XXQs: Putnam Murdock
PensEyeView.com (PEV): How would you describe your sound and what do you feel makes you stand out over the others in your genre?
Putnam Murdock (PM): If needed to categorize my sound, I place it somewhere under the Americana umbrella. I hope that what separates my sound from others’ is the honesty in my music. Lyrically, I believe there is substance, something worth connecting to. Musically, my latest record, Brand New Widow is a haunting sound-scape. This record is dusty and patient. It requires participation. It is not a record of hooks and candy.
PM: I am an old-time music lover who was raised on a diet of John Prine and Bob Dylan. As I grew up in the 1980’s and 1990’s, blues and rock and roll were added to the menu. My father’s bluegrass band (still picking today) rehearsed every Thursday night. I was a fixture in that living room; eager to learn and absorb. This is what I thought to be normal life: people sitting in circles all night long, singing in harmony and healing each other with song.
PEV: Was the certain point in your life when you knew you wanted music to be a large part of your life, if not the biggest part?
PM: This weekly infusion of bluegrass was the inspiration and paradigm for me. I knew that I wanted to be a part of what they were doing. By my teens, I was experimenting with songwriting and performing on a regular basis.
PEV: Tell us about your first ever live performance.
PM: My first live performance was when I was thirteen or so. My family was in New Hampshire for a summer outing. We all ending up a restaurant/bar that had a musician strumming his guitar and singing songs. My father convinced this performer to let me come up and play a tune. I think I butchered “Ripple” by The Grateful Dead and “Talkin’ Bout A Revolution” by Tracy Chapman. It was a gas. However, I do vividly remember the adrenal rush of performing live.
PEV: What was it like for you when you first started out and making the transition to professional musician?
PM: I think I had a similar time to most musicians who work to sustain their lives with music. I ate less food, played more music, networked with anyone and everyone, and tried to work as hard as possible at it. Like many others, I also had to learn how the master the art of supplemental income; doing any type of work that paid cash and didn’t mind if I did not show up the next day.
PEV: What is the underlining inspiration for your music? Where do get your best ideas for your songs?
PM: Mostly, the inspiration is coming from my experiences of love and death. These two emotions seem to beget the most honest reactions from me. However, I do love to step out of myself either with co-writing or writing from a different perspective.
PEV: Tell us more about your latest release, “Brand New Window” and why you feel so passionate about this project. What can fans expect from this work?
PM: Brand New Widow is a snapshot of my life in the truest sense. My family had been grieving, hence the title, and I needed to make sense of it all. (I am not sure that I ever did make sense of anything, but certainly bathing in all of the emotion was cathartic.) The record was recorded live-to-tape in an old church-converted-to-studio. The live-room where we were all set up was a cavernous, wooden space. This studio had the option to board, so we lived there for a week with no escape. There were no distractions, so the recording of this record became the only focus. The record was only half-written, so I was often alone in the live-room each morning, drinking coffee and scratching through composition journals trying to finish a song. This wonderful space served as a voice on the record. It helped create what you hear. By the end of the week, we were done. No over-dubs. No endless scrutinizing over minutia. A snapshot.
PEV: Describe the kind of mindset you have to be in to record a song?
PM: I have to be living the story. Whether the story is mine or not, I have to be almost acting it out as if on stage of a theatre.
PEV: Is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet? Why?
PM: No. There are hundreds of areas. But if I had to choose one, it would be the northern U.K. I have heard that John Prine hangs out in Ireland, so I would like to buy him a Guinness and share some songs.
PEV: What can we find you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?
PM: I have a family and I teach. Time with my wife and son is coveted. I have also been recording soundtracks for many documentary film makers. This has been a recently discovered avenue of music for me. I am loving the brevity, the approach and the new added dimension of the visual.
PEV: Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?
PM: If I may, I would love to list a few of my contemporaries who are also my influences: Reed Foehl, Gregory Alan Isakov, Kara Suzanne, and Kenny Cambre. These musicians are writing some of the best songs I have heard. Also, Kenny Cambre was just on The People’s Court (airing in May). His case was chosen to be filmed. He unfortunately had to go after his former landlord to collect his security deposit. Kenny won the case and proceeded to play a song during the closing interview. This is normal life for Kenny.
PEV: If you weren’t playing music now what do you think you would be doing as your career?
PM: I think I would like to farm; not livestock necessarily, but fruits and vegetables. My son would like the tractors.
PEV: So, what is next for Putnam Murdock?
PM: I will be touring, networking and recording for film. I have started writing the next record which I hope to record sometime soon. Thank you for this opportunity to share with you.