with Benjamin Adair Murphy:
Benjamin Adair Murphy writes blues and country songs. His last album ‘Let’s Make a King’ was named one of the best albums of 2020 by multiple publications. His poetry and lyrics have been published in Fevers of the Mind, Headline Poetry and Press, Lothlorien Poetry Journal, The Good Ear Review, Ophelia Street, and others, and are forthcoming in Rabid Oak and Coven Poetry. His plays have been performed in New York, Boston, and Chicago. He lives in Mexico City. Songs | Benjamin Adair Murphy Songs | Benjamin Adair Murphy
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Benjamin: I started writing songs when I was about 13. Around that time, I was listening to a lot of early Pink Floyd – the records with Syd Barrett. I was also listening to a lot of delta blues guys like Robert Johnson, Mississippi John Hurt, and Blind Willie Johnson. That music is haunting stuff, and can stick with you forever – it sure stuck with me…
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Benjamin: I have three equally important influences: Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, and Leonard Cohen. Obviously, all of them are incredible songwriters, but they’re also all artists who kept getting better as they got older. That’s pretty inspirational. John Prine should also probably be on that list.
Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing/art/music?
Benjamin: My parents split up when I was in elementary school, and my older brother and I used to spend summers with our dad in Northampton, Massachusetts. Northampton is very hip and expensive these days, but back in the eighties it was pretty run down and had a lot of empty storefronts. My dad rented a tiny apartment above a Mexican restaurant. The place was a dump, but I loved it because it was right across the street from a famous music venue called the Iron Horse. The stage in the Iron Horse is right at the entrance, and on summer nights we used to sit out on our fire escape and watch whatever was happening. Everybody came through the Iron Horse back then – Kris Kristofferson, Stan Getz, Townes Van Zandt…I was able to hear a lot of great music. I didn’t know who half of them were at the time, but their faces, their names, and their songs all entered my consciousness in an abstract kind of way. I was able to get a bird’s eye view of the romantic side of live music, but I was also able to see the business side of working musicians out on the road – loading and unloading equipment and that sort of thing.
Q4: Have any travels away from home influence your work/describe?
Benjamin: I’ve lived out of the U.S. for the last 10 years, and I’ve recorded albums in Rome and Mexico City, but most of my songs aren’t really tied to any city or region. I only remember a few instances when my lyrics came out of specific places. I wrote a song called ‘Upside Down: A Spell for Traversing the Land of the Dead’ after seeing a papyrus at the Egyptian Museum in Torino. My last album has a song called “The White Man Gets Things Done” which was influenced by a mural in Mexico City by Diego Riviera of the Spanish conquistadors forcing indigenous Indians to work in the silver mines.
Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Benjamin: Writing songs is just something I’ve always done. There have been plenty of times when it didn’t make any financial or logical sense to be an artist, and I’ve just pushed on. I don’t really have a single ‘pivotal’ moment, I just have a lot of small moments when I persisted and endured.
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
Benjamin: I like to go for long walks by myself. I’m happy in the city or in the woods, just as long as I don’t need to speak to anyone for a few hours.
Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects you’d like to promote?
Benjamin: I just signed a music licensing deal with a company called Artlist: Let’s Make a King by Benjamin Adair Murphy | Royalty Free Music Album – Artlist.io. It’s a good place for filmmakers to get royalty free music, and hopefully I’ll start hearing my songs in some films or TV shows. And my new EP will be ready at some point this year, but my producer got into a motorcycle crash a few months ago and hasn’t been able to work on it very much recently. In the meantime, all my other music is on Bandcamp: Let’s Make a King | Benjamin Adair Murphy (bandcamp.com)
Q8: What is a favorite line from one of your poems/songs?
I like these lyrics I wrote for a song called ‘Wake Up When the Train Stops’: Don’t worry about the ride / Don’t worry about your watch / Close your eyes / You’ll wake up when the train stops
Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?
Benjamin: I’m pretty confident in my own songwriting abilities, and for the most part I instinctively know what works or doesn’t work. I don’t need much help with the writing, but I need a lot of help with every other aspect of music production; the recording, the mixing, the mastering… I don’t have the patience for a lot of that stuff, but I have some friends who are masterful at it. Luckily, I have been able to work with good people, and without them my songs would never leave my own living room.