Jan 15, 2016 10:42AM
By Greg Jerrett
I’m gonna be so honest with you right now it will piss...you...off. I started writing music at seven. Music just comes to me. I don’t read music. The shit just happens and I just go with it and I just go with it ‘til I can’t go anymore.”
Dominique Morgan, orator of the aforementioned, was a show choir kid at Benson High. At age 14, he came out as gay to his family, “who were cool with it.” He left home during his senior year, “making a stink about being grown,” and followed friends to UNL, where almost no one knew he wasn’t enrolled or that he got by sleeping in cars. Bad checks led to prison.
That was before 2009. Now he is one of the metro’s most celebrated R&B recording artists and a prominent activist. Morgan recently headlined at the Baltimore Pride Celebration, which he described as a highlight of his career.
Morgan is involved at various levels with the Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network, Queer Nebraska Youth Network, the NAACP, Urban League Young Professionals, Metro Omaha Tobacco Action Coalition, and the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards. He founded Queer People of Color (QPOC), a group whose focus is providing diverse, local role models for LGBTQIA youth.
An unguarded man expressing his pain and hope on- and off-stage, Morgan brought himself and his fans to tears during an acoustic set with Kevin Sullivan of Bells and Whistles during the 2015 OEAA nominee showcase at Reverb Lounge. His album, Loveaholics Anonymous, is a well-received tribute to the highs and lows of romance, earning him three nominations for best R&B artist, album of the year, and artist of the year. A holiday album, Dom’s Favorite Things, launched in late 2015. If the past is prologue, the next act for this Omaha original could be biblical. What comes after a year like that?
“I’m not worried about that,” says Morgan with a sincere, charming theatricality and flair, but no bull. “I don’t want to be stuck. It’s time for a break.”
Independence has perks. Morgan is allowing himself time for creative recharging.
“Time to catch a breath and start over fresh. ‘Loveaholics’ is a good, solid album. It’s going to ride me out for another year. With no label, I’m not forced to put out ‘stuff.’ I feel like there’s some things I haven’t done yet musically and I need to take a break to be able to be open to it.”
Morgan says he struggled early on with being open about his painful past.
“What I was missing for the longest time was focusing on me,” says Morgan, admitting that leaving his prison life out of his published music created imbalance in his new life. “I treated [that life] as if it didn’t exist. It’s hard to balance the two when my music comes from my experience. There would be songs I would write about, but wouldn’t record them or I would record them and never release them. How do you write from those experiences, but you won’t talk about those experiences?”
Working with at-risk teens helped tip the balance toward full disclosure for Morgan.
“When I was working with young people and discussing my process of coming out at a young age, there were so many levels with these young people that I could have worked on, but I wasn’t because they were things I didn’t want to talk about or deal with.”
Ultimately, the superhero in Morgan opted to open up, using his greatest strength—experience—to connect with everyone needing a loving example. Fusion is one of Dom’s favorite motifs.
“It’s been hard because for a while, people were like, ‘What does he do? Is he a musician? Is he an activist?’ Soon people realized that I blended the two together.”
When Morgan started receiving notice from the media, he was understandably leery of the attention. Exposing one’s inner most self, as well as past crimes to the world, can be discombobulating, especially when left in the hands of another writer.
“I was really nervous about having an open conversation about my life. I wanted to talk about music. I wanted to talk about my ‘this, that, and the other,’ but you have to be able to talk about everything. This last year has been the first time that I’ve been open to talking about everything.”
“I did hide for a while,” Morgan continues. “My formative years were not the best. I’m a reinvention of myself. I thought, ‘Do I let people see this shiny, glossy version of Dominique Morgan, which is really safe and comfortable, or do I get outside of my head?’”
Reinvention, acceptance, love, fusion, music, and activism. Dominique Morgan brings it all together.
“It’s part of the process. You can’t reinvent yourself without embracing your old self.”
Visit dominiquemorgan.com to learn more.