Matt Morris is one of those new guys on the scene who's actually been around longer than you might remember.
Now bearded and tattooed, the 30-year-old singer/songwriter got his start as a pre-teen on Disney's "The New Mickey Mouse Club" alongside co-stars Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears. While his friends began their forays into the world of pop, Matt returned to his hometown of Denver to take a much needed break from the spotlight after his stint was over.
Still, he kept in touch with his fellow Mousketeers over the years, collaborating with Aguilera on five songs for her "Stripped" album and most recently with Timberlake on "The Only Promise That Remains," a song performed by the former N'Sync member and Reba McEntire on her "Duets" set.
Recently he found himself working with the latter on perhaps his biggest project yet; Morris' debut album, "When Everything Breaks Open," was released on Jan. 12 on Timberlake's own Tennmann Records.
While "Open" is a pop record, Morris does clarify it isn't "saccharine" or "bubblegum" or any of the other "sweetener metaphors." In fact, the Timberlake and Charlie Sexton-produced set also features some funk, soul and heartfelt ballads.
"We went ahead and took the risk of making an album that was very diverse stylistically. I think we knew it was a risk when we started out, but it didn't feel like a reckless one," Morris says. "They're all my songs, it's not like I'm putting on a mask or I'm acting like an artist that isn't me. They're all a part of me."
Some of Morris' favorites songs on the album are "Live Forever" and "Just Before the Morning," which began as a six minute track called "Be-Joy" from an album previously released by his guitarist Dave Preston. Both tracks have special significance for the artist -- they were the first collaborative efforts with husband Sean Michael Morris. The two have been together for four years and were married in California a year ago.
Morris, who recently made appearances on "The Late Show with David Letterman" and "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," has always placed an importance on the authenticity of his songs, even if it meant waiting for them to manifest organically. He admits that towards the end of his stay at Disney, "some of the shine wore off," and having to sing songs that didn't come from the heart strongly influenced his decision to leave.
"You have to make a decision to write with integrity from the start, and in time you'll have a batch of songs to work with," he says. "I've listened to so many different kinds of music in my life and been moved by different music -- it's always about just writing something memorable and good."
Drawing his inspiration as a vocalist from his childhood in the eighties, listening to soul and R&B legends like Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, and Stevie Wonder, Morris came to respect singers that weren't afraid to "stretch out and do something really bold with their voices. I was all about Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey," he admits.
For now, Morris is about living in the moment. "If the future can feel as good as it feels right now, however it ends up being, I'll be satisfied," he says. "every thing happens in time, and that time is perfect."
With such an immense talent it seems clear that Morris' time is now.