McMurtry goes solo at Mesa Theater

James McMurtry

James McMurtry is unlike many musicians touring the country today, at least the national acts that pass through Grand Junction.

For one, his career as a singer/songwriter spans more than two decades.

Two, he doesn’t schedule interviews through a publicist. Instead, he takes media calls on his cell phone.

I called McMurtry at his Texas home on a recent Wednesday afternoon before he and his band’s evening gig at the Continental Club in Austin, Texas. I left a voice mail, but he immediately called back and said, “This is James McMurtry.” Away we went.

McMurtry will perform solo at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21, at Mesa Theater and Lounge, 538 Main St.

We talked about the differences in performing solo, the difficulty of songwriting after all these years, and the new material he will perform in Grand Junction.

Tickets cost $20 and are available at the Mesa Theater box office, Back Porch Music and City Market stores.

Melinda Mawdsley: You are one of the first non-local musicians to simply give me your cell number. Why don’t you schedule interviews through a publicist weeks in advance?

James McMurtry: If I schedule anything, I’ll forget.

Mawdsley: I get that. I see you’ve got a blog doing on your website,, How’s the whole blogging experience going?

McMurtry: I do it when I have to get all those thoughts out of the way.

Mawdsley: I had assumed it’d be about music. It’s not.

McMurtry: No. For music, I can write songs.

Mawdsley: What do you personally enjoy most about songwriting?

McMurtry: Having more songs to play.

Mawdsley: Well, do you find that people respect you more or like you more because you do write your own material?

McMurtry: It’s those songs that they seem to relate to mostly. People like the performances, but it’s the songs that stick with them.

Mawdsley: Having written for more than 20 years, is it getting easier or harder?

McMurtry: The material isn’t a problem, but it hasn’t gotten easier for some reason. There are aspects of a continued career that are scary. When you start a new batch of songs you think, “Are these going to suck?” When I get done with a batch of songs, I don’t write for a while.

Mawdsley: Then why not just perform someone else’s songs?

McMurtry: They wouldn’t let me. With a voice like mine, you kind of have to write your own. When I first started out, I couldn’t sing worth a damn. I’ve gotten better over the years. Now, I can kind of sing. I’m a singer/songwriter. If I did a whole record of cover tunes, I don’t think anyone would buy it. Every once in a while, I’ll do a cover tune.

Mawdsley: Still planning on putting out a new album in 2013?

McMurtry: That’s the plan. We’re working on it… The last record was a live record in 2009. The way I used to do it was book studio time, then write the songs. It’d be like cramming for an exam to get the songs written in time. This time, I decided to get songs written and rehearsed first and play them (in front of crowds) before going into the studio. The songs are starting to come together, and we’ve got a good producer. When we go into the studio, we’ll know the songs.

Mawdsley: So you’re performing the new album songs on tour before making the album?

McMurtry: I think it’ll make the recording go more quickly. We won’t have to spend as much time in the studio.

Mawdsley: You are performing solo here. Do you miss the band when you’re alone?

McMurtry: I do miss the band. There are aspects of solo performance I like in that I have total control of dynamics, at least what’s coming off the stage. With a band, sometimes I have control, sometimes I don’t…I do a lot more solo shows these days. Going solo, I can fly to shows, rent a car.

Mawdsley: You coming here all by yourself?

McMurtry: I travel with the sound man and tour manager. I’ve played (Grand Junction) with the band before. It’s a good place. The West Slope in general is good for us. I like the West in general, the scenery and ease. The distances are longer, but it’s not as stressful. In the East, you’ll have a lot of gigs closer together, but Delaware to New York City will wear you out. There are so many metal pieces together.


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