Pic by Foldback Magazine's Steve Habibi Kelk
INTERVIEW: Murry Rhodes
Hi Murry, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
Hiya VENTS, I’ve been pretty good thanks. Gigging and writing and recording in the middle of nowhere and doing really well. 😀 . I live in a bus, parked up in a caravan holiday park 70 Kilometres out of Darwin in the Tropical North of Australia.. Life is great, surrounded by snakes and crocodiles and other tropical life. A lot of holiday people come and go so I get to meet and greet a lot of happy folks on Holidays. This is my Home. Sorry about how long this response is… You might like to put the kettle on.. 😀
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Three Little Words”?
Sure, this was a fun little song to write. Saying ‘I love you , I love you, I love you’ but shortening it down into only three little words. It was quite a nice little project. When I perform this live the audience stop eating, stop talking, stop doing everything , they just stop, they listen and let the music take them on the journey and let the song tell its story. Its often followed by a really warm applause and a lot of smiles. Occasionally I see couples responding with eyes of love toward each other.. Gives me that romantic little aawwe feeling.. 🙂 So this song kind of serves as a nice little reminder to everyone of how special those three little words can be to give and receive.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
Musically, I was playing Joe Cocker’s “You are so Beautiful” when I recognised the chord sequence I used for the intro was similar sounding to how I treat my Blues version of “Amazing Grace” so Musically I started playing around with Amazing Grace and changed a few chords of the sequence and came up with a nice minor inflection on a simple structure which resounds a little sadness but at the same time, a little hope.
The Music came first and as I played the notes, I felt the music telling me a story of a combined sense of Love and also Redemption. It made sense considering the two songs I was toying with at the time. From here the Lyrics came. It would be a song of Love of different kinds and also a song of Redemption.
For the lyrics there was no singular event and indeed this song has a multiple meaning of love. I like to write metaphysically or with double entendre and sometimes the meanings are more obscure than others. The first and most obvious component of this is in the Humanitarian sense of Love, “You are so Beautiful” trying to find someone who can show a loveless person how to love and be loved. Not necessarily a romantic love but also the love of family or friends or even strangers who we encounter in life. The second kind of love is that form of love that we look for in ourselves, kind of like a redemption of the soul asking we deserve our own love or are we beyond our own redemption beyond forgiving our inner selves. Many religions use a singular god of love to provide a path to forgiveness and love.
I’m not a follower of any one religion but do I appreciate and share many of their values. You will notice some references to Christian prayers, the Lords prayer etc. Daily bread = Love, as in we all need a little love every day. Forgiveness – Unconditional love , being able to see through what ever someone has done against you to still be able to love them. Long lost day Walk a mile in my shoes – Shadow of the valley – The different images that can spring to mind each time we hear the words can change how we are feeling at the time and what the song means to us. Its multi layered.
Personally. If I reach down deep, I find that I’m quite lucky in many ways. There are people in my life who love me, people who are not necessarily blood family but who I love as brother , sister , mother , father and friend.. People who were once strangers but are no longer. Its a rich kind of love that I value highly.. The other kind of love, the Romantic kind, well, I’m only human and I have been in and out of love for all its fun and fulfilment, its sadness, grief and sometimes emptiness and its always a beautiful thing to find someone who can show the way to say “ I love you , I love you , I love you” in those “Three little words”.
Any plans to release a video for the single?
It would be nice to have the resources and/or knowledge to get creative with audio visuals on many of my originals. Especially a few songs that I wrote last week.. But one step at a time. I’m still only a fresh fish when it comes to the music industry and the only person I have to get these things done at the moment is mainly myself.. Time is a demanding maiden gigging, writing, recording, designing albums and promotional materials, administration for licensing, production, distribution, marketing of music in the different media fora and learning all the processes to do these things is quite time consuming. I don’t have the money or resources to get anyone else to do it for me so until I can figure out how to put a nice visual clip to the song the idea just has to sit on the back burners for now until other priorities are sorted.
The single comes off your new album Silhouettes of Song II & III – what made you want to release two albums at the same time?
In truth I didn’t plan to release two at once. In January I had recorded SOS II and was almost ready to publish but before publishing I went to a friend’s place played it through his stereo and I wasn’t happy with the sound quality of the piano.. So I started down the path of Learning everything I could about trying to make a piano sound crisper and nicer by using what resources I had.. I was in obsession mode, 24Hrs a day for months on end. My internet service out here in the outback is very poor which made the task ahead of me even more of a challenge.. But after pulling apart and learning an editing program intimately I finally managed to come up with a sound quality that was much nicer than any previous recordings including the SOS I album. I’ve since remastered the SOS I album and will release that online in the near future.. By the time I had found the right sound I felt like I was behind in my schedule so this is when I considered releasing SOS II & III at the same time.
