WOMAN ALMIGHTY SIX: FLO MORRISSEY
One of the most wonderful things about connecting to inspirational Alchemists worldwide is the line of similarity that connects all of us. Sometimes, the world feels so incredibly big that finding your ilk can feel like a journey of massive proportions. The search to find your "people" or your "tribe" is one that many embark on. I'm so grateful for (the often criticised) Instagram for allowing this thread to immediately become tangible, and somehow the worlds corners, that once felt so vast and never ending, are brought in close and you find those souls who vibrate on the same frequency to that of your own. Flo Morrissey is one of those people. Blessed with a voice that transcends time and space, creativity that oozes out of her (visible in the way she adorns herself and the way her words pour out and draw each listener in) and a heart of gold. A true blue Londoner, with France in her heart, Flo has deftly woven all the beauty of times gone by... yet, she is a modern woman, she too was raised by conscious parents, allowing her the space to blossom into the expansive, creative being that she is. Despite not meeting Flo in person, a call before one of her shows on her maiden headlining tour this past December in the UK allowed for a perfect introduction to the magic of Flo. Numerous emails later; we've cheekily hinted at our pipe dream voyages to India and France together, a return to the UK and a journey to the sunny isle of Australia. I joyfully await the day we get to "meet" face-to-face, but for now, I'm grateful for the connection we've been able to make across the seas.
Ondine: What do you call yourself?
Flo: First and foremost Flo, but to people I don’t know, I am a singer/songwriter, but then I feel that I’m two different people when I have to do that. I don’t always feel that that encapsulates me, so often, I just say Flo.
O: Zodiac Sign?
F: I’m a Capricorn.
O: I am a Capricorn! So you’re a winter baby, and I’m a summer baby! Would you describe yourself as a classic Capricorn?
F: Yeah, I think, more and more now. I guess Capricorn's are really driven and kind of always focusing on things to keep going. Part of my personality is really like that, and then other parts I feel like I really have to work at that and sometimes its hard. It’s easy to get overwhelmed in the trajectory and the job I am doing. I think I am quite sensitive, so sometimes I retreat. I don’t know if that is a Capricorn trait!
O: I like being aware of what the Zodiac presents to us and those traits - because you feel an inkling of a stubborn ram coming on and you can reel that in. You can sort of take a step back from the situation and evaluate it based on these traits (both good and bad) that present themselves. What do you do and why do you do it?
F: I travel around, I sing to people and write my own songs. I do it because, I make a connection with people and when I do it for something other than myself. Songwriting is a very self-focused task and its often a personal thing you’re writing about, or you’re just by yourself writing. Its so nice for me to be able to connect to people and I feel that that is the reason I do it - to feel that I somehow help other people.
O: I’m incredibly interested in exploring the concepts of 21st century Alchemy, and what it means to be an Alchemist in the subverted sense. Obviously, there are many modes of alchemy; from food, spiritual thought, ethics. I am aware of sound as alchemy and it being a powerful tool to heal. Whether it be through healing frequencies and the power of sound. Do you think of sound and your music as having the ability to heal?
F: I like that question! I went to a Gong Bath in Paris two weeks ago, which I’d been to before, but I’d never had someone explain the gong goes in to your body and tries to find the things that need healing, or the things that aren’t in the correct rhythm. It basically goes in and changes that and I love thinking about it in that way. I love listening to chants and mantras so, I know, and from personal experience can see that they do effect your mood. I would like to think my music has the capability to heal, but it depends what people are looking for.
O: I noticed, after the incredibly tragic Paris incident, you had a concert. I was very aware that a lot of people (and for good reason) retreat; because obviously its such an awful thing that happened. What I was interested in was the power of communion and also the power of music, that you chose continue your show and hold the space for people to unite and almost bathe in the sound and be healed in the sound. Its so easy to get caught up in the frenetic energy.
F: Absolutely. It’s letting the bad things win, as well. I do like to believe sound can heal.
O: How do you define alchemy?
