Get to Know the Feminist Pop of Morgan St. Jean: “I consider myself a bad bitch!” (6/15 at MilkBoy)

This weekend, self-proclaimed Feminist Pop Princess Morgan St. Jean will kick off the “This Is For Life” North America Tour, her first-ever headlining trek.  The five-date East Coast jaunt...

This weekend, self-proclaimed Feminist Pop Princess Morgan St. Jean will kick off the “This Is For Life” North America Tour, her first-ever headlining trek.  The five-date East Coast jaunt comes in support of the LA-based singer/songwriter’s My Mind And I EP (which dropped this April) and includes a stop at our very own MilkBoy next Saturday, June 15th.  Last week I got a chance to chat with Morgan St. Jean via Zoom, who told me basically everything you’d need to know about her current era, which all started with her 2022 single “Not All Men” going viral literally overnight.

Izzy Cihak: You recently released My Mind And I.  How do you feel like the EP compares to previous releases?

Morgan St. Jean: I think this is probably one of the most honest EPs I’ve released.  I’m definitively vulnerable in general; that’s kind of one of my things, I have a tendency of sharing potentially too much.  But with this one, it really was about my internal world more so than ever before.  The song “Breadcrumbs” is so sad that I almost didn’t want to release it.  There’re very few songs I felt scared to release because they were so honest, but that’s one of them.

And then, for example, the title track is about my mental health struggles.  When I was first going through that and I got on medication (which I’m pretty open about), I was very ashamed for a little while, so I didn’t really want to release that song.  What made me want to release it in the end is I realized my fans really deserved to hear that, because I know so many of them struggle with the same things.  And why would I be ashamed of that?  I would never judge someone else for experiencing those things, so why would I judge myself?

Izzy: I realize that this is like an enormous question but, considering that your solo career is still relatively new, what have been some of the personal highlights of it so far?

Morgan: Getting to tour has been a dream come true for me.  I always, always, always wanted to tour.  I would say I write music so that I can sing it.  Getting to be in front of a group of people who are all relating on these same subjects, I’m just so blown away and inspired by the people that listen to my music and the people that they are.  So, to get to be in front of them is the coolest thing ever.  We get to talk, and I get to know who they are as human beings.  It’s just so special.

Opening for X Ambassadors was really, really cool, because they’re a band that I’ve listened to since I was little.  They’re so talented and kind and their crowds were amazing.  Also, people who get my lyrics or my autograph tattooed…  That’s crazy!  Whenever that happens, first of all, I’m like, “Are you sure?”  It’s wild, but it’s so validating.  This industry is so tough, and it’s really good at breaking someone down and making someone feel rejected and not good enough, so moments like that are just mind-blowing to me.

Izzy: I know that you characterize your music as “feminist pop,” so I’m curious exactly what that means and entails to you?

Morgan: I think I kind of stumbled into that, a little bit, and I’m really, really proud of it.  I released my song “Not All Men” a couple years ago.  That happened very quickly, and it was kind of this accidental thing.  I was just online, and I had been writing songs, and they’re not bad songs, by any means, but just very different.  I was just writing the kind of classic pop songs that are talking about love or breakups or whatever.  That’s fine, I still do that to this day, but I really hadn’t delved into this world of social issues and writing songs that are about things I hadn’t really heard songs being written about before.

I saw that #NotAllMen was trending on Twitter, and it was in the same week that I had heard all these women talking about their experience with MeToo, and I had kind of been through my own experiences with that.  That same week, one of my best friends told me this story about how she had been seeing this guy, and he was trying to pressure her to hook up with him, and she kept saying no, and his exact words were, “Stop saying no.”  So, that’s why I have the lyrics, “We say no but they still hear yes.”  It was just this culmination of all of these things at once.

I wrote “Not All Men,” honestly, within like 10 minutes.  And I put it on TikTok and it got like a million views in a day.  That really inspired me to write music about things that I feel so strongly about, because it showed me that people want to hear it.  People want to know that they’re not alone.  People want their feelings about these subjects put into art.  I was just so inspired by that.  All these women came forward and told me their stories, and I just kind of kept going from there.  I was like “What do I know?”  I know about being in this world as a woman.

