Music Scene: Q&A with Michael Martin Murphey, more local shows
No stranger to the western Colorado stage, singer/songwriter Michael Martin Murphey returns to the area to perform two solo acoustic shows.
The first will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7, in the Recital Hall of Colorado Mesa University’s Moss Performing Arts Center, and the second will be at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8, at the Montrose Pavilion, 1800 Pavilion Drive.
Tickets cost $30–35 at either location through 243-8497.
In Grand Junction, tickets are available at Back Porch Music, Triple Play Records and City Market stores.
In Montrose, tickets also are available at the Pavilion’s box office and City Market stores.
Before his first show in Grand Junction, Murphey talked about his performance name, the difference between being a successful songwriter and performer and his latest album.
Melinda Mawdsley: I’ve listened to your music but never had a chance to talk to you. Tell me about your background in music.
Michael Martin Murphey: I’ve always known this was what I was going to do. The downside is this is probably my only skill. I’m a pretty good rancher and horseman, but I’ve done music all my life. I started when I was 4 singing in church. I was raised in a Southern Baptist Church and had gospel music around all the time. By age 6, I was playing the ukulele. My grandfather was the quartermaster general at Pearl Harbor, so he lived in Hawaii for a long time. The ukulele is a small instrument that a kid can play. When my hands got big enough to play guitar, my granddad gave me a Martin guitar.
Mawdsley: Is there a reason why you go by your full name, Michael Martin Murphey?
Murphey: There’s an actor named Michael Murphy who did Woody Allen movies. He’s a great character actor. He doesn’t look anything like me, but I was in a movie back in the 1980s. Right around that time, I registered for the Screen Actors Guild to be in these movies, so I joined and they told me I could not use Michael Murphey because there already was one. In acting, your name is your brand. There can’t be (more than one) Clark Gable or Marilyn Monroe. They won’t allow it. They told me I could use my middle name, so I changed it to that. It was a movie about music and I put a soundtrack album out for that movie and confronted the problem: do I call myself Michael Murphey like I had (up to that point in music) or Michael Martin Murphey (from that point on.) After I prayed about it and talked to my managers about it, (I realized) that this was the name my mama gave me.
Mawdsley: What’s more difficult, becoming a successful performer or writing a successful, memorable song?
Murphey: Well, I’m going to just talk personally. It’s easy to write songs. It’s not a talent. It’s an affliction. I spend a lot of time writing. Quite honestly, it’s caused me problems because I’m always sequestered away writing something. Fortunately, my wife is very understanding. A lot of relationships I’ve went through in the past weren’t understanding. They took it as me not paying attention, but that wasn’t the case. This is what I do. If you are writing by yourself it’s kind of like a monk. It’s like you’re meditating by yourself. Now being a good performer is more of a challenge because you have to think of the audience every time you walk up on that stage. Audiences change. They are diverse. Playing solo, acoustic is easier because I meet with people before the show. I change set lists based on what people want to hear. It’s a much more flexible thing, but it is a challenge to get up there and be an entertainer because what’s required of you changes so much.
Mawdsley: Tell me about your newest album, “Red River Drifter.”
Murphey: We wrote a lot of songs and only picked 10. It’s hard to do that, but we pick them based on how we wanted to pace the album. I still like to put an album together that has a flow to it, and “Red River Drifter” definitely has that.