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12 minute read

Root Murphy

From India to the World

When did you first get into music? Please explain.

Music has always been a part of our individual journeys. As kids we were introduced to music early on and practiced regularly. I remember writing my first few poems and songs as a 14-year-old in 2003, it had already been a few years of playing the guitar and singing. We were both involved with school and university level performances. For Vishwam, performing live took a serious turn post school. Root Murphy came together in late 2011. Post-graduation, I wanted to create more music and had found like-minded people. In 2014 over practices at Soundstation, Vishwam and I first met and began to talk more of an approach that we found interesting. We agreed to work on projects of different kinds and create more as we went along.

What genre of music do you perform and why?

Our performances included multiple songs and playing styles. We used to carry registers full of lyrics and cues, and had begun liking and performing music of different categories. Soon after, we also produced for collaborations where we indulged in the approach that drove our interest – to experiment with the environment sound could create. Genres are meant to categorise music according to what listeners perceive. It is the listener’s definition of music and is usually judged by the playing styles, the sound and the instruments used in a song. In creating music, the genre framework can relate to us to the point of our instrumentation, our primary instruments being the drums and guitar. But when we include different musical styles and add sounds to the environment, it creates an experience where we may become slightly genre fluid. We can look at this approach as supporting a storyline in our writing.

And why did you choose that style of music?

The imagination can be a wild field of ideas. At times we lose a lot in the translation of these ideas by fitting a sound rather than exploring the idea. In further exploring the idea and supporting it, there is a creative pursuit or challenge that keeps us motivated and excited. Building different expressions has further nudged the knitting of a storyline we would like our listeners to experience. This approach has been natural to how we play and view music. We like to explore soundscapes and playing styles, which in turn helps us create breadth and depth in our music.

Who or What inspired you to pursue a career in music?

Every person who performs, plays or practices is a source of inspiration. We find a lot of inspiration in the music being created around us. India’s independent music scene is massive and is still gaining pace every day. More personally, our friends and family are a constant support that helps us form vision and direction. It is also a humbling feeling to put together a piece in the language of music. It’s where we find continuous inspiration to try and create the next piece. In terms of artists, we have been inspired by an endless list – Dave Matthews Band, Snarky Puppy, Jose Gansales, Derek Trucks, Battles, The Cinematic Orchestra, Anderson Paak, The Black Keys, Jojo Mayer, John Mayer, Joe Satriani, Guthrie Govan, Chet Baker, Radiohead, At The Drive-In.

How has your music evolved since you first began performing/songwriting?

We began with a lot of practice and cover performances. Songwriting was quick to follow, yet was rare. Each song felt like a new theme selected, a new challenge and that took its own time. Over the years, writing became more frequent to the point it felt natural to express with an instrument, an extension of us. Now, we keep looking for new ways of going about our writing, some pieces may take more time than others and some pieces may take more space than others. In all this we find a storyline and we want to be able to take our listeners through that journey, a journey through themes of sound. A lot of artists would love to tell you that writing a song doesn’t have to be difficult. They may also tell you it is ‘enough’ that ‘at-least a song came together’, and we’re happy for them. But it doesn’t have to end there, music can be a lot more than an expression, it can be a story. For us, we liked delving into our music and constructing a larger theme with our songwriting. And we would like to show you all these turns and new highways leading from destination to destination.

I’m sure you have shared the stage with a lot of talented artists/celebrities along the way. Would you share 1 or 2 of your favorite stories with us?

Over the years, we’ve looked up to many local musicians and artists – Them Clones, Parikrama, Skinny Alley, Pentagram, Black Strat Blues, Thermal and a Quarter. It was at multiple festivals that we met Them Clones. But this particular meeting at Escape Festival 2013 (Naukuchiatal) really stuck to me. It was here that I introduced Surojit Dev (Drummer) to Root Murphy and our then released single ‘Score’. He further invited us to perform at CloneFest, Delhi and we felt privileged to have been noticed. The stage was shared by Parikrama, Peter Cat Recording Co., Them Clones and us, a show that we will never forget.