What’s the story behind the title?
Silhouettes of Song. is a series of albums that is in a progressive state of being created and released. ( The title of each album of the series is dedicated to a selected original song, SOSII “stoned and a little crazy”, SOSIII “Forever Never Came”) The story behind the Silhouettes of Song series title is quite simple. I am not a trained pianist nor trained singer so I can’t play or sing strictly to one score sheet where a song sounds exactly as you would know it. You’ll almost never hear me play a song played exactly the same way because I just use my own shorthand notes to roughly sketch how to play the songs and any one song can go in any number of directions. For cover songs I try my best to preserve the melody and lyrics but beyond that, the timing, rhythm, inflections and chord sequences get played differently each time. But when ever you do hear a song you might recognise it in the same way you might recognise shapes of things when looking at silhouettes. This is the concept of all the SOS albums in the past present and future. Hence Silhouettes of Song is a beautiful or poetic way of saying, I’m not a trained musician but I’ll do my best to give you something nice to listen to and something you might recognise. I also like that I can shorten the title to SOS which is an international distress call for people stranded and needing help.. You’ll notice a lot of my original songs are about helping others in some small ways. I know my songs have touched and helped a few folks already so that feels really awesome and kind of apt for SOS.. 😀
All the of SOS albums are connected.. At present there are only three SOS albums published, I am preparing another two or three for the near future and there may be even more SOS albums further down the track.. The recordings are “LIVE” performance recordings done in my bus. The songs are songs that I play live to my audiences. I sing cover songs from many genres, I love all music and I don’t like to discriminate between any one genre. I’ve met many musicians who discriminate between genres and I find it as uncomfortable as people who discriminate against any indifferences. Anyway since I’m only in the early stage of my music career and since I am only able to play the piano and sing and without backing tracks or other musos, these SOS albums are of just that.. They are a collection or series of albums that represent my solo performances..
How was the recording and writing process?
I live in my bus and I don’t have the money to afford recording studios or sound technicians so the recording process is this.. I built a studio in a box and fitted into my bus.. I’ve learned the editing program well enough now to be happy with the sounds of the recording, at least its the best that I can do with what little resources I have.. These days, My studio box is open permanently and I can record almost when ever I want.. Although I do have some restrictions, living in a caravan park means many day time sounds of cars and children playing and people hammering tent pegs and all sorts of wonderful sounds but they don’t sound too great on a piano vocals track so I can’t really record during the day. There is a night time curfew on noise after 10pm so recording after then doesn’t happen.. I do find some windows of opportunity to record…
When I do get to record I play the piano and sing at the same time, so its a LIVE recording from start to finish. I play each song all the way through until I’m happy that what ever mistakes I might have made, don’t interfere too much with the song on a whole. This also helps me develop the song and practice for the live audience performances. I know some studio methods include doing multiple recordings of the one song and cutting and pasting the best bits and removing any mistakes but for me, mistakes are human and if they don’t upset the flow of the song, then they add to the authenticity of it being played and sung “live” by a human, flaws and all 🙂 . In saying that, there are some background noises that I edit out if they detract from the sound quality for example; I have done my best to remove the sounds of the clickety clack of the piano key strokes that come through on the vocals mic but a few still get through especially in the boogie woogies. I’m pretty happy with the results though.. Once I’ve reduced the blips and clicks I then use an online mastering process which is cheap and has some limitations but for the final result it is well worth the money..
I have a lot of different writing processes. Being untrained as a pianist, many of my songs musically are learning curves. My first two songs as Heard on (SOS I) musically were about me learning chords, what they are called and how different chords are created. Where and how different chords can be used to give a feeling of things. I still write songs just to learn something new musically. It really is quite an adventure learning how to swim in deep water. Because I play cover songs across many genres, my goal is to write a few songs in each genre so I get to learn a little more about each style. As I progress I’m finding that my music writing is simplifying but also crossing multiple genres in the one song. Kind of making its own little blend of genres in its own style.
