Claire Morales LOVES the color yellow. The musician, graphic designer, and illustrator made this evident with her “Immersed In Song” design for KXT 91.7, a non-commercial radio station in North Texas. Morales strongly believes in the healing power of creating. For her, the spring 2020 lockdown was used to make artwork that propels a sense of energy and optimism.
The Gift of a Guitar
Growing up in Denton, Morales remembers listening to artists like Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears with her sister. She still adores 90s pop music while also crediting her parents with instilling a love for artists like Bob Marley and the Beatles.
“Every night before going to sleep, my dad would play guitar,” shared Morales. “The songs were cool, not just kid’s songs. That was always really special to me. Growing up, I wanted to be like my dad. I still do. He bought me my first guitar when I was 11 and always taught me things. The first song I learned to play was Everywhere by Michelle Branch. I was really into her because she wrote her songs.”
Morales also began singing. At 13, she started to play acoustic gigs at local coffee shops around North Texas. After making the jump to electric guitar, she released her debut album Amaranthine in 2015. The album is a collection of dreamy, hazy rock songs centered around childhood, nostalgia, and coming of age. Morales and her band went out on tour and played numerous festivals like SXSW, 35 Denton, Norman Music Festival, Oaktopia, Thinline, Hot Water Hills, and Wildflower Music Fest.
Three years later, she released her sophomore album All That Wanting. Morales also took time to participate in several collaborative efforts that included the Wrong Ones, a five-song EP written in collaboration with Seattle’s Jena Pyle for their project Saudade Sisters. She also participated in the Elk River Sessions retreat, which brought together over 20 Denton musicians and crew members to write and record an album over several days by the Elk River in Noel, Missouri.
Regarding some female musicians who’ve inspired her work, Morales credits German folk singer Sibylle Baier, American singer-songwriter Angel Olsen, American psychedelic folk singer Linda Perhacs, and English singer-songwriter Vashti Bunyan.
Funding the Dream
While making music, Morales also earned her BFA in communication design from the University of North Texas. After graduation, she spent four years working for a boutique studio. Craving more flexibility in her schedule, Morales transitioned to working freelance gigs. While graphic design was initially meant to fund musical aspirations, the field has become another joyful outlet for her creativity.
“My parents are very creative and also very practical people,” Morales said. “They always told me, ‘We believe in you going after this thing (music), but you have to have a backup option. You have to have something that can pay the bills.’ It’s good to have something you can depend on and enjoy doing. With design, I always try to do really colorful stuff that people will look at and just feel better in some ways. I’m a big believer in really bright colors changing moods and making us all feel like kids again.”
On advice she’d share with girls aspiring to become performers, Morales believes it’s essential to make the kind of work you love and not try to be what people want you to be. She also advises it’s important to learn how to accept criticism, a realization she had in design school. Morales plans to launch an online print shop for her design work soon. And while performing live music is currently a faraway dream, she is using the remainder of 2020 for songwriting and reflection.
“The world stopping and moving at a much slower pace has been a really scary thing,” Morales said. “But at the same time, it’s given a lot of space to be inward and reflective. “That’s really good for music. The thing I’m most excited about is how stoked people are going to be to see live shows again once this is all over.”
Written by Erin Prather Stafford
Images and illustrations provided by Claire Morales
Top image by Ellie Alonzo
Performance photos by Mateo Franados
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