Born and raised in the high desert of northern New Mexico, Cahalen has traveled a windy road to finding a home in today’s acoustic music scene. Starting on guitar at the age of 9, Cahalen’s interests in bluegrass, old-time and Celtic music were peaked by his father, a carpenter by trade, and talented guitar and fiddle player. In middle school, Cahalen started playing drums in a band comprised of friends and fellow students, playing traditional New Mexican, Mexican, and country music. The band lasted 5 years, playing bars, dances and parties all around northern New Mexico.
He went on to study jazz percussion in college, in Colorado Springs, where he also continued pursuing his love of acoustic music. Just as at home playing drums in a roots reggae band, steel in a country band, or playing his own songs solo with a guitar, Cahalen spent his college years wading waste deep through every kind of music you can think of. During summers, he toured the southwest with musical comrades Jenny Martin, Juan Holladay (now of The Secret B-Sides) and Sven Hooson. At the end of school, he traded his drumset for the production of his first solo album of all original material, Subcontinent, a suite of songs composed between New Mexico and India. This turn proved to be prognostic of what was to come.
In 2008, Cahalen hit the road in support of Subcontinent. Touring non-stop for three years, living out of the trunk of his trusty Toyota. Playing shows from Bellingham to Burmingham, and Tucson to Halifax, he crisscrossed the nation over and again, slowly winning over friend and fan, alike. “He plays multiple instruments brilliantly, the voice is steady and he tells a hellova mean story.” -Chris K (The Colorado Sound, KRFC Fort Collins).
In 2009, he came at making a record with a different approach than the year long studio intensive that he had undertaken the year prior. With a catalog of new originals penned, Cahalen got his father, Dave Morrison, and longtime friends, Andy Cameron, and Jenny Fisher to join him at the historic Western Jubilee Warehouse Theater in downtown Colorado Springs, to record a live album, engineered by Butch Hause (longtime engineer of Norman Blake, Don Edwards, Waddie Mitchell and Sons of The San Joaquin). This live recording, in front of upwards of a hundred friends and fans, turned into Cahalen’s highly regarded album, Old-Timey & New-Fangled. “Most of us players should be humbled by Cahalen Morrison, the 24 year-old Seattle-based guitarist, singer, blues and old-timey interpreter, and multi-instrumentalist (six-string fingerstyle, claw-hammer banjo, mandolin, and lap slide guitar for starters). If not humbled, we are curious; how did the former New Mexico resident attain this kind of musical maturity at twenty-four? -John O’Hara, (Call It Folk).
“Plucking and strumming a multitude of unplugged strings, and singing his songs of everyday living and the new dustbowl experience, it’s safe to assume that Morrison’s primary influences aren’t the landfill singer-songwriters currently clogging up daytime radio with their cloying odes to perfect love and tearful loss. Old-Timey & New-Fangled sounds like it was recorded before a small but fervent crowd, though it may just be the reaction of his excellent Family Band acknowledging the end of songs with natural enthusiasm. They’re a talented bunch, and none more so than Morrison, whose vocal dexterity and songwriting prowess matches his musicianship. The material, original as far as I’m aware, is brilliantly evocative of times past and lives up perfectly to the album’s title.” -Rob F. (Leicester Bangs, UK)
After touring in support of OT&NF with New Orleans fiddler, Gretchen Caverly, Cahalen settled in Seattle, where he joined forces with Seattle guitarist Eli West. Soon after their meeting, Eli joined Cahalen on tours of the Northeast and Southwest. In the summer of 2010, they went into Swingfingers Studio in Fort Collins, Colorado, employing world renowned mandolin and banjo player, Matt Flinner on producing, mandolin, bouzouki and tenor guitar, Ryan Drickey on fiddle, Eric Thorin on bass, and Aaron Youngberg on engineering and 5 string banjo. The Holy Coming of The Storm, consisting of ten originals from Cahalen, one co-written by Cahalen and Eli, and two traditional tunes, has taken the acoustic music world by storm, garnering praise from musicians and fans from both sides of the Atlantic. “Cahalen and Eli are making music that the world needs.” -Tim O’Brien. “Eli and Cahalen sing about all of it. No note is left unreflected upon. They understand that when it comes to music, we are all on the receiving side, even when we are the ones playing it.” -Dirk Powell. “This is quite extraordinary!” – Bob Harris, BBC Radio 2.
Since the album’s debut, Cahalen and Eli have shared the stage with acts like Tim O’Brien, Darrell Scott, Dirk Powell, Sarah Jarosz, Zoe Muth & The Lost High Rollers, Sam Amidon, Crooked Still, The Wilders, Della Mae, Martha Scanlan, The Deadly Gentlemen, and have played the US, Canada, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Czech Republic, have played festivals like Glasgow’s Celtic Connections, Washington’s Wintergrass, and Oregon’s Pickathon among countless others.
“A really superb album with a real depth of emotion in the performance that you don’t always get in this type of music. Yes, they’ve got all the licks and tricks you’d expect of top class musicians, but there’s something a little bit deeper here – an indefatigable purity which isn’t all about the technical know-how -but just from the heart”
-Bruce MacGregor (Travelling Folk, BBC Radio Scotland, and Blazin’ Fiddles)
Currently living in Seattle, Cahalen is touring as a duo with Eli West, playing solo shows, playing alongside Kelly Joe Phelps in their new project, Solo/Duo, and playing drums in the Seattle early band, The Tallboys Country Band.