by Stephen Michael Murphy
Music is such a thing! It has the power to travel a complete circuit from inane noise to mystic revelation and back before we know it.
When we choose a thing as fluid and as accessible as this, it ends up carrying weight in our lives. Music can define who we are and what we may be. Choosing the soundtrack of your life is very personal and when I create my own soundtrack, it’s a form of liberation. You can understand a lot about someone by their musical preferences, what they listen to, when and where, what volume, what kind of unit they listen on (speakers, subs, headphones, extra power amps), whether they prefer vinyl, CD, mp3, 8 track or live at the Hollywood Bowl. Recordings of just bass are everywhere, you’ve heard them cruise by on their way to the audiologist. Your flavor is a cosmic way to say, this is who I am. People care more about what they listen to than what they eat or drink. Well, maybe not the drinking. Personal styles in dress, speech and politics flow from our music choices, while visual images would have less kick without a killer soundtrack. Never mind the variety, 31 categories of metal heads with metal mouths and a dream of righteous power. Then there are the classical dudes with more scripted sense of things and a reverence for the original rock stars. How about the cats that dig the jazz vibe? Improvisation with a splash of form, it’s a spontaneous communication of the spheres. R & B yearns for the backbeat with a hip city thing. When it’s done right, it spins the sound down evolutionary road to the masters of Motown. There’s reggae music, my preference, coming from the Rasta’s listening to Ska influenced tracks and remaking them in the spirit of Marcus Garvey and Haile Selassie. Ideas of Jamaican dub came by way of poor radio reception from Miami radio stations and evolved into a message of unity and social justice. The homespun Americana feel of country, if you get past the provincialism you’ll find masterful songwriting, high production values and a music industry. You can’t even try to tell someone about Rock and Roll. You can though, go straight to American folk, the standard bearer of progressive ideals. Rap and hip hop totally rule, they’re learning and earning the right to speak of what’s next. The world is musically awash with forms and subforms from every continent– gospel, punk, new age, techno, soul, bluegrass, rockabilly, and can you feel the samba y salsa sa me olvido, gracias Guido, on and on like so many faces of the deity. A tidal wave of expression and somehow it makes one great harmony.
We’re all writing for a million reasons from business to a creative outlet. I write because it’s required by the universe. I’m a translator and music is the language. A message must be encoded in every song, every line, in every instrument and repeated so it can echo today and through time. I know it’s not exactly the same strategy that Billy Ray had with “Achy Breaky Heart” but what the hell, let Nashville do what it does best. Being witty, having a better hook, turning a phrase, the perfect bridge with a perfect voice and a perfect face. It’s a road but not the only way to get to London. When I write, it’s to make sense to myself, keep my values consistent. If I’m dedicated to saving sea turtles, at the same time I try to have empathy for struggling welfare mothers.
Then there is the actual art of listening, to really hear without a filter of resistance. Can I listen to something without prejudice? Can I put all my stuff aside to simply listen to the music or to someone else in a conversation?
“Nobody Knows How Deep it All Goes” is such a conversation, 15 ways of bringing it down over and over again. Content and performance wise, it is the most inclusive a piece of work I’ve done so far. The kitchen sink is included in this album with influences from rock to roots reggae to R&B, jazz and folk. I sing lead vocals on half the tunes and guest vocalists give a quantum lift and new life to the rest. With these tunes I try to let the eternal in by allowing the listener a place at the table, all we can do is remind each other. The amazing thing is I’m actually content with the production so I can finally get behind the material. It’s been a 2 year project that should be coming to completion in the next 8 weeks. Shaun Evans is in Orlando expertly mixing tracks on Pro tools. So even though I did the tracking in Melbourne Beach, I can bypass the torture of doing the ‘final” mixes on my own. Hooray for my tender ears. I’ll be writing more frequently as the album release date approaches about the new music, more about the musicians and the recording process.