Elliott Murphy

Where's I'm At ...

Elliott Murphy
Photo: Willie Dumalin

I'm sick of talking about myself. Been doing a bunch of interviews lately for my new album and although the majority of the writers I've been seeing are intelligent, pleasant and truly insightful the problem is ... me and my reluctance to tell my story anymore, to find meaningful answers to their probing questions. What makes me tick? If I knew that I'd be a happier man than I am, I guess, but on the other hand maybe I'd write less songs then I have. I mean, I know what I like (Italian food, cruising book stores, Wikipedia, new socks ...) and I know what I don't like (early morning flights, cleaning my desk, bad news on TV, anchovies ...) So what can I say after all these years? They say this is my 31st album and I say, "Yeah, I guess it is but I'm not counting." They say that's a very prolific career and I say, "Doesn't feel like it to me at all." I think I could have done more, twice as many albums and written a few more books as well. Anyway, it feels like I'm at the halfway point or thereabouts. They say rock 'n roll is a young man or woman's game. But I'm not sure anymore. I feel like I'm just hitting my stride ...

Of course, there are some questions about this album Elliott Murphy that I do enjoy responding to and elaborating upon and they mostly concern the talented people who helped make it. My son Gaspard produced the album and did a fine job and seems to be getting plenty of credit for updating my sound. And Olivier Durand, my faithful guitarist, is also getting more and more recognition for his incredible talent. I pump up both of their careers and reputations as much as I can. And my band The Normandy All Stars – Alan Fatras on drums and Laurent Pardo on bass – two excellent musicians and fine human beings who I depend upon each time I walk on that stage and start a show. But the most difficult questions are about the songs themselves and their true meanings because really it's hard to remember just what I was thinking about when a particular melody or lyric came passing by. On this album it has been pointed out to me that I seemed to have mentioned a lot of real places and people, something I did in my early albums, and writers are always surprised. But I'm, thinking doesn't every songwriter do this? Doesn't Jay-Z do this? I think art has a debt to reality and the other way around, too. Homer and Shakespeare wrote about real characters and the Beatles put real people on the cover of Sergeant Pepper. And the hit film The King's Voice is about real people too. So to me, it always seemed a natural thing to do even in rock 'n roll songs. Its part of the troubadour tradition, to spread the news to every hamlet you wander into, although I guess CNN does a better job of that then I do. But my news is different; it's the emotional headlines of the day, straight from my own heart and soul. On my second album Lost Generation I mentioned Andy Warhol, James Dean, Brian Jones, Greta Garbo and numerous other cultural icons. I suggested to RCA Records that they use all the real names in an ad for my album but they declined to take my marketing advice. On my new album in the lead-off track "Poise 'n Grace" I take a geographic trip through my subconscious: Alaska, Moscow, Amarillo, Garden City, Asbury Park ... I'm all over the globe! As well as a few mystery points like the evocative Cities on the Plane, which is the title of a wonderful novel by Cormac McCarthy. And I even give Joann Fleet her due. Know who she was? But I'm not going to tell all my secrets.

And everybody is asking me why I called this album just Elliott Murphy. Well, it took me 31 albums to become myself, that's one reason, and another is that this marks a new cycle in my career with Gaspard taking over the reins of production and joins the family business. Many singer-songwriters make self-titled debut albums but I named that one after my father's show Aquashow as homage to him and to thank him for always encouraging my music, always standing by me when I was down. When I was 16 I didn't get picked for my high school fraternity although many of my friends were and I thought it was the end of the world. My father told me that in a few years it wouldn't be important at all. How right he was. He died shortly after that so I never got to tell him to his face. But I do it every night I sing "On Elvis Presley's Birthday."

And my mom Josephine who is almost 85 and living in New York is still my most faithful fan. In fact, if she starts listening to some other artist's CD she feels like she's betraying me but I told her its all right as long as I approve, she can play all the Wilco and Leonard Cohen she wants. My mom and I started taking guitar lessons together in 1960 at Quigley's Music Center in New Hyde Park, Long Island. It was the afternoon that changed by life and all I learned were the notes on the first string. I got a guitar that Christmas and another one after that and another one after that. Now, I wish I had all the guitars I had sold over the years especially the 1965 Gretsch Tennessean that my father bought me at Manny's Music. It came in a hand-tooled white case and I still remember the smell of its plush interior. They tried to tell the Jay Gatsby that you can't repeat the past but he said, "Of course, you can." And I tend to agree although I'm not sure if I always want to.

Lots of shows coming up this Spring and if you're coming to one of my concerts and want to hear a special song send me an email and I'll try to prepare it for you. Just don't ask me what it's about ...

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