Elliott Murphy

Breakthrough Moment

Elliott Murphy
Photo:Lennart Jonasson

I had a breakthrough moment on my way to Brindisi, Italy last month. The day started out bad – not enough sleep, a barking dog and a lack of information about where I was going. But I run on a leap of faith most days anyway, especially when I have two flights in front of me, a very tight connection, which forgives no screw-up be it clogged Paris traffic or late flight arrivals. The Normandy All-Stars had arrived in Paris from ... Normandy, the night before and were bivouacked at the famous Hotel Bonne Nouvelle, located just across the street from my home and highly recommended for value and conviviality. Finally we made both flights and were allowed once again to bring our guitars onboard the plane (thanks Air France!) The concert was held in the beautiful southern Italian port city of Brindisi where the ancient Roman poet Virgil came to die a long, long time ago. He was a Pisces too, by the way. That night the band and I played in the city square and the place was packed with men, women and children dancing in the moonlight. It was a typical end for my Italian musical adventures, which often begin in chaos and finish with a delicious plate of spaghetti. We sat in a restaurant near the harbor and there was a huge three-masted sailing yacht there and I felt like Jay Gatsby who upon seeing a similar yacht decided to change his life. It was a breakthrough moment for me because I decided I didn't want to change anything.

This autumn three of my albums will be released in the USA – my recent Elliott Murphy (produced by Gaspard Murphy), a remastered version of Aprés le Deluge, and a new live Just A Story From New York , from my 2010 concert at the Rockwood in NYC and, already, plans are in the making for an East Coast tour this coming December. East Coast as in "We're so East Coast – So here's a toast – Here's to everything I wanted the most ..." Name that tune! Gary Borress of GB Records says his goal is to try and raise my U.S. profile. We'll see where all that leads, maybe to a cross-country tour. It's been a long time ...

Back in the day (which seems to be the term my son uses to describe anything from the early days of my career) I did many a US tour, with plenty of shows on my own in memorable clubs such as New York's Bottom Line or Nashville's Exit Inn or even my first LA show ever at the Whiskey A Go Go, as well as opening for The Kinks, Electric Light Orchestra, Jefferson Starship, Hall and Oates, Sha Na Na (yes!) and many others. Tom Waits and I once did a five night stand at Chicago's Quiet Knight club and the audience was, well, sparse. After my opening slot I sat in the front row and watched each of Tom's shows. They were magic and he caressed that piano like a worn-out lover. One night the Eagles were playing in an arena across town and were having a big hit with Tom's "Ol 55" and someone from their record company decided to throw a party at the Quiet Knight. I was there but Tom wasn't. Rumor was that he hitchhiked from show to show and had to get an early start on the road out of town.

Just sent my beautiful black Taylor electric-acoustic guitar back to Taylor European headquarters for a complete check-up, they take good care of this 'ol troubador and I'm really grateful. Poor thing looks like its been through the war: frets worn out, pick marks all over the top and a nice crack in the back from when it fell off its stand ... somewhere. I must have played a couple hundred shows with this dark trooper so it's not surprising that it shows the wear and tear of thousand of miles on the road. My old friend Brian Ritchie of The Violent Femmes use to say that guitars are like tools and when they get worn out you can't get sentimental about them. He's probably right, but to me they're more like women or angels or poems made of wood and steel. Nearly all the songs I write come out of these boxes in some mysterious way. It's so hard to let them go.

Now, I can feel the seeds beginning to sprout for a new album and I've begun collecting and organizing a couple of years of musical and lyrical ideas. I'd like to do something baroque with orchestral arrangements fit for a movie soundtrack. Or maybe it will end up a solo acoustic album. Then again, it would be nice to let Olivier Durand really get wild on a Gretsch electric guitar. Gaspard is taking a semester off from school so hopefully he'll be around to put all the pieces together. Do I have anything left to say? Or maybe its just saying the same thing in many different ways, splattering those words on a musical canvas the way Jackson Pollock did it with paint. Once I rented a house out in the Springs on Long Island and Gaspard and I would ride up to his grave at sunset. It's a beautiful spot, just a huge boulder with his signature on it.

This afternoon there was a huge downpour in Paris, complete with thunder and lightning and the whole awe-inspiring event passed through the city in less then an hour. Now, the sun is shining and the leaves on the trees, of which there are so many in this city, are starting to dry or perform photosynthesis or whatever it is that leaves do when they're feeling good. Some people say we could not live without trees and some people live in trees. When I was a kid I had a tree-house high up in a massive oak and one day I fell off and hit the ground maybe fifteen feet below. I lost consciousness and when I came to I was alone and I didn't have a scratch on me.

Breakthrough moment. Keep 'em coming!

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