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Michael Cullen Murphy – Singer Songwriter


An introduction of sorts..

So, birth is a pretty good place to start and the place where I was born, Nashville Tenn. a good place to start songwriting.

I was born to a musically inclined father who had left England in the early 60s to pursue a love of American traditional music. He settled in Nashville’s burbs and had two children with an Alabamian Southern Belle. As a family we mixed with interesting people and I can recall Bill Keith (Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys) and Jim Rooney turning up at our front door when they were on a black and white T.V. we were watching at exactly the same time. That’s when I realised something interesting was going on. It continued to… and there is standard 8 Kodachrome footage of me playing harp (at 3) with Peter Rowan a family friend to prove it. You get the picture.

Anyway, that was then and this is now.

FullSizeRender 5We moved to the UK in ’76, I was almost 10. At about 14 I bought an electric guitar, played it without an amp for a year, finally afforded the amp and then annoyed the shit out of everyone with it, (the Police even came around with complaints), and I continue to, sort of.
It worked like this, as soon as I had the guitar I had a mic, and a knackered old NAD tape deck with a mic input and I started recording my ‘song-writing’ talents. In the 36 years since I assure you, I have improved somewhat. Well a bit.

Actually, this is still then.. I’ll get to now, in a bit.

R-9211750-1476735281-3058.jpegI formed the band the Purple Frisbees in the late 80s / early 90s with brother Chris and friend Harv Malthouse and wrote the songs, stamped my foot petulantly at rehearsals and over time developed a band that unknown to me had a reputation hundreds of miles further out than we ever played. We released a tape cassette and cd of awful music, that Des Day recorded and people loved and still love to this day. Then I folded the band. Then I wrote songs and recorded instrumental music in a small home studio. Released 3 or 4 playful albums only to local support and friends, all the time working, all the time being the best songwriter in the world, but only really, truth be told, in my own head and own bedroom. Then I got married, then I didn’t do that sort of thing anymore. Then my Dad passed away and the marriage broke down. Then I had something to write about again.

Then is now Now.

So, I started again, writing because I had to, needed to, really trying to write, working on it, trying as hard as I could, or working on it as time allowed, to put something down that was a step above what I had put together before, .. you know and people had always said I was good, you know, admired the band, been complimentary, you get the picture.

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I like to think my music is personal and original, but I do have particular (and peculiar)  influences that affect the way I write and play and record, Nick Drake, Roy Harper, Fairport Convention, Karen Dalton, Daniel Romano, Bonnie Prince Billy, John Martyn, The Band, Goffin and King, Leiber and Stoller, Sandy Denny, The Handsome Family, Gothic Americana, Folk Horror, murder ballads, early flat picking styles, Folk Psych, Rockabilly, Leadbelly, George Jones, Ron Sexsmith, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Percy Sledge, Big Joe Turner, there is a long list. It’s my opinion that if you don’t listen to lots of music, you probably aren’t going to write very well, you’ve got to love others, and their music.

But . . .  Seriously.

The moment I took it seriously was when family friend Gabe Kelly had a London dateIMG_4557 cancelled on his UK tour and came to visit my Mum, I was staying there after the messy divorce and played him rough demos of the tunes I’d been toying with, he told me to write, ‘get on with your writing’, ‘you can write’; and when a songwriter who makes his living from doing that tells you to take your work seriously, . .  you do.

Martin-Simpson-by-Elly-Lucas-sml_web-billboard-2000x1125Then . .

Martin Simpson the Folk singer songwriter and world renowned acoustic and slide guitarist came to stay overnight while on a local tour. He and his tour manager Terry almost always did when they were in the area, even after my Dad, who made Banjos for Martin, died, he has kept in touch with my Mum, which is so lovely. I was there still leeching off of my lovely Mother after parting from family ways.

I was downstairs the morning after Martin’s gig with my son, playing around on my guitar. I heard Martin stirring, footsteps on the creaking stairs, I was playing a tune I’d written, shit I thought, fucking Martin Simpson is listening to me play one of my songs. (And I didn’t know at the time he’d won loads of, including BBC R2 songwriter of the year,(twice!) awards and even teaches songwriting at residential courses). So, it’s like this. I can tell that now he’s standing right behind me, I stumble to some sort of embarrassed finish and Martin says ‘That’s a fucking hit song’ and asked for the lyrics. We talked, and he too said, ‘write!, write!, you’re good’; and when a second songwriter who makes his living from doing that tells you to take your work seriously, . .  you do. And you get writing.

Later I played my songs to one of my musical friends of long ago, Sadie Jemmett who also makes her way through life via musical steam.. and she said, ‘you were always good, I don’t say this often to many people, but your songs are really good’. That’s good enough for me. It’s all well and good your Mum and Granny telling you you’re good lookin’ (or that your songs are good) but a stranger, or a professional, well that’s Encouragement Gold my friends, ‘Encouragement Gold’.

So I write and continue to. Actually, know what, I always have, and always will, whether it’s a mic plugged into some shitty NAD tape deck or the multitrack in the box productions I’m into now, where other people are getting involved with the project.

And now recording has improved over the NAD tape deck or Tascam Portastudio.

IMG_4554So, I’ve always loved recording and production almost as much as I love the song-writing, and so a few years ago with some extra ££s I bought the iMac I’d always wanted and the ‘in the box’ software I needed, the best A to D conversion I could, some monitors, and Neumann mics (a recording can never get better than it’s microphones). I’ve been recording what is at the moment, nothing more than a vanity project, I’ve got loads of possible names for the Lp (and yes it will be issued on vinyl), you’ll have to wait and see what I call it. I get no time at all to do it, struggle against all odds to get as far as I have, and I still seem to be writing songs for it. I have to create, leave something significant behind me, share my thoughts on what it is to exist on this spinning rock with you all.

The quality of production I have created is quite amazing given that all of it is created in my little living room, and the advice of people like friend and Soundman Des Day has been invaluable over all the long years of doing this.

IMG_4556While I’m working on it I publish the demos, ideas, and songs that are works in progress in shitty MP3 format via Reverbnation, an artist platform, and the links to that stuff are below. Don’t judge the final product, these are just the sketches. Please check them and the YouTube videos out. Christ only knows when I’ll finish the project, so much to do on it, I’m 50 fucking 2 and there isn’t that much time left for this sort of thing, but you know, and I am my harshest critic, there are one or two really good songs on this thing, this Lp. This thing to come, in process, like life, is yet to come. (P.s. there more stuff below this pinned post)

I hope you are there to hear it.

And when it’s finished I hope you like it.

Murphy © 2019

 

 

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