Lyrically, well sometimes the music gives me a feeling and I start getting poetic with those feelings, and then lyrics can just flow with the music.. Tweaking a few words here or there or maybe tweaking the music to fit the words or any combination of the two. As in like “Three Little Words” although sometimes if I’m trying to tell a story, then I’ll write the story and try to make some music that fits the story. “Forever Never Came” started life as a story of an age old dark and deep topic of Armageddon. It has a heavy tragic religious component needing a heavy slow feel but then also a curios question of how people might respond tying up loose ends, or drinking themselves to oblivion or celebrating it so some kind of toe tapping boogie was needed.. But of course at the end there needed to be a sense of tragedy, loss and nothingness man kind going down for the last time, so Forever Never Came was the resolve of the title and the music finishing on the lows musically. A slow dark finally.
Ultimately I write to learn, and as I do I learn to write. I see the progress in my writing skills on the faces of my audience when I capture their attention and take them on a little journey I created. Its great when I see their faces smile, laugh or cry as my music takes them on those journeys.
What role does Australia play in your writing?
I’ve travelled the world quite a bit but Australia will always be my home. After all that I have seen on this planet I feel that I was very lucky to be born here. Indeed if I was born anywhere else given the life I was born into, well I’d likely be dead or behind bars.. I may not be wealthy, I may live in a bus but the generosity of some strangers and the romance of the Australian outback against its harsh realities has given me a perspective to see the world as I do and share some of that world in my writing of music and lyrics. My spoken vernacular is rich in Australian dialect and accent. You get to hear a little of this Australian voice in “Tumbling Waters” on SOS III where I describe my current surroundings living where I do in the outback… Its a Beautiful place and what doesn’t get mentioned in the song are the people who make it even more beautiful. Generous Australians who have given me the motivation and opportunity to be here and perform and develop my music.
How has Bob Dylan and The Animals influenced your writing?
Its funny you should ask, this week I wrote my very first song specifically targeted at politics and mores the point political protest songs. Keep an eye out for it in my next albums its title is “Sticks n Stones”… Bob Dylan songs are reflections of humanity. Sometimes they are beautiful songs about the questions we might ask ourselves to determine if we are as individuals and also as a species as compassionate as we could be like in “Blowin’ in the Wind” (SOS I). Sometimes his songs are internal reflections of the many voices and personas we have floating around inside of us as like in “All along the watch tower” our internal conflicts between our perceptions of right and wrong. This one made my cover song list when I was asked to put a setlist together for ANZAC day Australias day of remembrance for the armed services. Its such a powerful song that touched a lot of folks during the more modern wars. I don’t much like making conclusions about anything because life is so fluid and constantly changing that many conclusions get redefined and lines get redrawn, rules change, laws change better for some and worse for others and so “The times they are a changing” is just a nice way of saying get ready for change.
Bob’s writing is an elegant kind of poetry with simple music. His lyrics are complex with contemplation intended so his music is kept in a simple repetition so as not to detract from the lyric being heard. Where as the Animals, well they are always fun to listen to but the instruments often blurred lyrics where a lot of mondegreens creep in. I started playing their version of House of the Rising sun, and then later found that it was a shortened version made from the age old traditional American song House of the rising sun or also known as “Rising Sun Blues”. Telling the whole story of that song appealed to me so I started playing it live. It’s quite a long song if played slow throughout, so this gave me a nice little opportunity to make a train ride boogie starting as “ a Hobo”, Hoboin with “one foot on the platform”..I kind of relate to this part of the song because I am a vagrant, a hobo of sorts only these days I live in bus. I do have “We gotta get outta this place” on my song list but the vocal high jumps make it tricky so I haven’t found a way around those yet.
What aspect of progress did you get to explore on this record?
The first Album being ( SOS I ) was a celebration of having built a studio box and built it into my bus. My recording method and equipment was quite basic and I was just happy to be able to have something that I could sell at my gigs for when folks asked if I had a CD for sale. SOS was the driving force behind months of intensive self learning by trial and error.. I’d ask experts and they mainly pointed toward buying expensive equipment and programs which I simply couldn’t and still can’t afford… So I just kept at the program until I started getting some results.
Musically you’ll notice SOS II has a few more country songs. It was a genre that I still hadn’t spent much time playing with so these songs gave me an opportunity to look at a few forms of country rhythms and timing in simple progressions. Since then I’ve now written a couple of country songs that will get released in the near future.
