Trish Murphy
Italy, Girls, and Strings Attached
Trish Murphy Interview (11-3-04)
By Bill Vordenbaum

Right: Trish Murphy [photo by Todd Wolfson]

The Austin music scene is full of versatile musicians who are capable of playing many different musical styles. On Wednesday evening, November 3rd , I met with Trish Murphy at a local coffee shop. I have seen her play several times this year in various venues around Austin. She played an acoustic set with Patrice Pike and Ginger Leigh at "Love" on South First St., which is a gift store with a local touch. Love has eclectic gifts for the entire family, as well as an intimate front porch setting where local artists can perform. Trish is recently back from her tour of Italy with Patrice and Ginger, during which these three Austin musicians performed with the Chieftains. Trish also performed with Will Taylor and Strings Attached at St. David's Episcopal Church in downtown Austin. Here again, Trish shows her versatility by playing traditional and cross-genre music in a smoke-free, acoustically friendly atmosphere. Trish played a set at the Austin City Limits Music Festival this year with Will Taylor, her brother Darin, and a full band with a harder-edge sound. So, I could write a long article about Trish and her music. Instead, I think I'll just let her words speak for themselves:

E.C.: What was your first musical memory?

Trish: I was about five when my parents purchased this house. It was suburban, nice, kind of new….with brick planters outside. To decorate it, they hung posters on the wall in the living room. They hung a Simon and Garfunkel poster from "Bridge Over Troubled Water," and a Beatles poster. Then we had one of those long stereo consoles, with four tweed panels in front. In the center of each panel, they took those glossies of the Beatles from the "White Album," and they taped them to each panel. That is what our living room looked like. Those are the first things that I remember, those and the covers of Beatles albums.

E.C.: Like the "Sgt. Peppers" cover?

Trish: Yeah, we used to stare at that a lot. There was one where the Beatles were all sitting in chairs with an umbrella above their heads. We used to just listen to the Beatles records all the time, and stare at the album covers.

[Note: Trish is referring to the Beatles ' 65 album.

E.C.: I remember at St. David's you did "Fixing A Hole," for a Beatles song, it seems somewhat obscure?

Trish: It didn't seem that obscure to me.

E.C.: I'm just speaking from the standpoint of the Beatles songs which made the "Top 40." "Fixing A Hole" was not a "Top 40" hit.

Trish: That's true.

E.C.: Do you remember the first club where you performed at an open-mic?

Trish: It was probably on Greenville (Avenue) somewhere in Dallas.

E.C.: I know you just got back from a tour of Italy with Patrice and Ginger. Whose idea was that?

Trish: You know, I've got to give the credit to Ginger. She and I had both toured in Italy before separately. She had toured within the country a lot more than I had…I had done one show with Joe Ely…so it was Ginger's idea to take this singer/songwriter format in-the-round and try it there.

E.C.: Did it go over well?

Trish: It seemed like people grasped it pretty well. We did a lot of civic and cultural events which are prevalent in the summertime…featuring music from a different country.

E.C.: So that fit in with the Chieftains?

Trish: Yeah, exactly! Then we played some other smaller events around cities such as Milan and Torino where some cultural organization of the city was putting on a summer event. Each week they would have somebody different. It was on the main piazza of the town. So, it fit in really well with that scheme, in terms of it being a cultural event.

E.C.: What was your fondest memory of the tour?

Trish: One was when we decided to do a night drive, because we had like an eight or nine hour drive. We were supposed to play at a mountain village. So we drove up the night before…we drove until about two or three in the morning and didn't really know where we were going.

E.C.: So you were kind of punch-drunk at that time?

Trish: Yeah, exactly. We had some directions, which were sketchy and scary…

E.C.: Is this up in the mountains?

Trish: This is up in the mountains, and Patrice is driving…and it's like those switchback turns, constantly uphill and we're going about twenty miles an hour. We were driving along -- our friends who had given us the directions told us it was a beautiful drive, you'll enjoy it. Of course, it's two-o-clock in the morning and everything is pitch black, we can't see anything. So Patrice starts calling it the "half-price tour of Italy."(Trish changed the pitch of her voice to imitate Patrice), saying, "had you paid full price, you would have been able to see beautiful vistas sweeping below you, but as it is, you only have paid half-price!" So, yeah, that was like really funny, and we were all punch-drunk that late at night.

E.C.: Yeah, sounds like a good one!