F: Alchemy for me is the natural process that anyone can go through. Having to meet different personalities allows you to see that everyone has their own thing. Their way of what alchemy will be for them, is completely different for what it will be for me. I think its when something has conscious and constant change; moving forward and back and being able to move between those and appreciating the movement.
O: I’m interested in alchemy, because it’s not the end point that you’re achieving. The alchemy is that process and so each moment in your world, day to day, month to month, in the ebs and flows of life you’re working at creating alchemy and being an Alchemist.
F: You don’t even have to think. It’s in you. It’s nice to know that you don’t always have to read a self-help book, you’ll go through what you have to go to. Or you’ll pick up a book at the right time or go the the right event, or meet the right person. Its about being open.
O: We come from a similar ilk, your father being a Buddhist meditation teacher, my mother also teaches meditation and facilitates spiritual consciousness. I feel like we have both had our minds and souls nurtured and fostered, to be expansive and aware about alternative thought. You would be the same in that you’ve probably been taught about self-enquiry. How has self-enquiry assisted you in your gifts and your life.
F: What is interesting about my dad is that he never said “Oh, Flo, go meditate”. I’m one of nine children and I think my parents have been keen for us all to find our own way with things. I went to a school that taught transcendental meditation. That in itself was good, because you are still working on the self and thinking about things on a deeper level. My parents have always treated me as if I’m an adult - still letting me be a child. Only recently, since I moved to Paris, its the first time living away from home properly, that has been the biggest sense of growth for me. I’m quite hard on myself, so I continue to enquire, “What does this mean?”. That does help with creativity, but you’re also a bit more sensitive. I watched the Nina Simone documentary a couple of weeks ago and you could see what a troubled and sad soul she was, but she was undeniably incredible. It just shows that everyone has their different things and being able to self-enquire is something that I think is very valid for me, but sometimes too much. Sometimes I will think overthink it.
O: As a fellow musician of the drumming variety. Something that fascinates me is that paradoxically, music can be used as an escape, and as a tool for grounding. I’ve always used it like that. How does music assist you in your grounding and awakening?
F: That is something that has only really come to fruition and realised this year. I think that I can lose myself when I sing and when I’m up on a stage. When you’re less of yourself that is when the best things can come through. So, in that way, I really enjoy being able to give over to something higher.
O: Like channelling the energy...
F: Yeah, its hard to explain, but you get that. Sometimes that won’t happen. I played in London two days ago and it was bringing back memories. I hadn’t been back to London and there were people I knew in the audience. In that way it kind of felt I was just getting through it. I never know how I’m going to sing a song, I never know if it’ll come out well. I just have to go with it and that in itself is very grounding. It just shows that we sometimes don’t have choice over what happens. Having to be okay with that is really awakening and grounding for me. It can be frustrating. It is humbling to know I shouldn’t have to do anything. Nothing is a mistake. When i write songs, its an indescribable feeling when you write something and you’re not thinking about the person listening to it, but you’ve learned something about yourself.
O: What are your musical influences?
F: I say when I was writing my album, from the age of 15 to 19/18 and recorded it when I was 19. I listen to more male musicians for some reason. My dad would play Devendra Banhart in the car. I then got into Jeff Buckley a lot and then his dad Tim Buckley. I’ve loved Bob Dylan since I was little. But then I don’t know if that comes through in the music, its more, for me, I’m realising that my influence is just playing the guitar or playing the piano. I’ve obviously picked up different things without knowing, its kind of like being a sponge when you’re younger. My family is one of my biggest influences. I think musician wise, those people, and more recently people like Billie Holliday and Nina Simone and more female musicians.
O: Whether your word to define it is faith, belief, the law of attraction, manifestation and all the rest. Would you label and attribute a practice to your success?
F: I put things on MySpace and sent it to blogs when I was 14. It felt like a fun and natural thing to do and I was very focused on it. It wasn’t a case of wanting to be famous, it was “What else am I going to do?”. It wasn’t like some big record label picked me up when I was 10 and I was some puppet. I’d go to meetings at 16 and 17, when people had found me online, and wanted to be managers. I’d go on my own, and some people wouldn’t be able to deal with that. Out of just luck and chance and how the world works, the right people stumbled upon it and without pushing I met the right manager. He found on a Japanese blog and emailed me. He manages Devendra who is my favourite singer since I was 10!
