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.