By Doug Hill
The Norman Transcript
“We’re super excited,” Morgan Hartman said. “It’s really going to be fun. We’ll be playing an entire new set.”
She’s the lead vocalist for Oklahoma City band Feathered Rabbit who will be kicking off performances on the 2013 Norman Music Festival’s Main Stage at 12:30 p.m. April 27 in Downtown Norman.
In 2012 the quintet including guitarists Kyle Mayfield and Isaiah Sharp, percussionist Sam Welchel and Derrick Moore on bass played the Black Watch Studios stage. They’ve been playing together since 2010. This year Zach Doyle has replaced Moore in the line-up. Hartman recently added keyboards to their original song arrangements.
“We’ve been working on a new album and plan to be recording in June at a studio in El Paso with Jarod Evans from Blackwatch as our engineer,” she said. “It’s the same place where Graham Colton has done some work.”
Feathered Rabbit’s discography presently includes a self-titled EP and a record titled “Drunk Rabbit.”
They played the Free Tulsa! Festival in 2011 and last year’s South by Southwest along with a variety of club dates. Feathered Rabbit has established a fan base in Chicago from gigging in the Windy City.
“There’s nothing like performing live for me,” Hartman said. “It’s a really nice place for me to go and when I’m not there I miss it. There’s too much inside me for it to not come out.”
She’s learned about herself that there could be easier paths in life but singing for an audience is her destiny. Abrupt transitions in Hartman’s personal life from moving residence, changing jobs and making new friends have created turmoil but she’s made use of them as artistic inspiration for new compositions. Much of it has been emotionally wrenching.
“Hard times can make for good writing,” she said. “I often feel very deeply for people and the world, which I want to come across in the songs. Some of it comes from the deepest, darkest corners of my mind.”
Hartman is a product of central Oklahoma. She’s a graduate of Del City’s Christian Heritage Academy where one of the stated goals is to “…Restore our American Christian Republic to its historic Biblical Foundation.” Rigid fundamentalism didn’t take with Hartman.
“I’m not at all religious now,” she said. “That was reflected in one of the earlier EP’s songs for sure but I thought about it for so many years that I’m getting away from it now. I was combative, jaded and bitter about it for awhile but now I’m more accepting. I’ve made peace with it and I’m trying to figure out my own spirituality.”
Although that particular inner struggle may be ended, Hartman’s lyrics now reflect on the duality of good and bad inside people that sometimes causes psychic conflict. Betrayal by friends and lovers is a theme in her songs now as it has been with young poets for centuries.
“It’s just part of life,” she said. “I’m also around a lot of really great people.”
Hartman has found a place of solace with her band mates.
“We have a tremendous connection with each other on stage and when we write together,” Hartman said. “It’s really beneficial and we’re learning to optimize our abilities together. We’re becoming cohesive and it’s really nice.”
Feathered Rabbit plays an unusual blend of blues, rock and contemporary folk. Their music is reminiscent of Kansas City’s darkly tempting The Latenight Callers and also Neko Case’s intensely personal and often attractively ominous repertoire. Feathered Rabbit wisely employ a reverence for vintage vibe with fearlessness in giving their sound a modern spin. Hartman’s seductive vocals could be those of a smoldering speakeasy chanteuse from the Roaring Twenties. Her phrasing and tonality are bewitching. In their short time together Feathered Rabbit have developed an attractive sonic sheen. They deserve NMF Main Stage exposure.
“We have become best friends with each other,” Hartman said of the others in her band. “As a girl in a band with a bunch of guys it always shakes me up a little. We have an understanding where we honestly accept each other and sometimes that’s hard to find.”
Their compatibility has undoubtedly been good for making music.
“It’s an incredible connection we have and I’m really thankful for it,” Hartman said.