If you were forced to choose only one, which emotion, more than any other drives you to stay in this tough business? Is it joy, anger, desire, passion or pride and why?

Keeping our peace has been the only saving grace through most of the madness around. In doing that, joy drives me more than ever. We can find joy in creating, practicing, performing what we do. Sure, there is a bit of everything along the way, and there have been multiple ups and downs. We’ve pushed as much as possible and come to a point where we can share this journey with everyone. It has been a humbling process.

Which ingredient do you think makes you special and unique as an artist in an industry overflowing with new talent and ideas?

As Indians, we have definitely been influenced by different performance styles around us. There is a lot of music and culture with every state and it also graces all our events and media. As artists, we try to keep all our music natural to our ideas and create more conceptually. We prefer to add to the depth of each track and the breadth of an overall theme. It has also become principle to try and break our own formula and take the next step. There is a uniqueness to any artist finding a voice of expression. It is purely that artist, their own originality, that only they can offer to an audience.

What has been your biggest challenge as a performing artist? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?

The industry and the culture around it in India conditions you to choose any other road apart from the ones that lead to music. At first, approaching a professional music career is its own challenge. It isn’t socially supported until it’s in a commercial movie or in a local language (which changes by the state). Opportunities are narrow when compared to the West, since India has mostly viewed the industry as a performing art. This also being the reason why most job listings are for music teachers and the list is short. Most artists are left with the only other opportunity – the widely supported commercial movie-making business. The culture over decades drifted from exploring art and theme in music to exploring skilful play for performing artists and audiences accepting more and more fads in music, only through Indian cinema. The content that followed had gotten uninspired – we saw a lot of re-runs, old to new remixes, an obsession with only skilfully driven performances and the explicit pop culture smitten with male dominance. It is only in these past few years with the current musicians in India that we have seen the growth of an Indie scene. There is so much being produced and released, it is inspiring to be a part of all the creativity. And apologies to the cover artists who mean business, but Bollywood has really ruined the awe of creative remixing or covering of previous songs. This can be done beautifully with the right intent. In fact, we have friends who are brilliant artists and cover some serious melodies. Keeping an open mind and viewing music the way we would like to and approach it accordingly has been the biggest challenge in all of this. To generate content and also give it a narrative has been time-consuming and a lot of hard-work. We’ve continuously tried to keep focus on our creativity and have made sure that we push each other to do better and do it in ways that made sense to us.

A common phrase in the industry is, “you must suffer for your art.” Do you agree with this statement? If so, how have you suffered for your art? Please explain.

I looked up that phrase and the idea I came across suggests that ‘Good’ art, measured by how relatable it is to an audience, comes from ‘Good’ artists. For art to be relatable suggests that it resonates with multiple experiences and emotions in people. To be able to create that, the artist would have a higher emotional IQ. Which in turn suggests that they have experience of the opposites in an emotional spectrum. Artists whose lives have seen ups and downs gain perspective from these opposite experiences. The debate is that if artists who haven’t ‘suffered’, create unrelatable or monotonous works. But then, there is also the debate of a culture that appreciates all art and expression, as everything can be new perspective. It is definitely worth a survey and some research, or we can say culture and art of its time go hand-in-hand, much like a chicken and egg. Personally and objectively, I’d like to use the word sacrifice rather than suffer. It wasn’t a sense of suffering that led us to doing more, rather it was the sense of choice that came with sacrificing objectives that weren’t on the path to music. It let us believe in the music we were creating. This is because we chose music through hurdles or celebrations, the ups and downs and believed more in our ability to complete the task at hand. One step at a time, we chose music over every other choice in life – social acceptance, monetary luxuries, support structures, salaries. We did what helped us learn more and eventually helped us creatively add.

How do you feel the internet has impacted the music business?

