We recently caught up with Mia Morris from the Class of 2019 to talk about the success of her DIY music career, living in the Music City, and her time at Orchard.
During Mia’s middle school years at Orchard, she started her own YouTube channel
full of various drum covers, vlogs, and eventually, original material. A couple of months ago, she passed a huge milestone on the platform–10 million total views! But what’s most impressive is that all of the tracks on her recordings are created entirely by herself in her home studio. Despite the temptation of record labels, this confident Orchard Owl stays true to herself and maintains total creative control of all of her songs.
Mia considers herself a drummer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and an Orchard Owl for life. “Orchard was my first non-biological family and I’ll never forget the friends I made because of it,” she said, “I also still think about some of the life-changing teachers I had at Orchard knowing that they’ll continue to help Orchard students grow.”
You attended Orchard from preschool through sixth grade before moving to Nashville. Was that to pursue your career in music?
My parents had been planning to move before my brother Fritz Morris ’17 and I entered high school. I had done some traveling back & forth to Nashville for drum lessons and discovered a lot of opportunities in, “the music city”. Fortunately, Nashville had other things my parents were looking for and it’s certainly one of the best options in the world for musicians and songwriters.
What's it like balancing schoolwork while being a full-time musician? Do you prioritize social events like prom and dances for things like touring and recording?
Balancing school and music has been an ongoing battle since middle school, but my high school has many options for half online and half in-person school, so that has given me both the flexibility to complete school work on my own time plus a true high school experience. I don’t prioritize school over music; however, I’ve found a solid balance to make the most of any high school event I genuinely want to go to, knowing that high school goes by super fast.
Do you still keep in touch with any other Owls?
Of course I do! Orchard was my first non-biological family, and I’ll never forget the friends I made because of it. I also still think about some of the life-changing teachers I had at Orchard knowing that they’ll continue to help Orchard students grow. Mr. Burris was and always will be one of my favorite teachers. He changed my life and helped me fall in love with writing.
Who is a musician you've worked with that has left you the most star-struck?
I’ve been fortunate to work with many incredible musicians, songwriters, and artists, so it’s hard to pick just one. I can say for sure, that one of the earliest pinch-myself moments in my music career was when I got the opportunity to play with the Ataris
in front of thousands of people on the Warped Tour at Klipsch Music Center in Noblesville. That opportunity really shifted my mindset about pursuing music as a career.
Mia and the Ataris at Warped Tour
We've heard you write, record, produce, mix, and master your own music. How did you learn to do all of this?
Both YouTube and my father have been the holy grail for what I’ve learned about music production and recording. My songwriting, however, has been influenced by each and every person I’ve ever written a song with. I’ve written hundreds of songs alone and in groups and even if you don’t get a great song from a particular writing session, there is so much to be learned when it comes to writing styles and strategies. I believe songwriting is like most things where instruction and a whole bunch of practice is the only secret there is.
It must feel pretty rewarding to have over 10 million YouTube views and millions of Spotify streams. Have labels reached out to you?
I am very grateful for those who have watched my videos and streamed my music and they’re a part of what motivates me to make music. As an independent artist, I still get to make all the creative and practical decisions along the way. One advantage of playing as a hired gun for many artists in so many different stages of their careers is that I get to see the good, bad, and ugly that comes from signing with a record label. Labels are still the quickest route to fame, but if any fortune comes from them, it belongs to them. I’d love a career in music, and that’s going to require me to make a living over a long period of time from writing music. There’s no evidence that labels have ever been very good at helping artists achieve that.
What's on the horizon for you? Any tours coming up, album releases, things of that nature?
All of the above! I’m constantly writing and making decisions on releasing as I go. I’ll be touring both as an artist and a sideman in 2022, and may even get to tour in Europe as well. For now, I’m piling up some songs to decide when the best time will be to release my next project!
Finally, what’s your favorite Orchard memory?
Orchard as a whole really just puts a smile on my face. I have such fond memories from the fourth-grade play, band class, and Orchard summer camps (especially frisbee camp!) Mr. Burris, my favorite teacher, got a frisbee camp together every summer, and my brother, his friends, and I ate that up. We all loved frisbee so much, and Orchard had an incredible space for us to play. Every Friday, my brother and his friends would get a big group together and we’d split into two teams and play ultimate frisbee. Some of my brother's friends even went on to play frisbee in college!
Another fond memory was the opportunity Mr. Burris offered my sixth-grade English class. I had written a paper regarding the negative impact that school uniforms had on the development of self-expression, and Mr. Burris believed in me. He put that paper into a writing competition and got me to believe in myself and my writing abilities. Ever since that class, English has never failed to be my favorite subject.
Mia on stage at Orchard and participating in frisbee camps.