evolution in some way. It will find you one day. And all we can hope is that we have the resources and tools and resilience to be able to face those challenges when they arise.
[00:13:58] Chris Duffy:
Well, I, I wanna talk about those tools actually. What are the ways in which you've explored finding yourself and finding that rooting of who you are as you're having a big piece of your identity taken away?
[00:14:14] Greta Morgan:
Well firstly, that's such a great observation because most stories don't have an ending, and even a person's life is not a grand story. It's a series of hundreds and hundreds of short stories. So I think that's just such a great observation. And being in the story is the most interesting part.
[00:14:33] Chris Duffy:
Yeah, what's helping you now? What are you using to find those like pieces of yourself that can't be taken away?
[00:14:38] Greta Morgan:
Mm, I had been living in Los Angeles for a long time, and right away, this series of endings happened. So my voice started wavering uncontrollably. I went through a breakup. I found out my house in LA was full of toxic mold and had to move out basically overnight.
[00:14:53] Chris Duffy:
[00:14:54] Greta Morgan:
Yeah. So just wham bam, right there. And I just thought, “Okay, the most important thing I can possibly do right now is heal my voice. So I'm gonna go to the most healing place I can possibly imagine, and I'm just gonna vocal rest for a few weeks.” And so I decided to live in Zion Canyon National Park in the town of Springdale, right outside the park for a month.
And I went and did that. And while I was there on vocal rest, I just started listening. It was as if I had never listened in my life, just listening to the natural world, listening to the rivers, listening to books on tape, listening to music, listening to my parents with more clarity when I talked to them on the phone. Like it just started to deepen my experience of listening so much.
And then I started almost an experiment of how much more can I hear than what I'm normally hearing on every level. So that was just one little example. Of by, by attempting to heal my voice, what I was actually healing was another part of myself. I was healing this other part of me that maybe wasn't really paying close attention or wasn't really observing the world. So the way that I'm moving through this experience is looking at healing as a much bigger picture project.
[00:16:11] Chris Duffy:
We're gonna take a quick break and we'll be right back with more from Greta after this.
[00:16:24] Chris Duffy:
And we're back with Greta Morgan. Greta's been sharing the experience of losing her voice to a severe illness and how she's been learning to embrace the one that she has now. To give you a sense of, of what that really sounds like in practice, here is an audio clip from after Greta started having vocal issues of her singing the song, Unchained melody.
[00:16:42] Greta Morgan (recording):
Whoa, my love my darling—I mean, I'm having trouble getting up. Like when I slide from a pitch up to the higher one, like hitting those pitches, like I can see the melody and my voice is just not cooperating.
[00:17:03] Chris Duffy:
I think, obviously just hearing your own personal experience would give someone a lot of, um, help and guidance. But I wonder if someone's listening to this and they are going through a tough, unexpected medical situation, what advice would you have for them?
[00:17:17] Greta Morgan:
Well, firstly, I have such empathy for anyone who goes through something that is truly shocking. When someone is diagnosed with an unexpected medical condition, it is like an initiatory event. Like you are being pulled out of your life the way your life has been. And you're being taken into this unknown. And I think for a person to acknowledge that they are now on a new journey, that’s the first step. Even if you're standing in the kitchen of the house, you've lived in for 20 years, you are, you know, you're the wanderer going into the unknown in the sense of how Joseph Campbell would talk about the hero's journey or that kind of thing.
So I think beginning to find the meaning in the story. You know, you look at someone like Christopher Reeve who played Superman. You know, he was known for being a superhero his whole life. And then he was thrown for a horse, became paralyzed from the neck down. And he spent the last decade of his life as an advocate for people who were living with paralysis and having other neurological disorders, and he became a real hero. These things also have something to teach us.
So yeah, Francis Weller has this quote: “So often we work on the wound when we should be letting the wound work on us.” And I think just that notion that there can be wisdom in everything that happens to a person.
[00:18:39] Chris Duffy:
I know from reading your writing and from other interviews that you've done that you have used this setback and finding limitations in your voice to explore other ways of creativity and, and to change yourself as an artist by maybe making an album that is instrumental, or by thinking about your vocal range differently. Can you talk to us about the role that creativity has played and art have played in your recovery?