The internet has played a crucial role in how content is being approached and engaged with by an audience. The audience now engages with quicker experiences and a variety of content to actively choose from or passively accept what is available. A majority is seized by the algorithms making waves at socio-cultural levels. A high amount of content generated regularly has made it crucial for artists to be innovative and the next step in the sound they create, using every tool in their own possible way. In fact, this makes it even more essential for the exploration of themes and art in music to exist at such a time.

If you could change anything about the music industry, what would it be?

The music industry in India can definitely use more infrastructure, planning and organisation. There are few outlets and fewer opportunities, musician support structures barely exist. This is a flaw at a cultural level for a country that sheds light on some of the most beautiful music globally, we’re far behind on supporting the artists who create it. There is a noticeable change taking place for the last few years. If anything, we would like for that change to be largely supported. All artists should have opportunity and support with developed infrastructure and platforms. There are many Indian music artists that are exemplary to experience. Hopefully, we’ll see a growth of audiences supporting musicians in India.

What are the 5 albums that have helped make you the person you are today? And why?

Led Zepplin IV, In Rainbows, 10000 Days, Come Tomorrow and Veneer. These were some very crucial turns with music experienced (we missed Pink Floyd – but you get the idea) not just for us but for music lovers globally. Old-school, progressive, experimental, thematic and clean - there is an array of sounds, textures, playing and production styles between these and it all leaves one with fresh perspective.

Tell us about your current project. Please explain.

We are currently working on releasing our four-part Debut Independent Album ‘Kinetophone’. The parts, called ‘Stacks’, are similar to volumes that add more context to an overall theme or storyline. Stack 1 of the album, released Nov’ 2020 includes the tracks Love Always, Context, Run Along and Hold Steady. They are a mix of moods and tones that set the cornerstones of the album and its approach. ‘Kinetophone’ was coined in an effort to term ‘the experience of sound’ or ‘the sound of experience itself’. The former refers to the experience created while listening to music, which can be compared to a mental workout. Our mind first tears down what it hears to layers, bits and frequencies, and reconstructs the entire scape we then experience. On the other hand, ‘the sound of experience itself’ may sound larger than the words that coin it. But it is in understanding the role of the musician that we can see this idea formulate. In the act of translating expressions to music and when the musician both listens for and performs the next natural cue in real-time, we can see that the performer is in fact being a medium, bringing to you sound woven experientially. Creating Kinetophone has been a journey and hopefully we can translate the same with our music. Stack 2 is being released this March and we’re very excited.

What is the best advice you have received?

“Don’t do music”. That one stuck around. Also, “I’m-possible”, “Work-Hard”, “Be yourself”, “Believe in yourself”, “Choose Hope” and “you can’t make a cat swim and a fish climb a tree”.

What’s next for you?

You can expect Root Murphy to keep writing music, we’ve always been around. For now, we’re working on sharing a live version of the songs released and also sharing the latest in our music. This may entail live shows, online shows, maybe a video? We’re open to possibilities and are always looking to take the next step forward.

How can fans-to-be gain access to your music?

Our Website – www.rootmurphy.com We’re on all major streaming platforms – Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/04jYDktvbDKVQTLc5qDL0b?si=Ai2dM0UWTuOnnVWHSvDPag YouTube: https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_kyhf64mDwnVQtYW05-aabD6VNnVOIJvPA Apple: https://music.apple.com/in/album/kinetophone-ep/1540087395 Also Amazon, Anghami, Deezer, Google Play, iHeartRadio, Napster, JioSaavn and more. Some of our other work is on SoundCloud and YouTube.

Where are you from city,state, town, country?

New Delhi, India

Do you have social media?

Instagram: www.instagram.com/rootmurphy Facebook: www.facebook.com/rootmurphy Our latest features – Psych-Rock Duo Root Murphy Release Stack One of Debut Record ‘Kinetophone’ (rollingstoneindia.com) Soothe your mood - mumbai guide (mid-day.com)