Nearly 10 years ago, Todd Morgan & the Emblems was nothing more than a high school cover band indulging in 1950s rock ’n’ roll hits, with little to no original music to stake a claim to.
As the group heads into 2016, Morgan and the band aren’t so much echoing great songs anymore as they are creating them – a shift that he says can and has brought about more joy than anything he’s ever imitated.
“Honestly, the best feeling is when you’re doing your own songs, and people know them,” Morgan said, explaining covers tend to run their course in front of an audience. “They’ll be good for you for a while … but it doesn’t give you the same feeling anymore. So then it’s time to move on and do a different (number), or replace it with one of your own.”
On the heels of the band’s third studio album, “Sweet Pretender,” which saw a soft album release this past August, Morgan says the group mostly will be playing originals from now on, including a headlining night at Harlow’s on Saturday, Jan. 2.
The transition away from being a cover band is far from new. Morgan and the band have recorded only four cover tracks – three eclectic pieces on the 2009 “Todd Morgan & the Emblems” and a rendition of Memphis Minnie’s “Crazy Cryin’ Blues” on 2012’s “Reality.”
He muses that his appearance causes some folks to pigeonhole him as a guitar-slinging rockabilly impersonator with killer dance moves, and that leads to a misconception that he’s a cover artist.
“It’s not like I’m exactly trying to fit that mold,” Morgan argues. “It’s just that I’ve taken a lot of cues from that (era), let’s say, to where it’s just a big part of my own personal taste for what I like to make.”
What that might be, he notes, is music that will stand the test of time across the widest spectrum of listeners – music that’s good on its own merit and that people will be impressed by regardless of whether it’s up their alley. With “Sweet Pretender,” Morgan says he thinks he’s on the right track.
His latest project is what he calls a bit of a departure from the familiar ’50s and ’60s rock sound many of his fans have come to know him by, to what he describes as a mixture of genres among jazz, blues, R&B and even a hint of funk (as clearly heard on his single “Love and Affection”).
“I’d like it more if people would take it for what it is,” Morgan says of his newest work, adding it’s perhaps truest in form to what he wants to put out at this point in his life. “When it’s retro-y, let it be that.”
Nonetheless, he says, don’t expect the “Johnny B. Goode” act every time, especially when he’s performing.
“I just try to be me, and I just do what I feel onstage at all times,” Morgan explains. “(Fans) don’t want to see you do somebody else’s thing. They want to see you be you.”