SOS III, Technically is just a little more polished than SOS II but now I had a nice sound coming out it was great little opportunity to do a number of songs that my live audience really respond well to.. Ray Charles, Louis Armstrong for some Jazzies and a nice little mix of soft rock n soul and all with a sound that I felt was pleasant on the ear. You will also hear songs with higher notes, such as in “Unchained Melody” or “Nights in White satin”. Ambitious notes I call them, difficult for my naturally low voice to reach but practice is making these notes clearer and nicer to approach.. The album SOS IV has one or two songs with a note or two even higher again.. This is a great little measure of progress in my vocals because 3 years ago when I started trying to sing songs I couldn’t even sing the high note of Hallelujah which was an ‘E’ now I’m up to singing the ‘A’ note above.. Perhaps by the time I finish the SOS series I might be up to the high “C”.. 😀 which will mean I can add a few extra songs to my list.. 😀
Through out the process and because my recordings are one off “LIVE” performances. Playing each song all the way through from beginning to end I get to hear what my vocals are doing in real time and I have been able to make audible changes to my singing technique and make a nicer sound with my voice which has lifted my live audience performance to whole new level. Standing ovations in restaurants, Applauses and whistles inspired by the music and that go far beyond a polite clap. Album sales and tips are crazy good. So doing these albums have lifted me to a level of confidence to move forward with music as a career and start taking a few more steps in that direction.
I am getting some really nice reports back from fans who have bought the Albums. One awesome comment that is coming in quite frequently now is “ Your music has been on in my car non stop now since I bought it”. Most of my audience are road travellers like myself and they spend months driving so its quite a powerful compliment for me to get a compliment like that. I know how great it is to find an album that you put on in your car and it just plays perpetually without you needing to change it..
Any plans to hit the road?
As a matter of fact, I am planning it as we speak.. Where I live is in a Tropical region in the North of Australia. Starting May through to September we experience nice dry weather conditions and it is a very popular tourist destination during this time, but from October to April the weather is hot and humid and we see a lot of tropical storms and cyclones so a lot of travellers head south during this time.. The demand for entertainment follows the seasonal changes, high demand during the dry and weak demand during the wetter months. So for a musician it makes sense to follow the market.
For the past two years I have stayed here weathering the storms and the humidity stuck in my bus working on learning new songs and computer programs for recording and designing my albums etc.. Learning what I could do to improve my performance and also the administrative side of the business. This dry season I got such a great audience response at my gigs so now I have the confidence and the promotional tools to start canvassing and planning a tour.. I still have gigs booked up here through until December so I have stopped taking bookings up here from now through to June next year so I can go down south and start exploring the tour side of the business. The planing started a few weeks ago with initial emails to gather some information on what to expect in different towns as I plan a January to June circular route and be back here late May early June to start performing my residencies for the dry season up here.
The tour will be my first step into a marketing plan for my brand and albums.. I’ve never had an opportunity to go to any festivals ever and so there are a number of festivals that I’ve heard where busking is a really cool experience and its something I’ve never done before so I’ve started making some enquiries for busking licensing, accomodation and other logistics.
When I leave Darwin I’ll head south to the Tamworth Country Festival in January 2018 and then on my way back north there is a Blues Festival in Byron Bay in March that I’d like to check out… So I’ll be writing a few more country songs and also some blues songs to see how well I can strutt my stuff at these festivals.. 😀 I wrote a very cool Blues song last week and I audience tested it last night at a gig and the audience loved it so fingers crossed I’m on the right path..
What else is happening next in Murry Rhodes’ world?
My immediate priority now is a juggle between preparations for the tour south and also getting as much recording done as I can before I need to head south.. Ideally I’d like to get another three SOS albums published and online before the end of this year and once they are done then I can shift my focus from recording to Marketing which will mean canvassing for gigs, learning a bit about the various media fora and trying to figure out a strategy to move forward. Somewhere down the track I’d love to plan an international tour but thats on the back burners with the Music Video dreams.. 🙂
I recently applied for a TV Telly Talent show and they have shown a solid interest in my online application which is really cool. So if their interest means my application gets me onto their show then I’ll likely have to alter the plans for the southern tour and just see what sort of path this Telly show takes me on.
I won’t hold my breath for this telly show though because I imagine there are many many professionally trained singers and performers with talent and support who apply for these shows and I’m just an untrained piano enthusiast with an untrained voice singing at best Silhouettes of Songs 😀
To get onto these shows you need talent but I imagine in order to win them you will already have a proven talent but you need votes and I imagine a lot of the folks on these shows have some kind of support from a church group or some other voting minority with a motive to see a representative of their cause stay in the race. So they get online or on their phone and they Vote. I’m just a middle aged bloke, living life simply in the bush. I don’t belong to any church and I don’t really ascribe to being part of any oppressed minority. I’m just a normal bloke doing what I can to survive, I guess I would have some supporters out there given that I’ve now performed in front of several thousand travellers but the folks who really warm to my performance will likely be the silent majority which is awesome but they are called the “silent” majority for a reason getting them to vote would be the tricky bit. 😀
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