Bio: 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?
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.
Ron Sexsmith is an acclaimed singer/songwriter musician from Ontario, Canada. He has been putting out records since the mid 1980’s and signed with Interscope/Warner in the 90’s and began putting out a collection of records that gained attention from not just fans, but other musicians such as Elvis Costello. He has worked with Chris Martin of Coldplay, R.E.M., one of my favorites Leonard Cohen, Ane Brun & many more. He’s had work covered by Rod Stewart, Feist, Emmylou Harris, k.d. Lang, Michael Bublé , Nick Lowe. His latest album in 2020 is “Hermitage” and should be sought out today. Also, please look for Ron’s book “Deer Life” through Dundurn Press. (2017)
Q1: When did you start writing & first influences?
Ron: My first attempts at writing songs came in my mid teens which was mostly riff rock with dumb lyrics. Mostly influences by UK bands like the Beatles & Kinks. I didn’t start writing anything decent until I was about 21, and by then my influences were Leonard Cohen and Gordon Lightfoot & Dylan, etc.
Q2: Who is your biggest influences today?
Ron: Most of the same people although i’m quite obsessed with Warren Zevon these days.
Q3: Where did you grow up and how that influence your writing/art?
Ron: I grew up in St. Catharines, Ontario in the mid 60’s and 70’s, which was a great time for radio. All the songs I heard were so melodic with such thought provoking lyrics that made life feel quite magical.
Q4: Have any travels away from home influenced work/describe if so?
Ron: I’ve written many songs on the road while on tour, etc. So I guess the short answer is yes…
Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be an artist/writer/poet?
Ron: When I found out I was born on Elvis Presley’s birthday as I turned seven and promptly fell down a flight of stairs.
Q6: Favorite activities when not writing/performing to relax?
Ron: Walking mostly and reading
Q7: Any recent or upcoming promotional work you’d like to do?
Ron: I’m hoping my tour will happen next year. It’s been postponed 3 times now.
Q8: One of your favorite lines from your poem/song, or favorite piece of art or photograph?
Ron: “In every nowhere town, there are somewhere dreams” from my song “Love Shines”
Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?
Ron: Other than my influences, perhaps Mitchell Froom who produced my first 3 records.
A dog barking at the unseeable,
sound carrying on a cold night.
A dog barking at an unsaid thing
or vague starlight or its own tail.
Barking like a pinched nerve,
like a wolf talking in a fairy tale,
the insomniac, yours truly,
making a stab at reading Aristotle.
Who claimed dolphins snore
and all beasts sleep without exception.
This page is blank.
This page is embroidered with snowfall.
It reflects light and contains all colours.
This page is now a linen shirt
made of fine Egyptian cotton.
It’s every room behind every door.
It’s a tidal pool. A settling pond.
This page is a freshly mown lawn,
a sliver of silver, moonlight glinting.
Look deep within yourself, you’ll see
this page is the first feather on Earth.
It’s a cancelled cheque, a boarding pass,
the liner notes for the devil’s scriptures.
This page is a pristine canvas
in the studio of a purblind artist.
It’s a movie screen, the images projected
resembling something akin to imperfection.
As if torn from a diary or family bible.
As if a flag waved in desperation,
and you only have to raise your hands.
You can only relent.
In the rented hall at nine o’clock,
meeting under a potted clementine,
a perfumed knot of radicals, angry
talk the swill of their contempt,
a kiss of arson on their lips,
of peasant stock but divinely proportioned
men and women under tyranny’s brush,
however warm and dry and well fed.
Who fondle change and like the feel of it.
Firebrands, renegades, anarchists –
however said, they suck the salt
of parlous bombast and rhapsodic élan.
One nation under a black flag.
Their discordant anthem none will stand for.
Those in on a new way, if not a better path,
the old order a tattered cloth.
A thin grey rag in the dead of winter.
Bruce McRae, a Canadian musician and multiple Pushcart nominee, has had work appear in hundreds of publications around the world. The winner of the 2020 Libretto Chapbook Prize (20 Sonnets), his books include 'The So-Called Sonnets'; 'An Unbecoming Fit of Frenzy'; 'Like As if'; 'All Right Already' and 'Hearsay'
About Ron Whitehead: Kentucky Legend & Poet First:
It is hard living the life of just one poet at times.
Always a rush of creativity and ideas to try and stay stabilized,
is not always the easiest task.
So, what would you do if you have lived the life of 1,000 poets?
Ask Ron Whitehead
A Kentucky born, and current Beat Poet Laureate of Kentucky for the years of 2019-2021.
*note* as I was putting together the first edition of the Fevers of the Mind Anthology Mr. Whitehead was the first ever Writer from the United States to represent as a writer-in-residence in Tartu, Estonia as part of an International Literature residency program.
