Kilkenny woman Majella Murphy is going global on Thursday with her latest song, Too Small To Follow.
The city native has been described as having the voice of Sinead O’Connor, the attitude of Michelle Shocked and the fashion sense of Tank Girl. Her new single is released on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Deezer, Rhapody and Sony Music Unlimited on Thursday on Beanlaoch Records.
The iconic siren released her critically-acclaimed debut album Brave New World in 2007. It was the first release in the world to be included on Sony Ericsson handsets. She was then nominated for a Meteor Award in the Best Irish Folk/Traditional category. A series of successful tours followed including a show at Electric Picnic, RTE music series The Raw Sessions and an appearance on the Late Late.
One of the great characters of the Irish music scene, Majella has never been afraid to publicly tackle the more difficult aspects of her life. She has bravely admitted to battling eating disorders and is also a recovering alcoholic. In fact, she drew on her experiences with booze to write the new single, Too Small To Follow. She now lives in a Buddhist community in Cork. According to Majella she’s “not a very good Buddhist, but trying nonetheless”.
Majella’s musical style is eclectic but her many influences including Bob Dylan, Christy Moore and Jimmy MacCarthy. Often likened to Mary Black, she has carved out a niche spot on the Irish music scene. The new single is a fast waltz and a bright and catchy unusual folk-pop song. It is the first release from her forthcoming as-yet-untitled second album.
Meteor Award nominee Majella Murphy chats to The Beat about her new forthcoming album and a few of her favourite things.
The Kilkenny musician released her critically acclaimed debut album Brave New World in 2007. It was the first release in the world to be ncluded on Sony Ericsson handsets.
One of the great characters of the Irish music scene, Majella has never been afraid to publicly tackle the more difficult aspects of her life.
She has bravely admitted to battling eating disorders and is also a recovering alcoholic.
In fact, she drew on her experiences with booze to write the new single, Too Small To Follow, which was released earlier this month.
She now lives in a Buddhist community in Co Cork. According to Majella she’s “not a very goodBuddhist, but trying nonetheless”.
How long have you been singing?
I’ve been singing since I was four, but professionally for 10 years.
What’s the new record about?
The new single is called, Too Small To Follow and it’s a tongue in cheek song about drinking, or not drinking, dancing or not, living or not, and it’s in 6/8 time.
The second single will be out in November. The album will be called A Giant of a Man.
The new record is going right back to my roots, like early Indigo Girls with a mix of Blue Grass (Mick Daly and Dave Murphy), early Jimmy McCarthy style. All live instrumentation. The new record is about the story so far.
When’s the next gig?
They’re all big gigs. Next is Loafers Bar in Cork. That’ll be inOctober, and from there, anyone who’ll have me (metaphorically speaking that is).
What has been your best gig so far?
I’ve done Whelans, The Late Late, The Olympia, Cois Fharraige, Electric Picnic, etc…. But I’d say the best gig, or one of the best feelings I got in a gig was in a little bar in Mallow, Co. Cork.
About 20 people, and all singing along. All night. Sometimes you just feel part of the crowd and that’s great.
What are you listening to at the minute?
I’m listening to John Prine, Indigo Girls (early stuff). Stevie Wonder, (early stuff) Bob Dylan… lots of stuff from the 80s. Love some of the acoustic 80s and early 90s style.
Forget the drums and whistles. Real instrumentation. Love it.
Describe your music in one sentence.
‘If ya don’t like this I”m back on the dole queue’
What other Irish acts do you rate?
Christy Moore, Jimmy McCarthy, Paddy CaseyDamien Dempsey, Christy Dignam, The Four of Us and Damien Rice.
What has been your favourite moment as a musician?
Wow.. that’s hard… I’ve had a few, sometimes when I sing I can feel the hair on the back of your neck. I connect.
Toughest, but one of the most beautiful moments is when I sang at my Dad’s funeral this time last year. I could feel him.
What are your hopes for the new record?
I’d like people to hear. I’d like them to hear the words.
Vocally mobile in a brave new world
Launching her debut album exclusively on mobile phone has given Majella Murphy instant publicity – but it’s been well-earned, she tells Kevin Courtney
So, you’ve read a story in The Irish Times about this fab new singer from Kilkenny with the voice of Mary Black, the attitude of Michelle Shocked and the fashion sense of Tank Girl. Sounds interesting. You decide to get hold of her debut album, Brave New World, so off you stroll down your local high street, passing every record shop along the way, until you come to your nearest O2 store. You ask the assistant for the brand-new Sony Ericsson Z530i mobile phone, a snip at around €180. You activate the handset, plug in your headphones and – hey presto – there’s Majella Murphy’s debut album blasting out of the phone’s built-in MP3 player. Welcome to the brave new world. It’s Majella Murphy’s world, and we’re only living in it.