[00:19:06] Greta Morgan:
I went on a wilderness trip in September of 2020 and spent a few days alone in this canyon in Bear’s Ears National Monument in Utah. And one of the questions I just kept asking, and again, I don't know who I'm asking when I'm asking this, you know, the natural world or God, or my psyche, whatever.
And I kept saying, “When will I get my voice back? What do I have to do to heal?” And on the third day I was there, I got this message that said, “When you figure out what to say, you'll get your voice back.” And I don't know who was telling me that. I didn't really know what it meant, but after that I started writing on the page.
[00:19:41] Greta Morgan:
And I just started writing all the stories of my life that I think about often, but had never written down, stories from my family. I just started writing every day and it was funny ‘cause it almost felt the way it used to feel when I would sit at the piano. I would sit at the piano and I would feel my hands would kind of just enter this flow.
And then that started happening on the keyboard, and I started writing every day. And I just started thinking, “Okay. I have to figure out what to say.” And the process of writing about my life and the process of writing about this journey has really helped me find my perspective and has felt, again, so healing. It's like I, there's no guarantee my voice is going to be perfectly healed so far. My voice has never sounded the same as it did before 2020, but just being able to write on the page has been really healing and transformative.
And then also, yeah, I've made instrumental music when I couldn't sing. And the other thing I did was I spent basically a year just writing lyrics, like I've written some of the best lyrics of my life. And I didn't know whether or not I would ever be able to sing them. Fortunately, now with the, um, voice injections, I am able to sing in a limited range. So I'm now able to release some of these songs.
[00:20:54] Chris Duffy:
Is there like a song from before that you feel like in your head is emblematic of the old Greta and then a song that you've written since this has all happened that you feel like is, “Oh, that's new Greta?
[00:21:06] Greta Morgan:
Yeah. There is a song on the last Springtime Carnivore record called Face in the Moon, where I just belt to the chorus: “Calling to the dark? Is anybody out there? Is anybody out there?”
It's one of those high, cry in the voice kind of belts that felt really emblematic of the way that I used to write songs. I used to really rely on my voice for the emotional expression of elevating a chorus. Whereas now, there's a new song, um, called Vanishing Path: “The life I knew is a vanishing path, nowhere to move forward. No way to turn back.”
[00:22:00] Greta Morgan:
And you can hear my, the quality of my voice is different, and I have to rely on the lyric to elevate the quality of the chorus. So it's a completely different writing style. This was early on before I had done the vocal shots. I had a conversation with Mary Gauthier, who’s a friend and mentor and an incredible heavy-hitter Americana writer. And she was like, “Well, are you writing while you're dealing with all this?” And I was like, “Well, I only have a five note range.” And she was like, “Well, so what's the problem?” And I was like, “Well, I, I used to be able to sing 50 notes and now I can only sing 5 notes.”
And she was just like, “Bob Dylan could barely sing any notes, you know.” And then she said, “And when John Prine had throat cancer, he went out and was still singing.” And she just said, “If you only have five notes, you're gonna need more truth in every song.” And so that, that kind of became the mantra moving forward is just like, “How can I concentrate more emotional meaning and more lyrical meaning into these songs where I don't have a vast range to rely on?”
[00:23:03] Chris Duffy:
So having this new voice and limited range and new perspective, how does it change the way that you think about perfectionism and art and maybe the way that restrictions can sometimes actually unlock new types of creativity?
[00:23:19] Greta Morgan:
I just think a real moment is always so much more beautiful than a perfected one. I would so much rather see a person on stage forget their line, and have to start the song over and have to say, “Oh wow, I've played that song a thousand times, and somehow I still reach for the wrong chord” because it is so relatable to see someone experience that. So I would, I would just always rather have a real moment hear a real emotion, hear a real voice, than hear something that has been perfected and autotuned and glossed over.
[00:23:54] Chris Duffy:
I think that most people, the people who we want to spend the least time with are the people who have unacknowledged insecurity. And then the second one is people who are extremely confident. And then the people you wanna spend the most time with are the people who can voice openly: “Here's what I'm dealing with and I'm struggling with, and I'm not perfect.” And some people try so hard to hide that stuff, but it's actually, that's what makes us connect with them and want to relate to them and, and be able to talk and feel close to them.
