By Martie Thompson
Matt Morgan, a lifetime resident of Mandarin, said, “Mandarin is home.” His parents still live about five miles from him and his wife, Hannah. Morgan attended all the Mandarin schools: Crown Point Elementary, Mandarin Middle, and Mandarin High School. He went on to the University of North Florida, where he earned his associates degree. An avid surfer, he fondly recalled surfing trips to Costa Rica during his student days. It was during his time at UNF that he discovered a new passion, which continues to this day: music. Morgan currently works as the manager of Woodplay of Jax, which sells high end backyard playsets. He and wife Hannah, who serves as a caregiver for her brother who has cerebral palsy, have been married since 2019 and share their home with rescue cat Journey.
Q: How did you meet your wife?
A: I was working at a catering company in Ponte Vedra Beach when a coworker mentioned a friend of a friend that I should meet. I was reluctant at first, but finally gave Hannah a call. We really hit it off on the phone, so we decided to meet at the Cafe at Barnes and Noble. It was a true blind date. She has also lived in Mandarin her whole life; we discovered that we grew up living only about five miles apart in Mandarin and even shopped at the same Publix, but didn’t know it. We got along great immediately and got married a year later.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: Work is one of the highlights of my life. Some of my childhood best friends own this company (Woodplay of Jax) and I’m with them every day. We have so much fun. We all eat lunch together each day on the loading dock and there is such camaraderie; we say it’s like an episode of “Duck Dynasty” every day. We feel fortunate that we have been able to maintain a steady flow of work through the coronavirus; people want to be able to entertain their children at home.
Q: When did you first become interested in music?
A: When I was at UNF in the late 1990s, some friends and I started a Christian folk music band called “Middleman’s Cove,” named because one musician was from “Middleburg,” I was from “Mandarin,” and the other was from “Fruit Cove.” It was very short lived! We spent a lot of time practicing, and then played one gig with only two people in attendance … that we had invited! But we did have the opportunity to cut one CD. This experience sparked my love for songwriting. I found it came naturally to me and it was very enjoyable. Especially once I met my wife — she is my muse. Most of my songs are inspired by her.
Q: How do you write songs and what instruments do you play?
A: I play acoustic and electric guitar and piano. My musical style has changed to more alternative/pop. As for songwriting I wait until the mood strikes. When it does, I know it’s there — the inspiration comes from a deep place and it’s easy to write. I’m trying to get a recording contract and have been playing (up until the coronavirus pandemic) at area coffee houses in places like Green Cove Springs and Atlantic Beach. In January, I also had the honor of playing the main stage at the Murray Hill Theater. My website is Nazarerush.com; the name is a throwback to my old surfing days because Nazare, Portugal, is home to some of the biggest waves in the world… and what a rush it would be to surf them.
Photo courtesy Matt Morgan
Matt and Hannah Morgan with cat Journey