Izzy: This might be a complex follow-up question, since you were talking about how you kind of stumbled into it, but what would you consider to be the origins of feminist pop?  Meaning, who are the artists to have come before you that you feel best embody that sound and sentiment that you’re kind of now identifying as, or that most inspire that?

Morgan: That’s a really, really, really good question.  I think any woman, or any artist in general, who goes out there and is unapologetically themselves and says things that are polarizing and maybe not going to be received positively by everybody, I think that is super powerful.  My dad watched this documentary with me a year or two ago — right around when I put out “Not All Men,” because he was so proud of me — about Helen Reddy, who put out “I Am Woman.”  And that is so cool.

The Chicks, for example, were blacklisted from country music for speaking out about politics.  Billie Eilish, she’s crushing it right now and she’s just so unafraid to be who she is and say what she wants to say.  I think she’s inspiring a lot of young people to live authentically.  I think Sam Smith is a really great example, coming out as non-binary and dressing in traditionally women’s clothing.  Harry Styles is another great example.  I admire people who are brave in their art and aren’t trying to appeal to everybody, because they know that that doesn’t work anyway!  There is no world in which every single human being agrees with you and likes you.

Izzy: You’re about to kick off your first-ever headlining tour, which is so exciting!

Morgan: You’re gonna come, right?

Izzy: Yeah!  I’ll definitely be there!  It’s not a ton of dates, so I was really excited that you’re going to be here at MilkBoy!  What can be expected of the live experience?

Morgan: Hopefully we are adding more dates!  This is my first headline tour, so this is like a testing ground to see…  I don’t know if people wanna come see my show!  Ya know [laughs].  So, hopefully we will be adding more dates around the US very soon.  So, that’s exciting!

I want my live show to be a safe space.  I want people to go in and feel like they can be everything they are: the good, the bad, the messy, the vulnerable.  I want people to feel like they’re in therapy, almost, and that they don’t have to put on a mask that they feel like they have to wear when they’re in the world.  Because I feel like that’s so common!  We go into the world, and we feel like we have to be this certain version of ourselves to please other people.  And I just want everyone who walks into that room to feel like they don’t have to do that.  I want them to be really proud of who they are!

Sonically, we’ve got a full band, which I’m really excited about.  Alex, who I do everything with, has put his heart and soul into this show.  And we have so much fun, he and I and Nick, our drummer, just coming up with different transitions that feel so popstar and so frickin’ cool.  And the intros are all really big!  I just wanted it to feel like the most alive experience, if that makes sense.  I want all the highs to feel really high, I want the lows to feel really vulnerable, I want people to feel supported and loved and seen and validated.  There’s fun moments, there’s moments where we’re gonna dance, there’s moments where we’re gonna cry, and everything in-between!

Izzy: Your music tends to be really big and kind of epic, and MilkBoy is kind of this classic barroom, this like long, dark, narrow space.  So, I’m curious how you like playing in these kinds of like super-duper sweaty, intimate settings?  They tend to be my favorite kind of spaces.

Morgan: Oh, I love it!  There’s something just magical about that!  To get to really look people in the eyes and hold their hands and, you said sweaty, we’re literally sweating on each other [laughs].  I just want to be around “my people,” and the people who listen to my music are those people.  I feel this deep connection with my fans.  I’m not a surface level person.  I’m the last person who would ever be like, “Look at the weather…”  I wanna know people’s soul!  So, I think these intimate spaces are such a cool way to get to do that and to make every single person in the room feel seen.  That’s really what I want.

I’ve played all different types of stages.  I’ve played stages where there’s literally a pole in front of the stage, and it’s like, “How do I navigate this?”  And then with X Ambassadors, I was playing shows for 3,000 people.  And that’s just a totally different experience.  But there’s something just so cool and special about playing intimate rooms.

