Tim & Cindy Morris
Written by Ray cooney
House concerts are about connection.
If there’s no one home at the Morris household, they might just be at their living room down the street.
They might be down at The 615.
Tim and Cindy Morris enjoy music. Their favorites often aren’t artists who get regular radio play. “Music, since junior high, I’ve enjoyed artists that nobody else listened to,” said Tim. “That’s what draws me to the singer/songwriter. I want to hear their story, feel who they are.” The Portland couple attends concerts regularly. Some in Muncie. Some in Richmond. Several years back, they got invited to a house concert in Hartford City. It was a modest home. About 15 were in attendance.“The artist loved it,” said Tim. “I thought, ‘We could do this at our house.’” So Tim and Cindy started hosting concerts — three or four annually — at their home about four years ago. It was nice, they said, to have the music come to them rather than having to go out of town to see performances. And there’s something about the intimacy of a performance in the living room.“We wanted a place where artists could come and do their own music and people could come and connect with them,” Tim said.
It was last spring that Tim got a phone call while he and Cindy were watching TV on a Sunday night. A property just a few hundred feet down the street was for sale. The man on the other end of the line said he had heard Tim might be interested. “I wasn’t particularly looking for anything,” Tim said. But, he agreed to look at the property. At the time, 615 N. Williams St. wasn’t much to look at. The house was run down. But there was a garage and a large pole barn. It was the pole barn — it was just a shell used to store some old cars — that drew the interest.“ The idea was to have a place to keep our boat,” said Tim. They bought the property and promptly tore down the house. Then they decided to fix up the pole barn, in part to have a better place for their visiting artists to play. “She said, ‘OK, but I’ve got to have a kitchen and a bathroom,’” said Tim with a nod toward Cindy. So, there’s a kitchen and a bathroom on the north side of the pole barn. The sink is salvaged from a friend’s barn. “It’s really nice,” Tim said. “It’s a little old, a little beat up, but it’s perfect for in here.”
Importantly, they added electricity. Tim, who runs Conservico Homes & Remodeling, used a grinder to smooth out the floor before staining it. He gave the walls a paint job — black at the top and gray below — and is working on painting the trusses as well. And he added another door as an entrance from the stone parking lot that now occupies the space where the house once stood. The “living room down the street” now has a sectional couch, a love seat and a chair. There’s a pool table on the east end — the area that also doubles as Tim’s shop when he needs it to — and curtains left over from daughter Emily’s wedding span the south side to hide items in storage. Tim’s paintings — he’s a member of the local art collective ALCOVE — adorn the walls. An unwanted piano he got from a house he was remodeling in Pennville now serves a dual purpose — the exterior houses his sound system while the interior hangs on the wall as a piece of modern art. And that boat? Well, a year later, it remains parked in the stone lot outside.
In addition to being a living room, second kitchen, shop, gallery and rec room, The 615 is also the new location for the Morris’ house concerts. Tim created a stage area with some lighting and his sound system at the southwest corner of the pole barn. The area surrounding it is set up like a living room, keeping the feel of the “house concert” intact. They invite their friends, via personal invitation or their Facebook page, to enjoy the music with them.
“The artists love it because they connect personally with the people who are sitting there,” said Tim.
“The people love it because they connect the same way with (the artists).
There’s a back and forth at intermission. ”It’s a little different than playing at a bar, where the focus often isn’t on the performers. “We’re here for them,” Tim added. “That exchange back and forth … it’s very personal. And it’s real. That’s the biggest difference, I think.” Their booking system is simple. If Tim and Cindy see someone they like, they talk to them. That list includes Chris Wilson, who was slated to perform (in March) but had his date canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Next on the list, now postponed, was Dead Horses, a Wisconsin group that opened for The Who last year. The couple has hosted local artists, including Ken Bantz, and they boast a little bit about Gretchen Pleuss, who got a record deal a week after playing at their house. They also held a benefit for three local families in September , raising more than $8,000. “It was such a wonderful night,” said Cindy. “It blew me away,” added Tim. “I didn't know what to expect.” They plan to make the benefit an annual event.
This love of music, it comes naturally. Cindy sings and plays a “a little piano.” Tim plays guitar, often strumming a song or two during house concert intermissions. Their musical tastes lean toward blues and folk. But they like a little bit of everything. They’ve hosted artists from a variety of genre’s including Portland’s Steven Seibold, who performed when he was in the process of taking his post-punk sound the acoustic route. And, Tim explains, the house concerts are much more about the performers — who they are and what their music means to them — than they are the music.“ Everybody has the people they like better than others,” he said. “But for me art isn’t about a competition — it’s not even about who I like better or not — it’s about that personal exchange."
“The part that I love the most is the heart to heart with the artist.”