WARSAW — Andrew Morris, half of the musical duo, The Matchsellers, grew up “just south of Warsaw, off Ferguson Road,” and their latest album, “Kosciusko County,” finds him joining a long list of writers, from Garrison Keillor to Bruce Springsteen, who have found inspiration in their hometowns.
Morris, a Fulbright scholar, accepted a teaching position in Leipzig, Germany, only to find himself mentally drawn back to northern Indiana. “My subconscious for the last five years has been fixated on what it means to be an American, a Midwesterner, a Hoosier, a person from Kosciusko County,” he explained.
This fixation has manifested itself in songs with titles like “Claypool Dog Race,” “Mentone (The Legend of the 3,000 lb. Egg),” “Beaver Dam Blues,” “Leaving Burket” and more. Prior to “Kosciusko County,” Morris also recorded an EP, “The Great Corn-Detasseling Album.” The title was borrowed from a poem by his English teacher, Steve Henn, who, along with history teacher Jim Gilmer, Morris said taught him to “think critically” at Warsaw Community High School.
“As a young kid I wanted to be a basketball player … but when Coach Grose cut me from the Edgewood team, I focused more on music, theater and art. The Warsaw school system was, in my memory, pretty good about encouraging the arts. Between theater, battle of the bands, creative writing club and band, there was a lot to keep myself and my friends engaged.” Morris’ Kosciusko roots are deep. “My dad grew up in Claypool and my grandpa was born in Beaver Dam back when Beaver Dam had more than a church. Looking through my grandma’s genealogy research, I found that Monroe Morris was the first in my family to come to Kosciusko County in the early 1800s.”
His grandfather inspired “Claypool Dog Race.” “Growing up, I always heard my grandpa talk about a place in Claypool called ‘The Dog House.’ As a kid, I thought they raced dogs there. I thought there were weekly Claypool dog races that my grandpa went to, so I wrote the song. But the catch is this. I found out after writing the song that ‘The Dog House’ was just a place where these farmers got together and drank ‘Pepsi’ and played Euchre. Oops.”
It has occurred to Morris there may be a limited appeal to his songs. Luckily, Julie Bates, the classically-trained violinist from Kansas City who completes the duo, is more interested in writing “a good song with a good story” than his “regionalist nonsense.”
“It’s pretty impractical to write songs just about a tiny region,” he admitted. After all, The Matchsellers have toured Europe and 25 of the United States, and he doesn’t expect a crowd in the Czech Republic to relate to a song about “a dog race in Claypool, IN.” Nevertheless, Morris will always have a place to play where people know about such things as Mentone’s 3,000 pound egg.
“I wrote a song called ‘Driving Escort’ about working for Nelson Brothers Mobile Home Transport Company. When my old boss Joe or his wife Jan are around, it’s really magical to play that song specifically for them. I feel like I wrote these songs not just for myself, but for everybody in or from the area. When we play the songs where they were inspired, it’s a really special feeling.”
For more information go online to www.thematchsellers.com.