Ron has been a poet, a professor at several universities, has held lectures, workshops, has founded a music & poetry marathon called "The Insomniacathon" which is perfect for all sleep deprived poetry-eaters. For endless inspiration, just attend an Insomniacathon, and walk into a new world where words are the images, and the world outside becomes silent.
Ron has produced the official Hunter S. Thompson tribute.
Ron knew Hunter S. Thompson & has many stories about hanging out with him and other poets from the Beat Generation and beyond.
Ron Whitehead is not just a poet, he is a lead man of "The Storm Generation Band" a band with him chanting out his poetry & lyrics.
You can see him at big festivals, or you might see him at a small bar or coffeehouse in a small Mid-Western city like Evansville, Indiana.
That is where I met and listened to Ron's poetry. He appeared humble, generous, kind, helpful and poetry driven in messages to inspire for a better world.
his website is www.tappingmyownphone.com
Excerpts from an Interview with Ron Whitehead (2019):
Q: Hi Ron, Thanks for granting me this interview for Fevers of the Mind Poetry & Art Digest. First off, I without all the merits that you have see many parallels in our poetry upbringing.
I grew up in a town (not a farm however) in Western Kentucky in Webster County. My father & grandfather grew up on the farms of Kentucky, and I'd always hear the stories. I lived a small amount of time in the city of New Orleans in my early twenties. Maybe, this is where most of the parallels end. You have lived most of your life in Kentucky, so what about Kentucky do you love?
Ron: Hello David. I come from a long line of farmers, coal miners, and strong women. I grew up on a beautiful old ramshackle Kentucky farm. A wild nature boy, when I finished my chores, I roamed the dirt roads, the rolling hills, and the woods. I love Kentucky. It's in my DNA. I've lived and traveled all over the world and wherever I go I preach the Kentucky Gospel. There's no place on earth like Kentucky. Kentucky is the land of freedom fighters and original independent creative artists! It is my land, the land I love.
Q: What influences do you attribute most from having lived in Kentucky? When traveling to other states & countries do you ever run into people that put a stigma on Kentucky, and make unnecessary assumptions about the state?
Ron: When I arrived at the University of Oxford, for studies at the International Graduate School, and knocked the Head of English Literature Valentine Cunningham's door we shook hands, exchanged names, he looked down at my feet, looked back up and said "I didn't know people from Kentucky wore shoes." I stared deep into his eyes and laughing I said "Haha, A smartass. We'll get along great." And we did. ......
Q: After many awards, honors, years of teaching, writing, What would you consider to be the most rewarding?
Ron: All of it. I love and embrace in all of its terrible beauty.
Q: You have edited works of many poets. Whom in particular did you say WOW to, when you were asked to edit their works?
Ron: I never imagined I would edit and publish so many of the world's leading poets, writers, musicians, cultural figures. Lordy, the list is too long to mention here. I edited William S. Burroughs' Remembering Jack Kerouac from prose to poem form and published it. He gave me permission to publish the prose piece, but we hadn't discussed transforming it into a poem, which I did so I could include it in my Published in Heaven Poster series. Burroughs asked me to get a photo from Allen Ginsberg, which I did. When I shipped Burroughs his copies on the poster I was sweating, worried he'd be pissed, maybe even ask me to recall the posters. He loved them. Whew. Major relief!
Q: What is a classic story you could tell, in which you had a long night hanging with Hunter S. Thompson, Gregory Corso, or Allen Ginsberg?
Ron: Oh God! Too many stories, about all three of them. One night, after driving 24 hours non-stop from Kentucky to Owl Farm, Woody Creek, outside Aspen, Colorado, I'm standing in the kitchen with Hunter S. Thompson. He's signing Published in Heaven Posters of He Was a Crook, his Nixon obituary. I told him I was driving straight on, after my visit with him, to San Francisco to have dinner the next night with my friend Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Hunter became reflective and started talking about Ferlinghetti and how much he liked and respected him. He said "I'll write a message on one of the posters for Lawrence and you give it to him tomorrow, Okay?" I said "Okay." Hunter was a deeply reflective person. Despite his sometimes fierceness, he had the soul of a poet.
Q: How long have you been doing Insomniacathons & also can you tell the readers about Gonzofest in Louisville during the Summer. ...
Ron: Kent Fielding and I produced the first ever 24-hour non-stop music & poetry Insomniacathon in 1993 at Twice Told Coffeehouse on Bardstown Road in Louisville, Kentucky. I produced many after that, with Kent, Doug Brinkley, Andy Cook, and others. ....
