By Emily Van De Loo
Morgan Zwicker is a Montreal-based musician. Born and raised in Nova Scotia he has been obsessed with drums since the age of 10. Picking up the sticks quickly under private instruction, Morgan found his love for performance at the young age of 13 when he was playing regular shows with a local punk band at high schools and underground music venues.
Though discovering many talented artists in Nova Scotia and securing a spot in the folk turned math-rock band The Highrise Quartet, Morgan desired more musical opportunity which resulted in his pursuance of formal music education at Humber College. Here, Morgan completed his jazz performance program with honours and decided to move to Montreal in September 2017 where the music scene would allow him to become a successful freelance drummer. Here, he has been developing a name around the city as a go-to guy for sessions and gigs. To date, Morgan has recorded with artists/groups including $KELETON CLUB, Nomads on Wheels, Hoozbah, Mile Lazarevski, Jason LaSalle, WYKAN, and Marie-Ève Desmarais.
Emily Van De Loo for Her Campus McGill (HC McGill): What is your first memory of playing drums?
Morgan Zwicker (MZ): My older brother started playing guitar when I was young. Thinking it was super cool, I wanted to get into music as well, but being the little brat that I was, I wanted to one-up him and I thought drums were just a little bit cooler. I got my first drum set for Christmas when I was 10. My first memory is printing off sheet music for “We Will Rock You” and trying to figure it out. I don’t think I had my drums set up correctly and I definitely didn’t know what I was doing but I remember getting to the point pretty quickly that I actually had the pattern somewhat figured out. I started taking lessons right after that and haven’t looked back since!
HC McGill: What have you been working on lately?
MZ: Right now, I feel that more than ever I have spread myself very thin over many projects. Almost to the point of spreading myself too thin which is starting to present some problems with choosing my time wisely and having to turn down some opportunities.
Anyway, some of my current projects include finishing an EP with a metal band called WYKAN … I have never considered myself a metal drummer by any means so I was really forced outside of my comfort zone. Also, I’m finishing an album with a Quebecois singer-songwriter Marie-Ève Desmarais where I had the opportunity to record at Breakglass Studios which is, in my opinion, one of the nicest studios in Montreal.
I’m recording drum tracks for EP’s for Nomads on Wheels and $KELETON CLUB to use to look for record labels to work with for both bands. Finally, I have been working on organizing MTL Drum Day which is a new drum festival in Montreal that I am putting together. It’s turning out to be a huge task for me to take on by myself. There are so many things behind-the-scenes of festivals/performances that you don’t think of as an audience member and it’s really cool to get the other perspective as the one putting it together.
HC McGill: So how did you come to decide to focus on music as your career?
MZ: This was definitely the most difficult decision in my life. Having all the assets to be a completely capable member of society by going to school and doing well and getting a good paying job makes it an especially difficult decision to ditch all of that and focus on music. However, I tried the school thing and after two years of it, I just felt that it wasn’t working. I built up a lot of stress and anxiety at McGill, and I noticed that the only thing that helped me to really relieve it was playing drums. It got to the point halfway through the second year that I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I had no passion for what I was studying in school and I was constantly dreaming about what it would be like to be able to play music everyday instead. It was definitely a gradual process of realizing the importance of my passion but at the point, I decided to ditch McGill and follow another path I felt so much relief that I knew it was the right choice. Two years later and even though now I still have doubts during certain weeks when I’m hurting for money or things aren’t going especially well, I haven’t seriously considered going back to the safety and comfort of a “real job”, which tells me I’m doing the right thing for myself.
HC McGill: What would you say are some expectations versus reality experiences of working as a musician?
MZ: The amount of work that musicians need to put in to make a living is hugely underestimated by most people. Before deciding to pursue music as a career, I had a bit of a perception that life was generally practicing during the day and playing shows at night, making enough each night to get by. Now that I’m in this position, I’m finding that it is necessary to be creative with how to make money and survive. Unfortunately, I’m finding there is less and less time to actually practice as I am spending more and more time organizing shows, networking, learning songs for others’ projects, and rehearsing with bands. Practicing alone is super useful, but doesn’t make a living. I was lucky to have spent lots of time practicing when I was younger so that I’m confident with most projects thrown at me now. Also, there’s kind of a give-and-take with being a musician – you spend many more hours making much less money than other jobs, but you’re almost always doing work you love so it makes it much more tolerable– and usually very enjoyable!
HC McGill: Do you have any advice for McGill students interested in pursuing music or the arts in general?
MZ: If you’re finding yourself in a position where you have a passion but you’re not sure if you want to make it a living, just know that there are always ways to make it work financially. It’s a tough call, especially when you’re in a position where things would be “just fine” if you kept on the path you are on now. Just take time – sometimes a lot of time is necessary – to envision what other paths you could take, and think of how that will make you feel 10 years down the road versus how you will feel if you take the default route. I have done many things in the past 7 months of working full-time as a musician that I could not predict 7 months ago. If you have a burning passion and are willing to fight for it, you will find ways to make it work – you just have to put yourself in the right position with an open mind and work like you’ve never worked before.
HC McGill: What are some examples of work you’re most proud of?
MZ: The biggest thing I’m proud of is my ability to stick it out through the tough times for my love of music. Two months after moving to Montreal to commit to pursuing music full-time, I found myself due to personal problems without a place to live and virtually no money so I spent almost two months bouncing back and forth between sleeping in my music studio (which was fortunately 24 hours) and a friend’s couch. Those two months gave me a lot of time to contemplate what I was doing – whether I would be able to make it work, if I should go back to school, if I should get a “real” job, etc. Luckily I stuck it out long enough to find some great connections, make some money, and make things work.
A musical example of what I’m what I’m proud of is the album I recorded two years ago with The Highrise Quartet, but I will warn you guys it’s different and not friendly to every listener. It was a huge challenge and took a lot of work. For anyone who understands time signatures in music, they’ll hear that some of the songs are very complex which is a challenge as a drummer.
HC McGill: Do you have anything particularly exciting coming up for you?
MZ: The MTL Drum Day is really my next big thing and I’m super pumped about it! I’m on the stage of promoting ticket sales. I think it will be the beginning of a pretty big entrepreneurial undertaking of mine that will grow to include other instruments and multiple festivals throughout the year featuring professional musicians conducting workshops and performing. It’s nice to be seeing one of my longtime dreams forming into a reality, and it’s just the beginning of what’s to come!
Check Morgan out below:
Images obtained from Morgan Zwicker