Elliott Murphy interview by Danny Coleman
“A defining moment? There’ve been many but, a 1992 Bruce Springsteen show in Paris; I heard he was looking for me and he found me,” said the multi-talented man who has been called “An American Troubadour” and that man is Elliott Murphy. “Bruce asked me to do a song with him when he came to Paris and we sang my song, “Rock Ballad,” this was a defining moment; it brought it all home for me.”
Elliott Murphy, born to a New York family “In the business,” began his drive to commercial success by winning the 1966 New York “Battle of The Bands” competition. With a passion to perform and a musical story to tell, Murphy set out for Europe not long after his victory; performing wherever he could including stops in Amsterdam, Paris and Rome.
Upon returning to the U.S., Murphy’s brand of folk rock and acoustic styling garnered him a recording contract with Polydor Records and his debut album, 1973’s “Aquashow” was born. The work’s consequential success saw the spawn of three additional albums within a four year period and a relentless touring schedule. Big names in the industry began lining up to work either with or for Murphy. Doors producer Paul Rothschild had his hand in Elliott’s second album “Lost Generation” and the likes of Billy Joel, Phil Collins, Mick Taylor, Bruce Springsteen and others began contributing their services to his albums.
Then an odd thing happened to this now accomplished musician and author of multiple literary works; he started to fade away from the very industry which he at one point had taken by storm. “I came to Europe back in ’71,” he explained. “I came to Paris and loved the city. Nobody really cared about me by the end of the ’80’s in the states, so I moved to France and married a French woman. My music was doing well in Europe so I now pay French taxes and have done so for the last 25 years,” he chuckled as he seems to be a man totally at peace with his decision to do so.
Murphy says that his music is still widely accepted in the European markets and that more importantly, Elliott Murphy, the man is as well. “When I first moved here, despite my successes I had no money and an old Strat (Fender Stratocaster) which I still have. I moved here with no looking back and no regrets and it’s worked for me; I’ve received the Medal of the City of Paris from the Mayor. The French do these things with a lot of pomp and circumstance so it was a really big deal and a high honor being an American to receive the award.”
With an album catalog of well over 35 works, published short stories, poems and books, one may think that Murphy may have no time to keep abreast of the current trends and/or music scene in Paris and abroad; in fact this is not the case at all. Confessing that his own ilk are his preference; he keeps an open mind to the diverse collection of arts and entertainment that envelopes him daily. “I’m attracted to singer/songwriters but they seem to be a dying breed. I find Jake Bugg Interesting and my son Gaspard introduces me to new artists and material. I also like to keep up on what Trent Reznor is doing. There is a very strong domestic scene here in Paris, a fella’ by the name of Johnny Holiday is their version of Elvis; he sells out major venues. There’s the French version of hip-hop, and several others who have had a lot of success; it’s a thrilling scene. It’s a shame that I’m not much a part of it; being obviously an immigrant (laughs). I’ve done some work with a beautiful young woman, Gaelle Buswel, she’s a blues rock type. I wrote a song called “Black To Blue” that she has and I made a cameo on her album in the song by The Band; “The Wait.” She is a great artist and I’m not just a supporter I’m also a big fan as well.”
French and European audiences have accepted him with open arms, fueling more of his successes over the years than those in his native United States; something he has not taken lightly. Murphy says that as different as things can be; there are many similarities. “In many ways, the people, the audiences are the same; it’s art, it’s music it creates a common bond. They are very into it, into the music and honestly, they tend to stay faithful much longer. Rock music here is a cultural phenomenon; age doesn’t matter and as an artist you get great support.”
Along those lines, Murphy and his music have influenced generations of songwriters and performers; even if done so seemingly under the radar at times. The performers and talents that have worked on his releases or have asked for his contribution are a tribute to the man who never has given up on himself or his music. “Gosh, gee, it goes by so fast. It feels like yesterday that I had my first audition, that I did over 2000 shows, going here, going there putting out almost an album a year. You never know when you’re in it, the impact that you’ll have or the result of your efforts until you have time to look back. I’m about to make a new album, I’ve done thirty five already and this one is sort of like a “Prodigal son returns” type of thing. I try to stay somewhat current, be relevant. Gaspard is 23, I’m 65, we work together to try and find common ground on what’s right for today without going in an unrecognizable direction for me; it’s a continuing process but very fun. It is kind of ironic that more and more artists are going it on their own these days; I feel like I was a pioneer there years ago (laughs) because I really did things alone or on my own in many ways and I learned that survival is success.”
Time doesn’t seem to ever slow his desire or drive either; at the time of this interview he was prepping for a show in Barcelona Spain, contemplating playing more shows and on a recent and possibly another book. “I do this concert in Barcelona, I look forward to it when it comes around; such a beautiful city and a lot of fun. I figure that I’ll tour until I can’t do it anymore and I’m not sure when that’ll be,” he said once again with the laughter that often permeated our conversation. “There are possibly more books, I have three already; my plate is very full.”
Despite all of his accomplishments, accolades and success there is one thing that seems to stay at the forefront of his mind and seems to contribute to that drive; that is the U.S. “I have this dream,” he started in pensive tones, “Of getting back to the States and I am going to hold onto it. When my music fell out of favor or failed to hold the audiences in the U.S. it was upsetting but not the end. I still do an east or west coast tour, few dates here and there but I am still hoping for a rebirth in the states one day.”
With that, he had to take his leave. This man, respected by many in the industry and revered by his peers, who has worked with or influenced many of the same; was off to make a dent in that plate. Will his dream come true? Will that rebirth come about? The world of entertainment, although tough and difficult to break into; can also be very forgiving once the proverbial foot is in the door. Elliott Murphy is through that door and on its couch; heck he may be the one who has broken it down for others. The possibility is real that he may just be one well placed song on a movie soundtrack or a remake away from gaining the rebirth of which he speaks. In today’s point and click world, one never knows what can happen or where efforts can lead but one thing is certain; Elliott Murphy plans on remaining a viable force.
Elliott Murphy’s 2014 tour dates:
October 17 Kägelbanan, Stockholm, Sweden (PIANO SHOW)
October 23 Ypres, Belgium
October 25 Gistel, Belgium
November 15 Ploemeur, France
November 21 Villeneuve La Garenne, France
November 22 Neustadt, Germany
November 23 Café Conc, Bertenheim, France
November 29 Bibliothèque Buffon, Paris
To discover more about this man’s storied career; please visit: