Breedlove is proud to introduce Bri Murphy as the first 2019 Featured Artist. Throughout the month, we will be posting media and updates from Bri on social media - so please follow along! Additionally, you can enter to win the new Pursuit Concertina Bri is playing in the video above throughout the month. We recently had the pleasure to chat with Bri for an exclusive artist interview to learn about her musical influences, what it is like to be a working musician in Nashville, and what's on the horizon for this talented singer-songwriter!
Breedlove: You grew up in a musical household, your parents are musicians. Can you give us a little insight into your musical history and upbringing?
Bri: Yes, I grew up in a very musical household. Both my parents are pianists, and they met in music school. My dad is more on the jazz and R&B, rock and roll side of things, and my mom was more of a classical pianist. She was a vocalist as well. My mom went on to get her Ph.D., and she taught music education, which is how my parents ended up in Wisconsin. When I was growing up, my dad played French Horn in the local symphony orchestra, and he played piano in some jazz combos. My mom was teaching full time at the music school there. I was surrounded by music from day one.
Music was something that was just so present I thought that everybody plays music and everybody plays an instrument. I don't remember picking the violin, but at least the way my parents tell it, I wanted to play the violin. I started taking violin when I was four and went through the Suzuki Method, which is a popular violin method pedagogy. Kind of picked up things from there. I picked up piano from both of them, although, I never really had formal piano lessons. Picked up French Horn in middle school as well, and played in the jazz band with piano and played in the orchestra with the violin. I started playing guitar in high school, then kind of continued on with my musical education through college.
My undergraduate is not in music, but then I went back, and did a 180 and turned back to music full time after my undergrad.
Breedlove: You have this tremendous musical foundation, I'm assuming that you read music?
Bri: Yes. I don't remember not being able to read music. I don't remember that at all.
Breedlove: So, you were raised with music as a second language, and you must have the philosophical, the technical, the historical, and then the creative influences and teachings as well from your upbringing? You have the whole approach if you will?
Bri: Yes. I think so. I feel fortunate to have that too. My parents just were so encouraging from day one.
Breedlove: It sounds like your father may be a little bit more on the creative and performance side, and your mom is more technical or maybe more academic? Do lean either way or is your
musical mind right down the middle?
Bri: I honestly feel like I'm pretty down the middle. I have a solid foundation in classical violin, and that's what my masters is in, but I think heart and soul wise; I love songwriting, which is something that neither of my parents do. Some fusion between them ended up with a songwriter somehow.
Breedlove: Having experience playing so many different instruments, would you say that the guitar is your go-to or your primary instrument, or is it just the most suitable means as a singer-songwriter?
Bri: Guitar is what I spend a lot of time with now. It is my main songwriting instrument. If I'm trying to write something, I almost always go to guitar before anything else. Sometimes I write on piano, but most of my songwriting happens with the guitar.
Breedlove: You've been a solo artist since 2015. Living in Nashville the entirety of your solo career?
Bri: Yes. I moved to Nashville in 2011 and then was there more as a side musician first. Then decided to launch the solo career in 2015.
Breedlove: Growing up in Wisconsin, but having some roots down in Nashville, and then moving there as a songwriter, how did your experiences growing up in Wisconsin play into your development as a songwriter? How does Nashville influence you as a songwriter? Is there a blend in the influences and sounds?
Bri: There's a strong Northwoods inspiration to my songwriting. I write a lot. I use a lot of nature imagery, which I feel like came from growing up out in ... I wasn't out in the country, but Wisconsin is pretty rural in general. I think a lot of that imagery came from growing up in Wisconsin. Regarding Nashville, its really where I honed songwriting as more of a craft and delved into it as an art form and getting more technical with what that meant and what the history of songwriting means because Nashville is also just such a songwriting town. There's this incredible tradition there of really amazing songwriters. That was something that I hadn't been exposed to until I moved there and started delving into the tradition that Nashville has.
Breedlove: Living in Nashville, being a singer-songwriter, I think everybody has an idea of what they believe the singer-songwriters lifestyle is like. Can you give us the real scoop? What does your day to day look like? What's the real behind-the-scenes look into what it's like as a working musician in Nashville?
Bri: I can guarantee it's a lot different from what people probably have in their mind. I feel fortunate to have kind of an arsenal of instruments that I can play because I can pick up a lot of side work as a musician. A lot of people in town who move there, if they're not also musicians and only songwriters, it's very hard to make a living. That requires a lot of extra outside music work to do. For me, I play a lot for other artists, and most of that is violin work, but my day to day consists of a lot of music, which I'm very grateful for.
When I first moved to town, that hasn't always been the case. It took me probably four years, three or four years before I felt like I was settled into a more music-heavy workflow. It's an incredible town and people have each other's backs in Nashville, which is not always true of entertainment-heavy cities like New York and LA have more of a reputation for being very cutthroat and competitive. Not that Nashville isn't, because Nashville is as well, but there are a lot of people who are very willing to extend welcoming hands to you as a new musician or songwriter in town and try and help you, as long as you are serious about what you're doing.
Yeah, day to day, I mean it's not all that different from ... It's still, at the end of the day, it's work, so you pick up what you can. You scrape together a schedule that never makes sense, and you do what I did last night, which was leave at six p.m. and get in at four a.m. to get somewhere because the weather's bad. There's a lot of you have to be very flexible, you have to be very adaptable to things that change last minute. I wouldn't trade it for anything.
