Some young artists, such as 23-year-old, Mattituck, N.Y. native Morgan Saint, seem to appear out of nowhere with a fully formed musical identity.
Her recent debut EP “17 Hero,” bristles with a seasoned confidence, in sultry pop and R&B ditties — often accompanied by simple finger-popping percussion — such as “YOU,” “Glass House” and “New Regime.”
Her original sound almost was accidental, something she stumbled across while studying illustration and photography at Manhattan’s Parsons School of Design.
“When I think back on growing up in a small town, music was always my ultimate dream,” says the ethereal vocalist, who began taking piano lessons in second grade, then taught herself guitar.
But Saint, who appears in The City this week, says watching “American Idol” didn’t help her self-esteem: “When I saw all those people showcasing their voices, I never thought I was good enough to compete.”
Since her high school had no music program to speak of outside of chorus, she eventually gave up on composing and turned to visual arts instead. Attending Parsons was a no-brainer.
“But it was interesting how going to Parsons just naturally led me back to songwriting,” says Saint, who combined her creative writing class assignments with her love for watercolors until her ambitious final thesis — a six-chapter book of poetry and snapshots, with one of her paintings illuminating each chapter.
But it wasn’t finished just yet. “Because then I wrote a song called ‘All the Ways’ that correlated with the theme of my thesis, and that was the first song that I got in the studio for, the first one I wrote with the intention of recording it.”
The vocalist approached the session like an art project. “All the Ways” was initially tracked in a minimalist method, using stripped-down acoustic guitar. Then she sprinkled the mix with cello, violin and a few other small details.
“I just loved the process,” she says. “And the second song that I wrote with the intention of recording was ‘YOU’ a year and a half ago, and that was when I really focused in, like, ‘OK, there’s so much I can do with music. And how does that correspond to the exact emotion I’m feeling when I’m writing?’ I just loved experimenting until I found my own sound.”
Saint has self-diagnosed herself as having synthesthesia, because she sees musical notes as splashy colors.
She applies this aesthetic to everything in her life, including her edgy rock videos and her angular retro-shag haircut.
“Fashion is another extension of my creativity,” she says. “I get dressed in the morning just to make myself happy and express how I’m feeling that day. To me, it feels like making art.”
IF YOU GO
OPIA, Morgan Saint
Where: Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Dec. 1
Tickets: $14 to $16
Contact: (415) 861-2011, www.eventbrite.com