Brave New World claims to be the first album to be launched exclusively on a mobile phone, though if you wait until the end of July you won’t have to buy a Z530i to hear Murphy’s debut. That’s when it goes on sale in the old-fashioned CD format, so you can buy it in one of those musty old record shops and play it on your ancient CD gramophone thingy. But if you’re in a hurry to be super-hip and with-it, you’ll be snapping up a Sony Ericsson, slapping on your headphones and skateboarding down the street to the sounds of Dreaming, Fall Away, Miss Me and Another Day, just some of the self-penned tunes on Murphy’s acoustic-driven debut.
With so many albums out there vying for attention, an artist needs an angle, and for the thirtysomething Murphy (she says she was born in the early 1970s, but she looks like she’s just done her Leaving Cert), her debut release has been a bit of a media coup. When she launched the album last week at trendy city-centre pub 4 Dame Lane, she got her picture in most of the major newspapers, plus snippets on most TV and radio entertainment news programmes. There are a few Irish bands and singer-songwriters who would kill for that kind of instant exposure.
It’s easy to draw parallels with English singer-songwriter Sandi Thom, who recently went to the top of the UK charts on the back of a story about her performing webcast concerts from her basement flat. But the real story was how a heavyweight PR company were able to turn Thom into an overnight sensation by spinning the tale a bit. The resulting backlash saw Thom being seen less as a struggling musician who got lucky and more as a cynical product of a clever marketing campaign.
Majella Murphy, however, is not worried if people think her mobile phone-released album is a PR stunt.
“I couldn’t care less,” she says. “Those people who say it’s a hype, they weren’t one of the three people who came to see me when I was playing seedy bars. And I was working full-time in a bar while I was making the album. I’ve done the worst jobs in Ireland. I have Sony Ericsson and O2 behind me now, but I’ve worked for everything. I’ve never done the You’re a Star route. And besides, Sandi Thom sings very well, she plays her instruments very well, and she deserves it.”
If her talent is anything to go by, Murphy deserves success too. Besides singing, playing and writing her own songs, she’s an accomplished painter who has sold out exhibitions in her home town of Kilkenny. She’s also a nifty skateboarder (though not a good rollerblader – the last two times she tried, she ended up in A&E) and an expert fly-fisher (taught by her dad). But she didn’t use rod or reel to land her heavyweight manager, MCD’s Robert Matthews – she just opened up the Hot Press Yearbook.
“I e-mailed him and I invited him to this gig I was doing in the Cobblestone,” Murphy says. “I said if you like me, cool. And if you don’t like me, no offence. I knew that you can’t go and talk to record companies or producers without a manager. Nobody knew me at all, but I believed in what I was doing and I was very serious about it. So I got the Hot Press Yearbook, phoned up a few numbers and ended up with Robert.”
The first thing Matthews did was set her up with a residency of low-key gigs at
4 Dame Lane, where Murphy quickly gained a loyal following. She also supported Jamie Cullum and Camille O’Sullivan, winning over the jazz/cabaret crowd with her soft-rock songs. She then went over to Nashville and LA to record her debut album with Nathan Crowe (who has worked with Eric Clapton and Meat Loaf) and Eric Rosse, who produced Tori Amos’s Grammy-nominated albums. And then she met Pat Hughes, from Sony Ericsson, who came up with the idea of releasing the album on a mobile phone. Not a bad result for a few phone calls.
She also hooked up with songwriter Jimmy McCarthy, who has become her “musical mentor” and who, she says, has the “secret of life”. The album opens with a Jimmy McCarthy song, Baby’s Broken Heart, and it’s hardly surprising that here is where Murphy really sounds like a skateboard punk version of Mary Black.
Murphy was 16 before she realised she wanted to make music for a living. School, she says, was a nightmare, mainly because she spent so much of her class time dreaming of being somewhere else. She took up the guitar and sang along to the songs of Tracy Chapman, Indigo Girls, Dylan, James Taylor and Alison Krauss.
“I always played with people who were better than me,” she says, “because then you learn. But school seemed so conforming. If you didn’t want to be a secretary or a teacher, you were laughed at. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I put down medicine, because I wanted to heal the world through music.”
She did discover an aptitude for care work, which she says has helped inspire many of her uplifting lyrics. She worked for many years in childcare and believes it’s everybody’s duty to look after the old and vulnerable in our society. “I hope when I get older and I’m eating my dinner out of a McDonald’s cup with a straw, that there’ll be someone who’ll care for me.”
© The Irish Times