Acclaimed singer-songwriter Carla Morrison is returning to music brand new. These past few years, she’s analyzed who she’s been and who she wants to be, culling empowerment from both. Centering herself may have saved her life.
“For the longest time, I questioned the purpose of my existence, when I was in the middle of my success,” the Tecate, Baja California-born musician says. “I would find myself thinking very often that I wanted to die. Being a highly sensitive person, it was just a lot. It felt overwhelming.”
Raw retellings of emotional, personal heartbreaks are the bedrock of Morrison’s material, and this honest approach earned her multiple Grammy noms and Latin Grammy wins over the course of five albums. Snowballing from a Grammy nom for her 2010 EP Mientras Tú Dormías, onto 2012’s Déjenme Llorar and the 2016 release of Amor Supremo, her success grew rapidly. Taking the outdoor stage at Coachella, filling to capacity Mexico City’s famed Auditorio Nacional, and sold-out U.S. tours followed.
But there came a point when an inner voice of fear was all Morrison could hear. An amalgam of industry rules, outsider opinions, and criticism from listeners, her own gut feelings—those internal nudges toward one direction or another, the inner validation that you’re doing the right thing—had been silenced altogether.
In 2018, Morrison considered how a change of scenery might shift her outlook. A wholly unfamiliar place would demand growth, right? Morrison went big on this hope—she relocated to Paris.
“I was living to everybody's expectations, but not mine,” Morrison recalls. “I didn’t even have a personal life. I didn't even have hobbies. My hobbies were music, and then that safe place eventually wasn't safe anymore.”
She learned French, took jazz singing classes, and learned to cook in a way that benefits her own body specifically. Exploring the museums of Paris led to a study of Renaissance era paintings; in Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, she saw herself—finally accepting her innate beauty.
Before this journey, Morrison worried she couldn’t explore new sounds or styles. The inner fear persisted. With a laugh, she remembers thinking: “If I get too Dora la Exploradora, I’m going to get in trouble.”
Collaborating over the years with other artists, from Lila Downs to Calexico and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Morrison has ventured out stylistically before, but she’s not strayed too far from those ever-looming expectations. An invite from Colombian reggaetonero J Balvin—gifting his 2018 album Vibras with an ethereal intro—was another important step toward more liberated exploration.
But it’s really the perspective earned in the space she cleared for herself—this concerted effort to reflect and heal—that’s emboldened her instincts. What Carla Morrison wants today is to be happy, and for her listeners to find happiness for themselves, too.
She’s welcomed her long-standing love of R&B and pop into the mix—styles she used to shut out for fear of alienating fans. “I wanted to put more rhythm, more sassiness, in the music,” she says, adding that universal appeal was a goal.
Unexpected opportunities have since rolled in, like pairing with Ricky Martin on “Recuerdo” for his recent Pausa EP. And surprisingly, “Disfruto,” from her 2012 album, has become a remixed club favorite of DJs across Europe (Paris included), Latin America, and Mexico, too.
With her newfound sharpness of self comes an acceptance that perfection isn’t possible, but unabashedly being yourself is the closest thing to it. Standing in that knowledge, nobody can shake Carla Morrison’s self-confidence now.
“I feel like I finally learned who I was, and that's one of the things that helps you navigate life in a better way,” she says. “That was my rebirth—for my mind and my soul.”