From the moment she steps on the stage and puts lips to microphone, she captures you with her cool, calm and sensual demeanour. As she starts to sing, the hairs on your arms raise up, almost as if to salute the power of her brassy tone, but certainly in respect of one’s physical self-registering itself being in the presence of a true artist of the Soul. She goes by the name of Ms Murphy and she is fast becoming the voice to be reckoned with in the Australian soul community.
Karen Andrews, aka Ms Murphy rose to national fame when she demanded national attention on the stage of the blind auditions at The Voice Australia 2013 competition earlier this year. What she achieved was not just the turning of the judges chairs and the capturing of Ricky Martins coaching heart, but she made Australia sit up and become actively engaged in the what, where, why and who this mysterious and alluring singer with the haunting and bold voice is? Well she answered those questions each week as she maintained a stronghold on the intense round of competition, wowing the judges, audience and nation alike with a professionalism and ease rarely found at an entry level competitor’s position. Ms Murphy is beyond entry level in the music world no doubt. Boasting a career that has surged since her youthful training ground in her family church, it was her singing to God that gave her the tools of her trade and she has been sharing her voice ever since.
No stranger to struggle, Ms Murphy’s voice carries a vulnerability that resonates with those who have endured matters of the heart. Be it pain or love, when she sings there is a direct link to your soul. She is a singer that is all about connecting and communicating with her audience and her mission is to make music of purpose and reason. Signed to Universal and working on her first EP “White Dress and the Spirit” due for release in early 2014, Australia is aching for a representation of our soul community through the vessel of Ms Murphy. With the industry giving respective nods to her remake of the 2011 indie hit from Swedish outfit Little Dragon called “Ritual Union”, the powerhouse from Koonawarra is the real deal!
I was honoured to converse with this beautiful soul, feeling an instant connection between women who value authenticity and the art of humility. Resembling an ethereal beauty and vocal presence of the great Etta James, Billy Holiday and Nina Simone of our yesteryear, this 32 year old stunner, is poised for a prosperous music career with her feet firmly rooted in her authenticity, adding a modern touch to a vintage flow. I can only say how blessed I have been to be able to interview an artist that is truly destined for greatness – will be watching from the sidelines as she takes over the world as only Ms Murphy can!
Such a pleasure to talk to you Ms Murphy – can I ask how the last few months since your time on the Voice have panned out for you personally and professionally?
Thank you so much Maxine, I am glad to speak with you also. I love your writing and how you interview people – you have a great gift so I am really happy to feature on your blog.
Wow life has really changed so much for me since the Voice. On a personal level it has been a true lesson in validation for me you know, going through what I went through on the show and growing so much more than I thought I ever could as a person and an artist, so I am so grateful for that. On a professional level, I am truly blessed to have the management I have and for their love and support. I have secured a recording deal with Universal Australia and I am beyond excited about that. My EP will be released on January 24 and I cannot wait to share it with everyone. I have been able to do some original tracks on there and really have great input and freedom to explore with this project so I am thankful. I’ve gotten to work with the legendary Lance Ferguson of The Bamboo’s and that’s been a great blessing. So I feel very fortunate.
I must admit to having being absolutely glued to the screen every time you appeared, mesmerized by your voice and your presence – you were always so cool and calm but I’m sure underneath it all the nerves were coursing through your veins. How could you best describe your time on the show and how did you learn to keep the nerves at bay and deliver such stellar performances every time?
( Laughs ) You know I always kept my eye on the bigger picture, knowing in my heart that the show was the launch pad or stepping stone onto a larger purpose for and that was able to keep my nerves at bay. I just kept my eyes focused and I knew that I had great support from friends and family and the audience and that kept me calm. My coach Ricky’s (Ricky Martin) love and believe in me helped immensely and I learnt so much from him that I was just able to focus on the performance and doing my best every time. I know that my career was more than just moments so I was able to remain calm.
Your cultural heritage is Tongan / Scottish / New Zealand and your musical background a diet of Motown, Stevie Wonder and Polynesian music. When you sing I am reminded of legends like Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald and the like – how would you best describe Ms Murphy and her sound?
Definitely soul music but I think what resonates with me and the artists that you mentioned, Nina & Ella is their honesty. There is something very honest, broken and vulnerable in their voices that resonates and connects with me and I know when I am in my zone and my soul is singing, I am sharing the most honest part of myself with you. Broken yet strong, unique and beyond this time and that what I aspire to cultivate in my voice. When I’m performing it’s important for me to connect and be vulnerable , but never weak. That’s very important for me to convey strength and reach people that have been through some things, just as I have.
Why the alter ego name of Ms Murphy – is there a tribute or story behind that stage name?
Ms Murphy came from a covers band I started called “Ms Murphy & the Bombers”. We are soul covers band. It was a name that expressed freedom for us. We are a church band that was caught up in the politics and people’s opinions of what music in worship should sound like. We just wanted to play music! And enjoy the freedom in music, art and expression. The name Ms Murphy for me helps me push through a lot of barriers in myself when I perform. I am less afraid, and reminds me of how much I have pushed through to get to where I am.
Do you like performing live Ms Murphy?
Oh I love performing live. I love it – there is so much interaction with the audience and the musicians and such a great energy that flows off stage. That’s where the true magic happens you know, in those moments and through that dynamic of live performing that a true artist really appreciates. I just love it!
What do you think is the most important quality a singer should possess in order to reach and touch their audience and do you feel it when you touch someone with your voice / music?
You have to open yourself up when you are singing to and for people, that’s a given. You can’t just expect to get on stage and just perform a song without actually being the song, you know what I mean. There’s an attachment there that your audience as always aware of and they will know if that attachment is disconnected. That’s why I am always aware and funnily enough still surprised when I my connection with the audience is reciprocated as I am so caught in the moment of the words and emotion and I am thinking of the nerves associated with just putting myself out there in general. So when people come up to me and tell me that my singing or song touched them, healed them, even annoyed them ( laughs) it’s then when I know I have reached them and they feel something. It’s a great feeling. Artists should always be themselves, being anything or anyone doesn’t benefit anyone. Be yourself and people will hear you.
The artists / music that has been your mentor / inspiration and why?
Jill Scott. I stood right up the front during her recent tour in Sydney, full geeking out in her t-shirt and just in awe of her ( laughs). She’s amazing and I learn so much from her storytelling ability, the way she talks about herself through her music and touches people is simply amazing to me. She is so open to letting you know who she is, there is no defence mechanism with her when she shares her life with you and I love it. I take what I should learn from her and she is truly a mentor to me, without even knowing it.
How do you ensure you stay spiritually, mentally and physically fit as a person so you can be the best artist you can be?
I make sure that I have my core group of people around me that I can trust. They always tell me the truth with love and they are very good to me. If I didn’t have them around me I don’t think I would have been able to even have gone on the Voice to be honest. Just their believe and support of me made me move mountains. I am very lucky to them in my life.
What is greatest motivation in this life?
Living, I just want to live, I just want to do me, have fun, tell my story and just live.
The best advice you have been given and how you apply it to your daily life?
I would say “ to be a person of character” is something I apply to my daily life. To be myself and to keep on growing as a person and a musician and that it will all come together.
For more information on Ms Murphy visit: https://www.facebook.com/missmurphymusic