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When the world shut down, MorMor created music to lift his own spirits

Seth Nyquist, who performs as MorMor, is headlining at The Sinclair Sunday.Joshua Gordon

Hailed by Pitchfork as “pop’s new auteur” in 2018 for his breakout single “Heaven’s Only Wishful,” Canadian indie-pop artist MorMor heads to The Sinclair Sunday for his first local headlining show.

Seth Nyquist, 31, who performs as MorMor, is a rising star known for his psychedelic production and eerie falsetto. Nyquist released his debut album “Semblance” in November. Ahead of his first Boston show, Nyquist spoke with the Globe about how the pandemic affected his music, changing his mind about love songs, and meeting Rick Rubin.

Q. What is your writing process like?

A. I feel that a lot of the lyrics come from the subconscious, and the music kind of unlocks that. If I’m starting something up [for] the first time, I’m coming up with melodies, I’m freestyling things. And words are often kind of being strung along through that. As my process has developed, I usually stick to things that are coming out through that first pass, rather than trying to control the direction of the song. So all those parts are kind of taking place at the same time.

Q. Did you make an intentional effort to change your sound on “Semblance?”


A. Oh, I definitely did.

Once we were starting to enter into the pandemic, I think I used more upbeat kinds of ideas and tempos to counteract the repetitiveness and the mundanity of the daily life that I was living. I felt that it was more appropriate to go in that direction than to kind of double down on these really heavy things that we were all feeling. I kind of wanted to give people something else. Because I needed it.

Q. What kind of mood or experience is “Semblance” trying to create for listeners?

A. I think it was really sensory. A big thing for me with this record was tempo. I [had been] playing with a lot of the same tempos. I think coming off of tour, I was looking for more jolts of energy, and I felt that people hadn’t seen that side of me.


Going from “Dawn” into “Seasons Change” to “Far Apart” was an opportunity to give some people a jolt of joy and excitement. I kind of viewed the journey I wanted to take people on as accepting that there are other aspects of life than just reflecting on the existential or the depressive side.

Q. What particular sides of you were you looking to show listeners?

A. I’d usually shied away from love songs or dealing with those themes, as I hadn’t really developed my understanding of them. So I think in part it was just an opportunity to take a risk and open up in that way.

Q. Why’d you shy away from love songs in the past?

A. I don’t think that I’d experienced heartbreak, truly. I also always found them a little bit corny, maybe because I hadn’t experienced the level of heartbreak that I had while writing this. I find that the existential part of writing, and being able to feed into that part, allows me to interpret things many different ways. And I think often love songs are written in a very direct way, which prior to this I wasn’t really interested in.

Q. What was the most challenging song on the album to write? Was it a love song?


A. “Don’t Cry” was one of the first songs that I completed on the record, and I think it was a turning point. I was trying to control the narrative up until that point, and I had a discussion with my Mom about writing and what I was feeling, and she kind of encouraged me just to get out of my own way.

Q. What did that look like?

A. For me, relinquishing a sense of control. You might have a fixed idea of “Oh, this is what I want the project to be and sound like,” and that might not align with the feelings you’re truly having. I think there’s an element of risk in that, and it’s scary. I couldn’t control exactly where [”Don’t Cry”] was going to go, but I had to trust that it would end well.

Q. What’s the best reaction that you’ve gotten from a listener?

A. On a personal level, meeting Rick Rubin was a really big one for me. My last album was really inspired by [Red Hot Chili Peppers’] “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” [which Rubin produced], and it aligns with my viewpoint on what quality is and what music can be. And so to be in that lineage to some degree in terms of being accepted by that, I think that was really a standout for me.

I remember when I was a kid, watching many of these types of producers; I would look at tutorials on YouTube or listen to interviews and try to just figure certain things out, recording techniques and stuff like that. So to kind of have that acceptance from a lot of these kinds of really impactful producers — I cherish that.


Interview was edited and condensed.


With Arima Ederra. At The Sinclair, Cambridge. Jan. 22 at 8 p.m. $25. axs.com/events/450341/mormor-tickets