[00:24:22] Greta Morgan:
For sure. Yeah, I think there's something about how Western culture is just so steeped in capitalism, that we all kind of parade around showing the parts of ourselves that are the shiniest and the best and could be most easily commodified, you know, just sort of like, “Here's this thing that makes me a great candidate for your job.”
And I think, I think a big problem, like, don't get me wrong. I actually love social media. I wrote, I wrote in my journal the other day, “I'm an Instagram beast, and I love to feast on photos of your puppies and your haircuts.” But, but the, the problem with it is when everyone's presenting this notion of being yeah, just of being perfected, you know, like everything is fine.
I think if people wrote more about real struggles and it didn't seem like it was a plea for sympathy, or it was for attention, you know, I think if people just shared more of the truth of what was happening, we’d all feel a lot less alone
[00:25:20] Chris Duffy:
For people who are listening. What are three things that you would say to a regular person listening to the show about what they should do to bring more creativity or music or art into their life?
[00:25:32] Greta Morgan: The first is noticing when you are experiencing wonder. Or when you're experiencing curiosity. It could be as simple as every day when you walk home from work, you stop in front of the jujitsu studio and you look in and you watch them doing martial arts and you think, “Wow. That is a really special thing.”
It could be that simple. It could be just a noticing, just a moment of curiosity or wonder, and then starting to amplify it, you know, like in this example, “Why, why do I keep looking at the jujitsu studio? What do I need to do? What, maybe this is something I need to learn. Maybe if I learned how to do this, I'd feel so powerful that I wouldn't need to walk around with a huge superiority complex. Or whatever it is.” So just noticing and amplifying wonder is the first thing.
[00:26:19] Greta Morgan:
The second thing is acknowledging all the ways you are already creative. Like, look at what you already get to have creatively. Maybe you are incredible at meal planning for a party. Maybe you are amazing at booking an itinerary for a road trip. Maybe you organize your bookshelf in the most aesthetically fantastic way possible. And just acknowledging, “Okay, if I can do that, I can probably do other things.” That's more of a confidence booster, but just sort of acknowledging, “Okay. I do have creative skills and so I'm going to apply it to something else that really interests me.”
I think being playful is a great way to be creative and to give yourself permission to not be good. Everyone has an inner critic inside of them. Maybe we should all name ours and just talk to them. but everyone has this voice in their head that will come up at some point and tell them they're not good enough to be a tango dancer or a watercolor painter or whatever it is that you aspire to be. And so I would encourage people to break up with their inner critic for a short period of time.
You could say, “Look, until Memorial day, I'm gonna break up with you and I will meet you again on whatever this date is. And, and then we can negotiate.” But even, even breaking up with your critic for two hours. Just saying, “Alright, I'm gonna paint. I'm gonna, you go get a cup of coffee while I paint. And then I'll meet back up with you at four o'clock and you can tell me something nasty about myself.” So just allowing ourselves the freedom to play without criticism.
[00:27:58] Chris Duffy:
I love that. I also think for, for myself, one thing that has been so helpful in a creative process is I, I have that critic big time and, and it often stops me from, you know, a more ambitious project. It keeps me to smaller things. And so when I'm trying to do something like write a script for a pilot or write a movie script, things that are gonna take a lot longer, one thing that I have to just constantly remind myself is rather than trying to do it all and have it be perfect, just small amounts.
Like for me, 30 minutes, 30 to 45 minutes, if I just sit down and I, I just force myself to not do anything other than write for that amount of time. And sometimes it means that I just sit there and do nothing for a chunk of it, but it's amazing to mehow in two or three weeks, I have the thing done.
[00:28:37] Chris Duffy:
Whereas if I sat down and waited until I was inspired, until it felt perfect or right, it just never finishes at all. So I have really gotten into the, like, “I can defeat my uinner critic” by saying, like, “It's fine. You're allowed to be bad. Just be bad consistently.”