Trish: Then there was this other one when we were playing outside Bologna. We were supposed to play at an outdoor setting…we get there, and we drive up…and there are all these Italian people in Wranglers, cowboy boots, Ropers, with creases down the middle of their jeans. They were these hardcore country music line dancers in a small town in the middle of Italy.

E.C.: I noticed that you were involved with GenAustin (Girls Empowerment Network) as a member of the board. How did you get involved with that?

Trish: I was playing at the 3M Marathon a couple of years ago. GenAustin was the beneficiary. A couple of girls came to see my set and introduced themselves as members of GenAustin. (They explained that GenAustin was about helping teen girls in the local community.) I literally said that you have to take me to your leader, because I've been looking for some way to get involved and I knew that I wanted to work with teens, girls if possible. So, I went and met with their executive director, Anita Mennucci, began volunteering, and eventually became a member of the board. It has required me to multi-task.

E.C.: Does that take a lot of your time?

Trish: Yeah, it can, but fortunately it is volunteer based. You do what you can, when you can…there is some flexibility…I've been on the board for two years…I have one more. Then I'll decide if I want to continue.

E.C.: Are you planning any events in the near future?

Trish: There is a CD that is under construction, it is a compilation CD, of local and national artists that will 100% benefit GenAustin. We're looking at a spring release…and a CD release party.

E.C.: I see that you helped out with high school band students in a summertime pops concert, is that something you might continue doing?

Trish: That was sort of a one-time deal. I have a friend from high school who teaches orchestra now in a high school. So he and I put a project together really similar to the Strings Attached but with a full high school orchestra. We did it two years in a row, the first year was real experimental we just performed at Katy High School with the Katy (High School) Orchestra. The following year we took it to the Pavillion Village…it had within it a charitable organization…he auditioned students from all over the Houston area, picked the cream-of-the-crop, and rehearsed that orchestra for a show at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion (Mike Wells: Conductor, Gabe Musella: Wind and Percussion Director). It was really amazing!

E.C.: Do you plan on doing more "Braless" shows with Kacy Crowley and Renee Woodward?

Trish: It is ongoing, we are still doing it, we're having to sit out November. It was sort of a sudden interruption…we plan on continuing in December. Then we'll evaluate it at that time. Everybody's starting to get busy, Renee's putting out a record this month, Kacy's got a new record out. We're all starting to see that things are picking up again and we're having to go our own ways again.

E.C.: That's a good problem to have?!

Trish: I hope so! We do have a couple of things booked in the new year. We're gonna go to Norway in July and play at some festivals there. That's going to be interesting. We will each play individually, then as a group in "Braless."

E.C.: Do you plan on doing a CD with Will Taylor and Strings Attached?

Trish: You know, he rolls tape on all of those shows…the same guy who recorded my "Captured." It's in the can, I haven't gotten a chance to listen to it yet.

E.C.: Of course, KGSR (107.1 FM) broadcast your show with Will Taylor live?

Trish: Right, right…everybody that does the Strings Attached picks a Beatles song to do. He's hoping to release a CD of all Beatles songs as a part of the Strings Attached series. So it's a little precarious, because each of the artists have their own thing, and Strings Attached is Will's thing. If I ever did a CD within that world, then it would probably be a collaborative project which means Strings Attached and me.

E.C.: Would it be something more for charity?

Trish: It certainly could be, absolutely.

E.C.: Is what Will doing now for charity?

Trish: He is definitely a non-profit (-.organization). There is a lot of information on his website.

[Note: At this point during the interview, I started asking Trish about some of the songs she had written. Originally from her "Crooked Mile" CD, I asked her about "Concession Stand Song." I have it on her "Captured" CD which was recorded live at the Saxon Pub and Flpinotics Coffeespace in Austin. It is a beautiful song that tells the story of how we, as parents, should "tell our pretty children, the ugly truth." Her latest CD, "Girls Get In Free," is a bit of a departure from her more acoustic side. This is a solid disc, with harder-edged efforts such as "The Trouble With Trouble," and "Thelma and Louise." She delves into her country side with "Crying as Fast as I Can." Yet, her deeper, more personal side is exemplified in works such as "Eternal Dream" and "St. Christopher." "Cowboy Man" is a Lyle Lovett song that she sings as a duet with Bob Schneider. Again, here is what Trish had to say:

E.C.: In "Concession Stand Song," what was it you were trying to convey?

Trish: It takes on a lot of different meanings, and I think that is sort of the way it is supposed to be…that one came out of nowhere after about eight pots of coffee. I was at this place, the nickname for it is "Concession Stand." My grandmother had a piece of property on Galveston Bay…there is a small house on the property that looks more like a fishing camp. So, I had gone down there on this cold, foggy, rainy November day. It was kind of an unpleasant time to be on the Bay, but a great atmosphere for writing songs…sort of "hole up" and get lost in the fog. That's what I did, and that's how that song was written.

