MorMor’s wistful indie-pop sound makes him Toronto’s latest rising star
|Toronto Star 23 Apr 2019 at 07:37|
While the songs he created in his bedroom have already propelled him on his first world-spanning tour, Seth Nyquist is looking forward to playing his first big Toronto show.
Performing as MorMor — the Swedish word for grandmother (he was very close to his) — Nyquist is the latest Toronto-born and bred artist whose songs have elicited a breathless wave of media hype and great expectations.
He has released one EP, Heaven’s Only Wishful , and is going to drop another one in May. The title tune off the first one has already garnered three million plays in its various versions on Spotify and, in the past two years, he’s also signed with September Management, an agency that counts heavy hitters Adele and Rick Rubin in its stable. That first big Toronto show? A sold-out gig at Longboat Hall on Wednesday.
Toronto is a place where all kinds of music can rise and thrive, and while hip hop or woozy indie R&B have been the default hot sounds emanating from this city’s scene lately, MorMor’s unique spin on indie pop would stand out wherever it came from.
With MorMor’s distinct falsetto and songs that deal with longing or finding your way, it is wistful music that is already speaking to people, and he’s just getting started.
“I think as far as inspiration, just growing up and listening to everything. I’ve always liked what I liked, even if sometimes it’d be embarrassing to say what I liked when I was younger,” he says. “So, like, that ranges from Wu-Tang to Burial to a Spice Girls song. I don’t really think about genre before I make something. I just make something and put it out.
“I don’t ever want to make something that is completely in the style of someone else … I’d rather just do my own thing.”
Nyquist grew up near Bloor St. and Dovercourt Rd., the adopted son of a professor of comparative literature at the University of Toronto. He attended Oakwood Collegiate, which he says helped define the city for him.
“Just the collision of culture and experiences, it forces you to adjust, and I just felt that people from my school were constantly forced to adjust and react, and I think that was really positive thing,” he says.
“With that school, I was able to see many different sides of people’s upbringings and how it affected them, and it forced me to empathize with someone from government housing projects and then interact with someone who lived right by the school, which is a pretty wealthy neighbourhood. It feels like you are entering a different territory.”
Seth Nyquist, 27, performs under the name MorMor (Swedish for grandmother). The Toronto artist has been hotly tipped for big things and is currently on a world tour that plays Longboat Hall on April 24. (Pat O Rourke)
He always gravitated to music and the arts but, when he was younger, said he was embarrassed by the attention it would bring him. He attended Ryerson for a semester but dropped out to fully concentrate on his music.
“In my life, my mom’s a teacher, so academia was something I thought I wanted. But it wasn’t the route for me. I think that was a pivotal moment, because I had my own laptop for the first time and started making music, and I became obsessed with it and I couldn’t really run away.”
That work led to one of his first songs, “Heaven’s Only Wishful” which immediately resonated with people. It got to people at Universal Music, as well as people connected to Toronto’s reigning R&B hero Daniel Caesar . Nyquist, who says he hasn’t met Caesar yet, expresses satisfaction that the song made an impact for him and did some good for listeners, too.
“The reception of the song at the time, what people were pulling from it, it was a good vibe. I just remember the feeling that this is something I created and it’s doing good for other people,” he says. “But it really just allows me to create more; I think that’s the best part of it.”
Even he’s surprised at how far its taken him.
“It’s been amazing to visit all these places, like I’ve travelled a bit as a kid, mainly to the States because I have family there. But I’d only been to London like six years ago and took a weekend trip to Paris but, other than that, I’ve never really done the whole backpack thing or whatever, or travel across Europe, so it’s pretty incredible.”
He’s also keenly aware that this is just the beginning for him as an artist. His brand of lush indie-pop is the result of plenty of overdubs and, for this tour, he’s performing as part of a four-piece band: that fits where he is at.
“At this stage, it’s definitely stripped down, but I think for me, the Toronto show we’re doing at Longboat — and I took a tour and Mod Club is larger — I just felt that Longboat, (with) what I’m trying to do right now in this first tour, really suited the energy and vibe I’m going for.
“I think there’s something powerful about giving people a stripped-down set, because the lyrics and sounds allow people to take the songs for what they are and not the production. But I think I always like to have things to be open-ended, so people can interpret them the way they’d like to.”