[00:28:49] Greta Morgan:
[00:28:50] Chris Duffy:
Something that you've said that I also have thought about so much is you told me that you try and be really clear when you're making art what the purpose of that art is. Like, for example, “Is it to pay the bills? Is it to collaborate with people? Like, is it to express my own unique vision?” And that by putting things in those buckets, you don't have the kind of like conflict or angst over it.
[00:29:10] Greta Morgan:
Well, I just think it's so clear for artists to know what their motivations are and to be able to really stand behind them. Because if you wanna be the next Lady Gaga, and that is the sincere desire of your soul, you should do it and be unashamed of that desire. But if you secretly wanna be the next Lady Gaga and you're telling yourself, “Oh, but actually I should probably act like Bob Dylan so people think I'm cooler” or whatever it is, just, you'll be neither. You’ll wind up being neither of those things.
So I think it's, it's important to be really clear about what your motivations are. My motivations are pretty simple. I just like to make things that interest me. I like to make beautiful things. I like to translate my life experience.
[00:29:56] Chris Duffy:
So, uh, this show's called How to be a Better Human. What is one thing that you are currently working on to be a better human yourself?
[00:30:03] Greta Morgan:
Well, one thing I'm doing is pruning my life.
[00:30:06] Chris Duffy:
How are you doing that?
[00:30:07] Greta Morgan:
Well, one example would be instead of maintaining 20 casual friendships, I'm really deepening the six friendships that mean the most to me. That’s just one example. And also not taking on any unnecessary work. I sort of know what my work is right now, and I want it to be as strong as it can possibly be. So when I get invited to do what I call “extracurriculars”, at this point I've just had to say, “I'm sorry, I can't take on an extracurricular until these projects I really care about are finished.”
Another thing I'm doing to be a better human is there's a phrase that Ray and Charles Eames, the husband and wife designer team used to say, which is “Take your pleasure seriously.” I think that's what it was. Yeah. Take your pleasure seriously. When I choose to rest or relax or take time off, I do it as fully as I can. Like I just did a three-day trip in Utah where my phone was off for three days. And I was just so fully immersed in the natural world and so fully immersed in my own ideas and my imagination and my notebook.
And so then I come back and I'm so excited to see people and interact and do work. So I think just really taking breaks and rests and leisure and whatever your pleasure of choice is, just taking it really seriously, really respecting it. Really, if you're gonna take an hour break, take an hour break.
[00:31:33] Chris Duffy:
What is something, a book, a movie, a piece of music that has helped you to be a better human?
[00:31:40] Greta Morgan:
There is a piece of music by Ralph Vaughan Williams called “The Lark Ascending”. And I have been listening to it on repeat, nonstop for days and just letting it work on me. In my eyes, it is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I've ever heard, specifically the melodic movements between two and four minutes.
And I think songs just have this ability to do it. They sort of kick open a door in your heart and show you a place in yourself that you have never seen before. That was my experience with this song. Like it just tapped me into this field of just love and possibility, and it is one of the only pieces of music that has ever made me weep just because of truly how beautiful it is.
[00:32:26] Chris Duffy:
Oh, I love that. Well, Greta, I wanted to say thank you so much for talking about this, for your wisdom and your intelligence, but also for physically, I know that taking the time to speak for an hour is a real, an effort. So I really appreciate you making the time to do this.
[00:32:39] Greta Morgan:
Well thank you so much for having me, Chris.
[00:32:43] Chris Duffy:
That is it for today's episode. This has been How to be a Better Human. I am your host, Chris Duffy. Thank you so much to today's guest: Greta Morgan. She is absolutely incredible. Please check out her music. Support her work. She has a Patreon that you can subscribe to. I strongly recommend it.
From TED, we are brought to you by Sammy Case, Anna Phelan, and Erica Yuen who are kicking open doors in your heart right now. And from Transmitter Media, we are brought to you by the artists Gretta Cohn and Farrah Desgranges. And from PRX, we are brought to you by Jocelyn Gonzales and Patrick Grant who are both crying with beauty as you listen to this right now.
Sincerely, thank you so much for listening to the show. I cannot tell you how much your support means to all of us. And please, if you enjoy this episode, if you enjoy our podcast, share it with a friend. Tell someone about it. We'll be back next week with more of How to Be a Better Human.