Memphis songwriter’s life, music grounded in Catholic faith

| August 14, 2013 | 0 Comments

Eliot Morris to debut new ‘Rediscover’ song in St. Paul Oct. 12

Photo courtesy of Eliot Morris

Photo courtesy of Eliot Morris

Singer and songwriter Eliot Morris has tasted success on the national concert circuit, opening on tours for popular acts like Counting Crows, John Mayer and James Taylor.

While Morris, a lifelong Catholic who grew up in Mobile, Ala., is a talented musician and entertainer, he also considers himself to be something else: an evangelist — one who is trying “to be a light in the world” through his music and how he lives his life.

“I see all believers as having a role in evangelization,” said Morris, who now lives in Memphis, Tenn., with his wife Lee and five children ranging in age from 2 to 13. “I think part of Catholic evangelization is just being in the world and living out the faith.”

“People may not preach on Sunday, but they show up in their workplace and, by the way they live their lives and the words they choose, they present the Gospel with their very lives,” he said. “In that regard, I do consider myself an evangelist — it’s on my lips, the books I’m reading, the things I’m doing, and the perspective that I approach my life with. They are all informed by my faith.”

That faith includes spending time with his family each morning before school, reading and praying over the day’s Scripture readings, said Morris, a parishioner at St. Peter Church in Memphis.

Morris will be hitting the road again soon to share his faith with Catholics of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis on Oct. 12, when he performs his new song “Rediscover” at the 2013 Rediscover: Catholic Celebration at the St. Paul RiverCentre.

The song is inspired by the archdiocese’s Rediscover: initiative and is an invitation to engage and rediscover the beauty that faith in God and the Church offer (see lyrics, in sidebar box).

Morris said a theme in the song touches on the passage in John’s Gospel that says: “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.”

“For me, it’s not that we don’t experience these troubles in life, it’s that we have a partner [God] in facing them,” he said. “We have a peace and hope in the midst of life, which can be hard.”

An artist’s life

Photo courtesy of Eliot Morris

Photo courtesy of Eliot Morris

Morris has experienced his share of ups and downs in the music business.

He grew up as one of six children in what he calls a “rambunctious” but very creative and joyful household. His mother “approached Jesus in a very personal way,” he said, perhaps influenced by some of her southern Protestant friends. On the other hand, his father’s side “was very disciplined,” he said, and Morris’ grandmother continues to participate in daily Mass and prayer.

As a child looking for attention “the dinner table and the living room were a stage of mine,” he said, “and music has always been part of my family’s DNA.”

One day, his father brought home a CD player and a Motown recording. Eliot became “lost in music,” he recalls, and eventually wanted to create his own. He started to play the guitar and write songs.

But a career in music wasn’t on his mind at the time. He studied finance at Auburn University while playing occasional open mics. After graduation, he got married and he and his wife had their first child.

He was still writing songs, however, and he and his wife felt the songs were good — good enough that he should try to “make a go of it” and record them on his own.

His big break came when Universal signed him to a record deal. He released the album “What’s Mine Is Yours” in 2006 and toured the country. But the album didn’t sell enough copies, and he and Universal parted ways in 2008.

Passion and purpose

But another break came when he met Matthew Kelly, the best-selling author of “Rediscover Catholicism” and founder of the Dynamic Catholic Institute. Morris said seemingly “divine circumstances” brought the two together.

“It’s crazy. He had seen me play in Chicago,” Morris recalled. “I was opening for Counting Crows and the Goo Goo Dolls that summer in 2006. He was early enough to catch my set — I was the first of three. He liked it enough to buy my record.”

When Morris found out that Kelly would be speaking in Mobile, Morris reached out to him. Today, Morris travels around the country as part of Kelly’s Passion and Purpose Live retreats that help people gain a deeper sense of God’s purpose for their lives.

“It’s been a great opportunity for me to engage an audience that I, to a large degree, had missed when I was just playing in clubs and theaters,” Morris said.

Listen to and purchase the songYou can listen to a preview of “Rediscover” and purchase it online on the Rediscover: website. You can read more about Morris and his music on his website: EliotMorris.com.

Rediscover: the song

Morris said that through Kelly and Sarah Mealey, the communications director for the archdiocese, he became aware of the Rediscover: initiative and its website at Rediscover-faith.org.

“There was something inspiring there,” Morris said. “So I just jumped in and wrote the song. It kind of came relatively quickly . . . and I felt like it fit” with the initiative’s mission and goals.

“As far as ‘rediscover,’ I think it’s something we can do daily — wake up and experience God in a new way through old relationships and new relationships,” he said. “Each moment, if we have the eyes to see, can testify to a living God. The challenge is having the eyes to see, and engaging and presenting the Gospel in a complicated and sometimes dark world.”

Morris said all of his music is informed by a Catholic perspective, addressing all aspects of life — the positive as well as negative. He considers all of his songs “Christian songs” on some level, he said.

“I’m trying to help [the music] to be a sincere engagement of life — a sincere and authentic reaction to real life,” he said. “It involves suffering and death as well as beauty and love and truth and pain and whatever else.”

That goes for the music he plays when he’s visiting churches with Kelly as well as when he plays for audiences at secular venues.

“Even in the early songs I was writing, my faith is a part of those things as well,” Morris said. “A lot of the songs I play with Matthew in the churches we go to are the same songs I play in clubs. I think that’s a picture of my intent and effort to not put my faith under a blanket. It’s an effort to present it in a way that might be able to be heard in the world.”

Morris said that by looking back on his life, he realizes that his faith has always been an integral part of it.

“At the root of who I am is that there is something, by God’s grace, that I was born with — and that is a place and a hunger in my heart to experience God,” he said.


‘Rediscover’

Only Love can tear down these walls we’ve built
Only grace can wipe clean the stain of guilt
Turn the earth inside us
Till the soil and shape these dreams we dream
Till your love defines us, and reminds us
Life’s like a symphony

All for One and one for another
With the name of Love above all others
Every faithful heart or fallen brother can rediscover
Rediscover

Only hope can find life inside a loss
Only faith can find grace inside the cross
Mend the ties that bind us
Fan the flames and shape the lives we lead
Till that fire defines us,
and You find us
In life like a symphony

All for one and one for another
With the name of love above all others
Every faithful heart or fallen brother can rediscover
Rediscover

And the glory of God
Is man fully alive
Yeah, the glory of God
Is man fully alive

All for one and one for another
With the name of love above all others
Every faithful heart or fallen brother can rediscover
Rediscover

 

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