Toronto artist Terrell Morris on brewing up music

28 March 2022 / by Adriel Smiley
Terrell Morris

The vibrance of the lights at Toronto bar Cold Tea creates an infectious feeling. And before that memorable day in March of 2020, when almost everything including Cold Tea closed temporarily due to health restrictions, that feeling was familiar. Pulling up to your usual spot, more excited about your favourite bartender than the night’s event. For Terrell Morris, this was Cold Tea and he was the favourite bartender. 

The Toronto-bred rapper has a storied history with the popular bar. Cold Tea has been around since 2010, establishing itself as a mainstay in the city’s nightlife. 

Morris started working at the bar and eventually progressed into a managerial position.. He likes the different ways he is involved in helping keep the bar’s distinctive atmosphere alive. 

“That really helps with me lending a hand to the culture as far as [the] venue, support, you know.” He says with pride.

When the opportunity arose to pay homage, he made sure he did just that. The latest edition of the TD Music Connected Series features artists from across Canada. In partnership with the Canadian Music Incubator (CMI), they collaborated with acts from diverse backgrounds to produce a virtual performance at a venue with some culture or personal significance to them. The choice of venue was an easy one for Morris but he wanted it to feel like more than just a live performance. 

Morris says he wanted to create a more authentic experience when creating the show. “We wanted it to play as a night out, as opposed to just a live performance,” Morris said. “We wanted it to really feel like a night out in Cold Tea. So that’s why we did it that way.” 

Transitioning between different sections of the bar you see him perform from several vantage points. He sits down at a four-top to start and eventually finds his way behind the DJ booth. At the end of the set, he performs “Fortified” unreleased at that time but is now the lead single for his latest project. 

“Fortified” is not the typical song you hear on a night out, as it takes a more sombre tone. He wrote this song after the death of George Floyd. Morris finds himself conflicted when audiences enjoy a record of his own that touches on heavier subject matter. 

“I want people to enjoy it, obviously. But it’s about something that’s a little bit deeper, a little bit, more heartfelt, like really true to you, so when people are enjoying it, it’s like, this is a strange feeling. This is a piece of art about a very tough time, a very adverse time.”

The first half of “Fortified” has the tone of a soldier preparing for a fight. The second half of the song takes an unexpected turn. “It really flips because it’s like, this is what we need to do to save us, then the B side is like the worlds on fire…it comes on becomes almost like a post-apocalyptic vibe, so to speak, ” Morris said.

“Fortified” is from his upcoming project, a product of the pandemic in its own special way. It had been months since he had been to the studio, in the early days of the pandemic he was mostly recording from home. On the way home from a birthday party he was invited to a studio session and the rest is history. 

“This is like six, seven months since my first studio session. That night we made the intro to the EP and we spent the next year making the rest of the project and (that night) was my first time working with everybody in that studio.”

Off the success of Lavender, this unnamed project is an important one. When asked “if this project was a film what would be the elevator pitch?” He took his time to reply. Inquisitively raising his brow he searched for something concise. After extended contemplation, he described his EP as, “ a story about a man stuck in time just looking for a way out.”