Austin-based singer-songwriter Trish Murphy felt there was something missing from her 1997 indie-label debut album, “Crooked Mile”: pop sensibility.
It came to her just in time for her winning Doolittle/Mercury debut, “Rubies on the Lawn” (released July 20).
“When I came out with all these songs for what became ‘Rubies on the Lawn,’ the songs just demanded a different treatment,” the Houston native said recently. “I was happy about it, because I could see what they were; they were the strongest melodies I had ever written, and that was progress really to celebrate.
“Lyrically, what I achieved was a lot more freedom, that the songs became less about specifics and less about biography and became more about universal experience. That’s something you grow into.”
Murphy is a true do-it-yourself marvel. She released “Crooked Mile” on her own label, sold 10,000 copies and earned critical praise. One music writer likened her country, rock and folk blend to “Sheryl Crow minus the city attitude.”
Keeping her name out front, Murphy performed on such nationally syndicated radio shows as “World Cafe,” “Mountain Stage” and New York’s “Idiot’s Delight.” She also toured Europe and played Lilith Fair’s second stage.
Like the subject of “Me Behind the Wheel,” the second track on “Rubies on the Lawn,” Murphy likes the feeling of being in control of her own destiny.
“What’s been a surprise for me, and this might be a function of being on an independent label, it seems like it’s all or nothing,” Murphy said. “I used to have this sort of unsubstantiated fantasy that as I increased the size of my team I would have people who were well-versed or specialized in certain aspects of it that could help navigate me through the decision-making process. But what I have found, the team is bigger, but everyone still defers to me for the final decisions on things. It’s so cool.
“When control is taken out of your hands, that’s when you end up with, for example, videos that don’t express anything of your own personal vision about a song. The more control you maintain, sure the blame falls to you if things don’t work, but I think by a long shot you greatly increase the odds of success because they stay consistent with your vision and not get sidetracked by someone else’s vision of what you should be.
“The bottom line is, listeners respond better to authenticity more than anything else. That’s always been my target mark. I don’t really care about anything else but that.”
Though Murphy may be analytical about her career – she can afford to be, she has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy – she still likes to shake things up, especially onstage.
“It’s a rock show, and it seems to catch people by surprise,” she said. “And just when people make a foregone conclusion about what it is, they see what it is, and that saves me from the pigeonhole of being compared to other female artists.”
BWF (before we forget): Get up close and personal with Trish Murphy on the Web @ www.trishmurphy.com.