Izzy: I don’t know if you still talk to them, but I actually saw X Ambassadors close to ten years ago at MilkBoy, when they were sort of starting out, but it sold-out well in advance.

Morgan: Wow!  That’s amazing!  I’m so inspired by them.

Izzy: On the note of your fans, have you noticed patterns in the kinds of people who seem to best “get” or most enjoy your music?

Morgan: Yeah, for sure!  I mean, I’m not for everybody and that’s totally okay with me [laughs].  I know that and I’m really okay with that, because I think I would rather say something that not everybody agrees with, that I think is really important, than say nothing at all and not take advantage of this platform that I’ve been able to cultivate.  I think my fans are just the coolest!

I was just having this conversation with a friend of mine the other day, and I was saying I don’t really have a line between fan and friend, because the types of people that are my fans are the types of people that are my friends.  I think they’re smart, I think they’re inquisitive, I think they’re loving and accepting of all different types of people and all different perspectives and all different life experiences.  I think they’re loving, I think they’re honest, and I think they’re all just people who want to enjoy life and be the best versions of themselves, towards other people as well, and make the world a better place.

Izzy: Not to detract from your music, but you also have a really amazing sense of fashion.

Morgan: Oh my god, thank you!

Izzy: You’re welcome!  So, I’m curious, what does that draw inspiration from?

Morgan: Oh my gosh!  That’s very nice, because I actually feel like my fashion game…  I’m either dressed up for a show or I’m literally in sweatpants.  I feel like, after COVID, I never adjusted back to not wearing sweatpants all the time [laughs].  But there’s something so fun about when I’m onstage, being “Morgan St. Jean,” the badass version of myself.

There’s something so fun about feeling glam and more dressed up!  Something that I’ve really been playing with over the last couple of years is this dichotomy between the masculine and the feminine.  Because I consider myself a bad bitch!  So, the first tour that I went on, I was like, “How can I look like a boss, like a CEO, but also like a girl who wants to go party after?”  So, I wore a lot of blazers and ties and things like that, really playing around with the masculine and the feminine.  I would wear like a blazer and underneath it I would wear a bra, leaning into my femininity and my sexuality, but also being this strong, masculine baddy!  CEO vibes!

With this next tour, I DMed this incredible designer on Instagram, and he’s letting me wear some of his looks on tour, which I’m so excited about!  They’re kind of futuristic-y.  The girl who was working for him was like, “It’s like Zenon,” [laughs].  I don’t know if you remember that movie… but it’s kind of futuristic-y and kind of leaning into my confidence and into my pop star vibe.  I love this idea that a woman can be sexy and still be confident and not sexualized, if that makes sense…  Like, I can lean into my femininity and my sexuality by choice…

Izzy: Well, you can sexualize yourself, as opposed to having outsiders do it…

Morgan: One hundred percent!  Exactly!  So, I’m kinda leaning into that.  And I like this idea of the future, because, like I said, I think my fans are people that make the world a better place and they’re gonna make the future a better place.  So, let’s go full futuristic [laughs].

Izzy: You mentioned hopefully having more upcoming tour dates added to these, but what’s next for you?  What are you hoping and planning for the second half of 2024?  Is there anything you’re already especially excited about?

Morgan: I have written some new songs that I’m kind of obsessed with.  And that’s exciting, because I actually went through a bit of a writing drought.  After I got off tour, I was not that inspired to write.  I had just released My Mind And I and I was like, “I just wanna focus on making content for this and living in this project.”  But it scared me a little bit, because I had never gone that long without writing [laughs].  So, I was like, “Do I still know how to do this?”  Fortunately, I think I do [laughs]…  So, I’ve got some new songs that I’m really excited about.  And I really just wanna keep touring.  I wanna keep meeting people in person.  Because, like I said, that’s kind of just this indescribable experience and feeling.

*Get your tickets here. (Although MilkBoy is 21+, fans under the age of 21 are permitted, “if they are accompanied by a parent or legal guardian for the duration of their stay at MilkBoy.”)

Band InterviewsLive EventsMusic

During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.