Gonzofest is a celebration of life and work of Louisville native son Hunter S. Thompson. On December 12, 1996 I produced the Official Hunter S. Thompson tribute, at Memorial Auditorium in Louisville. I brought in Hunter, his mother Virginia, his son Juan, Johnny Depp, Warren Zevon, Douglas Brinkley, David Amram, Roxanne Pulitzer, and a host of others. It was an amazing 4-hour event. The Insomniacathons and Gonzofests are filled with creative energies and expressions. Being part of them always inspires me to create new work. And, from what folks have shared with me, the creative spirit is contagious.
Q: How do you find time to do all that you do and have done & still be generous enough to answer questions for a small publication like this?
Ron: I was born with a high metabolism. I love collaborating with folks all over the world. Boredom is my greatest enemy. Having several creative projects going on simultaneously helps me stay healthy. New creative work inspires new creative work. Mama and Daddy taught me not to look up to or down to anyone. We're al in this together, eye to eye, shoulder to shoulder.
When one of us is lifted up we are all lifted up.
for taking time out of your very busy schedule and answering my interview questions....
Ron: Thank you David! See you at Gonzofest!!
Ron Whitehead bio & links:
links to his books on Amazon:
1) Please describe your latest book, what about your book will intrigue the readers the most, and what is the theme, mood? Or If you have a blog or project please describe the concept of your project, blog, website
I’m currently working on the second series of ‘Penny Dreadfuls from the Moth Sanctuary’ – a series of free, short horror audiobooks I’m producing with my partner, Andrew Bate, and his independent theatre company, Moth Sanctuary Productions.
When lockdown hit the UK in March 2020 and production halted on the stage show we were producing, we decided to put my radio expertise, his music composition skills and our home studio set up to use and create some audiobooks. We started out by recording some lockdown themed classics, producing a version of Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘Masque of the Red Death’ and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper.’
Inspired by classic Penny Dreadfuls, we then decided to create some of our own, original short horror stories, which grew into a series of ten episodes all written, recorded and produced by Andrew and I in our living room. I wrote four of the ten stories – ‘The Neighbours’ is about a woman who is driven to insanity after moving in above a mortuary; ‘The White Haired Devil’ is about a mysterious fortune teller with dark, hidden intentions; ‘Midnight Visits’ follows a young boy terrorised by a figure in the night; and ‘The Token’ is the story of an archivist who uncovers a sinister secret about the foundling hospital she is researching, inspired by a production of ‘Coram Boy’ which I starred in at Nottingham Playhouse in 2019. I also wrote an exclusive bonus episode for Thornhill Theatre Space called ‘Alice’s Shadow’ about a dark presence lurking in her room at night.
We have just started writing series two with three stories already in the making, so we hope to bring to listeners for free later in 2021.
2) How old were you when you first have become serious about your writing, do you feel your work is always adapting?
I wrote poems and songs a lot when I was a teenager, but I stopped when I was around 15 and didn’t seriously pick it up again until my late twenties. I decided to do a Masters degree in professional writing when I was 28, during which I developed a real passion for the short story format. I started writing and publishing poetry at 30.
At first, writing poetry was a therapeutic way to process my difficult emotions and work through some of the things I was experiencing at the time, so everything was quite raw and intense. Nowadays I find my poetry writing comes in waves, but my style is certainly always adapting as I try to refine my craft, while still staying true to the emotion that inspires it.
Working in the audiobook format has really helped me refine my short story writing too. I spent 10 years working in radio before I moved into publishing, so writing for the spoken word is something I am fairly adept at but I had never applied this skill to my own personal projects. Using the time I had during the first UK lockdown, I was able to dedicate myself to writing, producing five new short stories specifically for the Penny Dreadfuls from the Moth Sanctuary series, and working with artistic director Andrew Bate to bring the stories to life with his incredible voice acting and scoring.
3) What authors, poets, musicians have helped shape your work, or who do you find yourself being drawn to the most?
I find Nick Cave a source of constant inspiration, both for his staggering creativity, but also for his work ethic. I was lucky enough to see Nick Cave in Conversation in 2019, where he described how he didn’t just sit around and wait for inspiration to take over, but actively went to work at songwriting, seeing it the same way most people would see a traditional job. The idea that creativity and artistic inclination isn’t a gift bestowed on you from above, but is something that takes grit, determination and work is something that motivates me to keep creating, even when it feels fruitless. Style-wise, I find Florence Welch a big inspiration too, especially for songwriting, as I admire her rich, descriptive lyrics and often haunting, ethereal sound.
