Will Morrison’s brand of gushing, gutsy folk isn’t naturally suited for the simmering calm of a coffeehouse. It’s just too damn loud. Performing under his moniker the Vacuum Bell, this Laguna Beach-based singer/songwriter stirs a pot of grabby melodies and roaring vocals into a stew of gripping, acoustic poetry. And the passion behind it just might punch a hole in your chest if you sit close enough. Odd, since he unknowingly named himself after a piece of medical equipment designed to do the exact opposite. After experiencing some surging popularity over the past year, Morrison is poised to rattle unsuspecting latte drinkers with rock-inspired folk that leaves your ears ringing.
OC Weekly: Is the music scene in Laguna Beach compatible with what you do?
Will Morrison: It’s relatively difficult to find a venue that works with my music because, although I’m acoustic, I play kind of a rock style. It’s not coffee-shop stuff. Generally, I’ve played in coffeehouses and restaurants where they don’t really listen to my kind of music. It’s kinda nice because I get a lot of people coming up to me who are surprised and never really listened to that kind of stuff before.
Had you experimented with playing other styles of music before the Vacuum Bell?
Morrison: I’m a huge blues fan. I like the earlier Delta blues, like Robert Johnson and Son House. I’ve always loved that music for its sheer emotional quality. That tends to be what I gravitate toward—not necessarily a genre, just the power of emotion that comes from different types of music.
You’ve said before that usually it only takes you 20 minutes to write a song. Once you complete one, do you go back and tweak it?
Morrison: The only time I tweak it is when I go for the ornamentation of it and [other] instrumentation. That is when I do most of my experimentation, after I’ve written the song. I’ll explore African drumbeats, or maybe something a little jazzy, or some light electric guitar.
Are there any venues where you enjoy performing the most?
Morrison: I’ve had a lot of fun playing at a little coffee shop in Laguna [Beach] called the Coffee Pub. I like playing before film shows and things like that, just weird places where you wouldn’t expect so much music to happen. I like surprising people a little bit with my music
What was 2009 like for you in terms of getting your music out to the public?
Morrison: The crazy thing is that I’ve been cruising through the past few years, not really doing much. And then, [since] the second half of , things have been taking on a life of their own. I’ve been playing more places and recording more things and actually getting my music out there, which is pretty great. So this past year has been pretty cathartic for me when it comes to actually starting a musical career, if I can call it that.
You have a DIY album called Talk In Whispers, right?
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Morrison: A friend of mine told me that if I didn’t put some songs down on a CD, he would disown me. [In 2009], I took some of the very crappily recorded songs that I had on my computer and put them on a CD and called it Talk In Whispers, which is a line from one of my songs.
What are some things you enjoy about performing live versus recording?
Morrison: The thing that I really love about performing is the possibility of change from second to second. You can get quiet if the audience is more somber, and you can get louder. I tend to play off the crowd a lot, and I look inside myself to see what I’m feeling. At any given moment, whether I’m feeling sad or happy, I can put that [emotion] into my music immediately.
The Vacuum Bell perform with Kurt Hunter, Marc B, Mike Vitale and I Hate You Just Kidding as part of the OC Music Awards Showcase Series at the Gypsy Den, 125 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (714) 835-8840; www.gypsyden.com. Tues., 7 p.m. Free. All ages.