Interview: Laura Morris on Spotify’s fascinating series Murder Ballads

Mississippi John Hurt and Brownie McGhee at Newport Folk Festival, 28th July 1963. (Photo by John Byrne Cooke Estate/Getty Images)
Mississippi John Hurt and Brownie McGhee at Newport Folk Festival, 28th July 1963. (Photo by John Byrne Cooke Estate/Getty Images) /
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Murder Ballads
Spotify’s Murder Ballads Hosted by Laura Morris. image courtesy Spotify /

Laura Morris joins 1428 Elm to discuss Spotify’s new true crime series Murder Ballads, and it’s a fascinating mixture of history, music and crime.

Murder Ballads is created and hosted by Laura Morris of Gimlet Media, and it’s Laura’s first dip into the pool of true crime. It should be noted, however, that this series does a lot more than just discuss a past crime. Since many songs dubbed as “murder ballads” are quite old, digging up the true facts behind the lyrics can be tricky.

Each episode of Murder Ballads not only explores the back story of a song about murder, it also gives us some real history and lets us hear bits of different versions of the song. For example, in the episode devoted to In the Pines / Where Did You Sleep Last Night, we hear it as performed by Lead Belly and by Kurt Cobain.

1428 Elm had the opportunity to speak with Laura Morris about Murder Ballads, one of Spotify’s new “Shows with Music” which is extremely interesting and entertaining!

1428 Elm: Hi, Laura, thanks for taking the time to talk to me today. While we normally talk about horror here at 1428 Elm, I am also personally a follower of true crime, so I think Murder Ballads will fit right in. Tell us a little bit about how you got into podcasting, and about some of your earlier projects.

Laura: I actually started in radio what feels like a million years ago, but was probably more like ten years ago. I started working in news, that was the job I got, and I’ve totally been all over the map. I’ve worked in audio guides in the museum, I’ve worked in cultural programming, but always audio, then I came on Gimlet and I started working in Gimlet in podcasting.

After I’d worked in radio for a while, that sort of shift happened, where people started moving over from radio into podcasting after Serial. Everybody I knew was kind of swapping over, so I did too.

I’ve worked on a number of different shows at Gimlet. Right now I’m working on some new development projects, so we did a show last year for the Wrapped campaign for Spotify, I’ve worked on Science Vs, another show for Gimlet, but this is my first true crime project that I’ve ever worked on.

1428 Elm: Is that a subject that’s always interested you?

Laura: You know, it’s something that I’ve sort of always known was around, and I’ve certainly listened to some true crime shows that I’ve enjoyed. But I didn’t think I would work on one, I’ve always been more interested in the arts and culture side of things. And this project, which really focuses on music and going at true crime from a music perspective was a whole new way to think about it. And that is what really got me interested in that true crime side of things.