In terms of inspiration as a writer, I adore Angela Carter as I find she has the ability to totally immerse me in her fantastical worlds. I find her strong female lead characters and subversive themes delightful too. I read a lot of Bret Easton Ellis when I was a teenager which has had an undeniable influence on my writing, if not for the gritty themes, but for my soft spot for unreliable narrators. I must mention Edgar Allan Poe, I came to appreciate Poe’s work in my adult life and I truly believe he is the master of the short story, as I find his work so compelling I can devour each story in one sitting. I aspire to be able to do the same one day. More recently I am also enjoying the work of Kirsty Logan. Her short story ‘Things My Wife and I Found Hidden In Our House’ is one I find myself returning to again and again.
4) What other activities do you enjoy doing creatively, or recreationally outside of being a writer, and do you find any of these outside writing activities merge into your mind and often become parts of a poem?
As someone who writes songs, I also love to sing. I have been singing in some guise since I was around four years old. I was part of a choir that performed in a production at Nottingham Playhouse in 2019, which was a lifelong dream come true. I have been producing songs with my partner, who is also a singer-songwriter, as another lockdown project so we are hoping to release an EP sometime soon.
Outside of creative pursuits, I love to cook. I enjoy being out in nature, particularly forests and the coast. Before the pandemic I was also learning aerial hoop. I had got myself to an intermediate level but unfortunately I haven’t been able to train for nearly a year, so I am hoping to get back into that as soon as I can.
5) What is your favorite or preferred style of writing?
For poetry, I find free verse comes the most naturally to me, although I do get imposter syndrome sometimes and question whether my work is really poetry when it is so unstructured.
For fiction I am a short story writer predominantly. Although I have started work on what I hope will become a novel, the sheer volume of words required often overwhelm me. I also get an immense sense of satisfaction by being able to tell a complete story in such a short space of time so I return to that form repeatedly as I find it the most rewarding.
6) Are there any other people/environments/hometowns/vacations that has helped influence your writing?
Without wishing to sound too much of a romantic, I find my partner has genuinely inspired a lot of my poetry. I think that is largely because he encouraged me to pursue writing it and has given me such unwavering support as I have done so. I find such beauty in the complexity of human relationships – love, desire, loss, even the everyday experiences – that writing inspired by him and our relationship is often what comes naturally to me.
For my fiction writing, a lot of that comes from the dark recesses of my own mind. One story in particular was inspired by a memory I had as a child. When I was around four years old, I was convinced that I had seen a ghost sitting at the end of my bed. For years I thought it was an old woman, for some reason or another, and I ended up converting this memory into a horror story called ‘Midnight Visits’ which we put out as one of the Penny Dreadfuls from the Moth Sanctuary series. After telling my parents this over dinner one evening, my dad revealed to me that just a few days after his father died, when I was four years old, he and my mother had heard me talking to someone in the middle of the night. When they came into my room, my dad said he could smell my grandfather’s aftershave and there was an indentation on the end of my bed as though someone had been sat there. He had never told me that story before, so I still get goosebumps just thinking about it!
7) What is the most rewarding part of the writing process, and in turn the most frustrating part of the writing process?
For me, starting is the most frustrating point. All too often I will find an excuse not to start writing at all, which usually comes from self-consciousness or fear. I then get frustrated with myself because I want to be writing and creating something. So I have to force my way through the blocks I put in my own path before ultimately enjoying the creative process once it starts.
The most rewarding part I find is editing. I work as a deputy editor for my day job, so I spend a good amount of time sub editing other people’s work, which to me feels like polishing something to get it to its absolute best state. For me, I love it when someone reads my story for the first time and tells me their interpretation – what they think is happening, who they think the characters are, if any parts don’t ring true or cause them to lose the immersion in the story. Going back through and refining, polishing and improving those things always gives me a real sense of satisfaction, as it feels like I’m investing in my own work and increasing its value. When someone has invested their own time in reading or listening to one of my stories, I want to make sure that experience is the best it can possibly be.
8) How has the current times affected your work? I feel very privileged that although the pandemic presented several challenges for me, both personally and financially, it also presented me with the time and opportunity to really invest in my own personal work, which is something I hadn’t really had before.
If I hadn’t had the extra time lockdown afforded me, I doubt I would have actually pursued the idea of creating a series of original audiobooks, so I am both proud and grateful to have had the chance to do that. It’s also been wonderful to be more involved with my partner’s theatre company. I got to work with him to produce an exclusive, live streamed performance for Cheltenham Literature Festival and have had the opportunity to take on my first performing role, as we acquired a temporary license to perform Angela Carter’s ‘The Company of Wolves’ as a free online video.
I am exceptionally lucky that, despite a very sad death in my family due to Covid recently, lockdown has given me the space and the time to be creative in a way that I never have before.
9) Please give us any links, social media info, upcoming events, etc for your work.