F: Exactly! Its just I think without me realising, things have unfolded as they should. I really a believer in making things organic - I hate that expression. I don’t try to push things too hard and if it happens it happens. If it doesn’t, move on to the next thing and find a different way of relating to people and sharing music and playing to people. I’m going to keep on doing that.
O: The video for Pages of Gold is absolutely stunning, it is so drenched in beauty. Just like Stevie Nicks became Rhiannon and Keith Richards epitomised the rock star. Do you think fashion plays a role in the theatre of performance?
F: Definitely, I feel that when I wear different things on stage I feel different. This past year, I had this thing in my head where I had to wear trousers - because it would make me feel grounded. I felt very vulnerable. I get in this thing where if I believe something, then I will continue it. When I did the French show late last year, I wore a dress. I do think that I can put on a different persona. I felt more elegant and feminine. I don’t change much before I go on stage, I’ll wear what I wore in the day, I like to be quite human about it. For now it hasn’t been that I change into another character.
O: Its nice that you were so intuitive about it, because so many people are hell bent on being ultra masculine or feminine and drawing upon only one or the other. To have the balance is so important - to say “Now is trousers, but the dress will come”. It's an important lesson! When have you felt strongest as a woman?
F: When I am on stage I feel gender doesn’t play any role (despite what we were talking about). I had this big thing in my head before, like I didn't want to be just a girl with a guitar. There's lots of them. I think once I got rid of that preconceived idea, I feel like I can be really strong on stage and hold my ground. I have to prove to myself that I am capable. That's when I feel strongest, as a woman and to be able to share something. To feel best in myself I'll have to be kind of putting myself out there. Also, when I'm around a group of women, too, I love that energy.
O: The feminine energy just bounces off each other. Being around powerful, capable women is such a trip! Who is your Girl Almighty, living or otherwise?
F: I'd say my mum. She does a lot for women in England. She works in the city and has this thing called the 30 Percent Club and trying to get 30 percent of boards in the city to be female. She just does it out of her own accord and not making any money from it.
O: What are you passionate about?
F: My family and sharing and giving to people. I'm a passionate person about most things. I like everything to be an experience which is sometimes too much. I guess it's better to be more passionate or romantic about things than not.
O: What attributes do you most admire in a woman?
F: I think being able to be soft but also strong in the way that you hold yourself. As well as soft in the way that you can allow yourself to be vulnerable and not feel like they have to reject it or feel like they have to prove themselves. I think having the balance of being vulnerable but also being able to be feminine and kind of embrace the flowers but also being able to get on a skateboard, just being able to do both sides of a woman is really important.
O: I think ‘vulnerable’ is a good word for it because vulnerable, in itself, is that balance of strength and softness and gentleness.I find there can be this taboo around using the word vulnerable to describe a woman, like it somehow makes her insipid or incapable, but I see vulnerability as this gentle awareness and tangible femininity. You can have both vulnerability and strength simultaneously!
To finish, if you had a moment when the whole world was listening to you, what would you say?
F: That's a hard one. This is the first thing that came to mind, I think it's a Yogi Bhajan quote and it's, "Empty yourself and let the universe fill you." Sometimes, that’s great to empty yourself especially when I go on stage. Then I was thinking afterwards, no, I don't also. I think sometimes you shouldn't empty yourself. Sometimes, you should see that what you have right now is what you're meant to have. I like the kind of thing of 'the universe will fill you' but also sometimes it's just like you're already filled. You don't need to try and get rid of anything. Even the bad things...you're full already. Sometimes, you just have to be what's already inside. Before I go on stage, I like the, "Empty yourself and let the universe fill you," because it's just going into that unknown period.
Also a thing I'd like to say is going to the unknown and not always have the answer has really been valuable, like realizing that so you don't have to know the answer.