E.C.: Where did you get the inspiration for writing "The Trouble With Trouble,"? Was it from reading the funny papers?

Trish: I did, I was reading Ann Landers. It was the quote of the day, "the trouble with trouble, is it starts out as fun."

E.C.: Then "Thelma and Louise,"-- the lyrics sort of remind me of the Dixie Chicks "Goodbye Earl," do you remember that song?

Trish: I do, I remember it, yeah.

E.C.: The song "Eternal Dream," was that meant to be more of a spiritual song, or was that a song of personal hope?

Trish: I wrote that song in a dream actually. I had nothing to do with it. I had this dream that Lucinda Williams was riding in a parade through town on the back of a flatbed trailer. She was singing that song in the dream, she was asking these gigantic sort of rhetorical life questions like: Will we rescue abandoned hope? Will we fight without resistance? Will we dream the eternal dream? I was sort of reeling, 'cause I'm standing behind the cones on the sidelines in this dream, watching her go by and thinking what a beautiful song that was! Then when I woke up, I realized that she probably hadn't written it, and it would probably be okay for me to write it.

E.C.: That's interesting the different ways you get inspiration for writing songs.

Trish: Yeah, it is.

E.C.: It's really fascinating!

Trish: It is!

E.C.: You co-wrote the song "St. Christopher" with a S.W.A.T.-team detective who lives next door to you?

Trish: Yes, Steve (Huey).

E.C.: Did he help you write the lyrics, or did he actually write some of the music and melody as well?

Trish: He had written a poem that was called "Indian Summer." What I do with Steve's stuff, is I look at it (he sends me stuff all the time), some of it catches and some of it doesn't. That particular song, so much of it was already on the page, in terms of how he had put the verses together…

E.C.: It's a really beautiful song…

Trish: …yeah! So I just sort of will read what he has done and write my own stuff between the lines and just try to make it more lyrical than poetic. So that what I end up with is singable, but I truly do try to keep the integrity of whatever his original thought was. When I read it, it means something totally different to me than it probably did to him. So, really the song ends up being who knows how close it is to whatever it was he meant to say when he was writing it.

E.C.: Did he seem happy with it?

Trish: He did, yeah.

E.C.: It's just your interpretation of what he wrote.

Trish: Right. I was really pleased with the music and the mood of the song…

E.C.: On "Cowboy Man," did you approach Lyle Lovett about doing it, or was it a song you always liked and just wanted to do?

Trish: It was a song I had always liked and felt like it had a place on this record. The idea was to sing it as a duet…

E.C.: …of course Bob Schneider sings it with you…

Trish: …yeah.

E.C.: Did you actually go into the studio together, or was his part added later?

Trish: We worked together on this.

E.C.: What was it like working with Bob Schneider? Was it something you want to do again?

Trish: Well, yeah. I was sort of terrified, because we didn't really know each other. We had met here and there…I had never had a conversation with the guy. It was kind of like going on a blind date…like throwing some paint on the wall and seeing what happens. You go in trying to make it playful and stay open…

E.C.: Do you have any plans for a new CD? Are there any new songs you are working on?

Trish: I've got a few up on blocks. In fact I was writing tonight, that's why I was thirty minutes late to my interview…

E.C.: (laughing)

Trish: …I'm just now getting into a slow part of the year where I'm going to be home a lot, I'll be playing a lot during November and December. I start setting goals for myself, by the end of the year, I'd like to have five of them finished. We'll see if I get close…

E.C.: I noticed on the "Love" website that there are some dates in March for Italy, is that just Ginger, or are you involved in that?

Trish: It's going to be two of us, hopefully, all three of us. She (Ginger) is putting the dates together, I'm in for the trip…I haven't penciled them in yet, 'cause I haven't gotten that deep into my calendar.

Will Taylor is involved with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Travis County. This charity helps abused and neglected children.

Trish wanted us to know what was in her CD player! She currently has four discs that she listens to in heavy rotation. Hayes Carll's "Little Rock," Renee Woodward's "All The Birds," and Kacy Crowley's "Tramps Like Us." She also recommends Eddy Hobizal's latest CD. Eddy plays the piano with Will Taylor and Strings Attached, among others. I must say that I really enjoyed the conversation I had with Trish. I wish her nothing but continued success as we move into a new year!