Ian in Your Ear: Meet JT's Best Friend

Credit: Joe Kohen/WireImage.com

As if Justin Timberlake didn't deliver enough blue-eyed soul, meet his BFF since he was 10, Matt Morris. The dreamy crooner is also signed to his buddy's record label and just released his heartwarming debut disc, When Everything Breaks Open.

We caught up with him exclusively after his packed New York City album release show at Drom in the East Village Jan. 12 to discuss the new disc and growing up with an icon.

UsMagazine.com: Who are some of your musical influences? I know you and Justin are good friends -- is he one of your influences?

Matt Morris: [Justin and I] listened to a lot of the same music growing up. We spent a lot of time singing together when we were younger. We both had really high voices. It's always been about the voice for me. If it wasn't a singer, it was anyone who did what they did -- with soul.

Us: Tell me about your album title, When Everything Breaks Open. What does it mean?

MM: The line comes from the bridge of the song "Live Forever" [Track 5 on album] which I cowrote with my husband Sean [Michael Morris]. The lyrics symbolize and second coming. My husband came in and said, "I have some lyrics for you, I want you to consider these" and it's come to mean a lot of different things. The way it fits into the song means one thing. On a personal level, its the idea of everything opening up right now. The record's coming out, the world is changing, and sometimes that's a little scary. It comes together and it has to break apart, in some ways. It's a joyful and exciting and uncertain time.

Us: You've known Justin Timberlake since you were 10, right?

MM: He has been really influential with all of this. He was 12 and I was 14 when we met on the Mickey Mouse Club. We know each other in a very unique way. There aren't a lot of people in my life -- or in his life -- who knew us before we were really exposed to the professional musicianship and artistry of the music industry. It has really changed both of our lives and opened us up in an amazing way. We have that in common -- but even more than that -- we have a musical connection that some people have with siblings. So you can say that we are like brothers in that we think a lot alike musically. His family treats me like I am a part of the family. We have that exchange between us. I am unbelievably grateful for what he has done. Everyone is here because he put his name on a line and said, "Look! You really need to listen to this guy!"

Us: Is it intimidating working with Justin?

MM: Not at all. We hold each other accountable to do our best work and we treat each other like equals. So no -- it's not intimidating -- it's inspiring.

Us: Are you protective over JT when stories come out about his relationship with Jessica Biel?

MM: I don't pay a lot of attention to the headlines that come out about him but I think I am a little protective over him. He is a good, strong man who knows how to live a good live and take care of himself. So, yeah, I keep boundaries about what I talk about and what I share. We have a musical relationship and our friendship is something that is sort of ours.

Us: You said in an interview that after Mickey Mouse Club you wanted to "just go to high school." Now that you have a record -- what do you want out of your career?

MM: I feel like the timing is really right now. Mostly because I feel like I have a life I feel secure in and grounded in. Had I rushed into making a record when I was 17 or 18, I don't think I would have had the life experiences necessarily to allow me to write with the level of conviction that I do now. And I feel like now its not all about this -- people are responding to my music and it's great because after all this -- I can go home, because I have a life. That has been the most amazing byproduct of all of this.  

Us: What are some of your favorite NYC spots to hang out?

MM: [Justin’s restaurant] Southern Hospitality has the best mac 'n cheese in town. If you're not from here, the best part about New York is -- if you're wandering around enough, you'll find something amazing.

For more on Matt Morris, check out his Web site.