Breedlove: You recorded your last album, "Things We'd Rather Not Sayin Wisconsin. At a studio called Pine Hollow. It sounds like you have a group of friends and colleagues in that area that you grew up with and/or met along the way, and a lot of these folks have worked on a lot of different projects. Tell us about recording the album and how you assembled the recording team?
Bri: It was probably about a year and a half process from when I started finishing the songs that I wanted to go on the record and then figuring out where I wanted to record it. I did want to come back to Wisconsin to record, because I love Nashville, but I didn't want to necessarily have the Nashville vibe, which is very ... It's got kind of gloss to it, which is great, and I love it, and it's a very special sound, but it very much sounds like Nashville. These songs for me came from a place of ... They had a more Northwoods feel to me, so I wanted to go back to the Northwoods to record them.
The people that worked on the project, it kind of all came together just so well. I had just an absolute dream of people to work with. Evan Middlesworth, who owns Pine Hollow, is one of the sound engineers for The National. He dug the work tapes that I sent him and was game to work with me as a co-producer on it. Ben Lester, who I've worked with several times now, we went to high school together. He is a prominent collaborator with a lot of regional artists in the upper Midwest, including Bon Iver. He is just a creative force, and I loved working with him. He was available. Everybody just happened to be open and willing. We all went in there in January and tracked the record in ... I think it was five days. Four or five days. Really kind of went at it as a live feel more than anything else. My goal with this was not to have a super-produced end product with a lot of overdubs. It was very much like a band feel to the whole thing. That's kind of how that all went down.
Breedlove: When you leave Nashville and head home to Wisconsin in search of a different “sound” for your album, do you think that sound comes from the culture, the surroundings.. what other influences?
Bri: I don't know if I would say it's cultural, but well I guess maybe it is. It's just a completely ... I guess that is what it is. It's an entirely different music culture up here. If you go into a studio in Nashville and track something, there are very specific things that you do that nobody does without. For example, the thing that's coming to my mind is using a click track. You always record to a click track in Nashville, and that's something that I didn't want to do for this record. That, moving out of Nashville, really made something like that possible, because if you go into a studio and say, "I don't want to use clicks," then your legitimacy is almost shot. Whereas, to me, it's an aspect of ...
It's a creative tool to use. There're just different ways that you use these tools, and some people find some tools more essential than others. It's just how it's all how you fit the puzzle together, I guess. You end up with a very different end product. I feel like there's a little bit more of an open-air feeling to recording up in the Northwoods versus what you get in Nashville.
Breedlove: Makes sense. Tell me, what have you been working on recently?
Bri: I have been working on a lot of new music recently. I'm going into the studio next Sunday, or I guess this coming Sunday, to track a new song that is hopefully going to, fingers crossed knock on wood, come out this month still. I'm working on new music and hopefully will be releasing a few singles in 2019. Yeah. Just getting back to work. I'm always writing, always doing something.
Breedlove: Tell us about “Imperfect Thursdays?” What are these sessions and how did the concept come about?
Bri: It's a video series. It's just a short, usually midday Thursday, video series that I just stop whatever I'm doing and record a cover song of any kind of cover song. It's not genre specific. It's not writer specific. It's just kind of a chance to pause and interact with my crowd on social media in a little bit different capacity. It's been a lot of fun because it's very interactive too. People will request songs or I think they just really ... It's kind of a break from because I don't do it very curated, it's a break from shiny social media. I try to make it a very down to earth, authentic like, "Ah, I'm having a crazy day, but I'm singing a song for you anyway," kind of thing.
Breedlove: Every Thursday?
Bri: Every Thursday.
Breedlove: Do you know how many you've done in a row?
Bri: I have definitely lost count. I don't know. I would have to go back and count.
Breedlove: That's pretty impressive. That seems like one of those projects where you have an idea, it sounds very doable, but then life gets busy. Things probably get in the way. Thursday creeps up, and…
Bri: Yeah. It gets in the way. I mean, I've done them in my car before. I've done them basically in my pajamas before. Life gets in the way, but just really holding myself to that also has been an excellent way to stay creative and stay engaged with what I'm trying to do.
Breedlove: For people interested in following these sessions, and to listen to all of your music, what's the best way for them to engage and keep in touch with you?
Bri: You can find me on streaming platforms, too - Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, basically anywhere you listen to music, you can find me. Regarding social media, I'm pretty active in general on both Instagram and Facebook. My website, BriMurphyMusic.com, is an excellent way to keep up with tour dates and things like that. I keep it very up to date. I also have a mailing list which you can find from my website is how you get on the mailing list. Those are the main ways to stay in touch.
Breedlove: We are so honored to have you as our featured artist for the month of January and for you to kick off the 2019 Featured Artist Program! Thank you so much.
Bri: I'm honored. Thank you so much.
About Bri Murphy
Bri Murphy never really had a chance at doing anything other than making music. Plaintive and soaring, her forthcoming LP Things We’d Rather Not Say waltzes out of your speakers with the breezy ease that comes from a life steeped in melody. An antidote to daily darkness but not a denial, the sweetness of Murphy’s music tempers the raw honesty of her lyricism with a deft hand.
Born to pianist parents, Murphy started playing violin when she was four years old. Since then she’s picked up piano, mandolin, guitar, French horn, and a little bit of banjo. While growing up in northwestern Wisconsin, she spent her childhood summers eating okra and sweet corn in the Tennessee countryside. A southerner at heart, her favorite family stories center around Uncle Jimmy, proprietor of The Uptown Club in the notorious original Printer’s Alley.