Monthly Archives: March 2017

Robb Murphy…Q & A

I’ve been writing blogs about everything happening behind the scenes with Robb Murphy for a couple of years now, but while writing the blogs about the band members and introducing them, it came to mind that I never really wrote a blog like that about Robb. It’s about time!

Those of you who’ve been reading my blogs already know a bit about Robb. Next to being a songwriter, creator of music and producer, he’s an outstanding pizza maker, coffee and tea lover, vegan, vinyl collector and he’s always up for silliness….a lot of silliness… Robb likes to challenge himself but, maybe more so, he likes to challenge others…yes I’ve been there 😉 It’s not easy to fool him…but occasionally I manage to do it… Robb always tends to be late and I remember that during one of the tours we had to be at a radio station very early in the morning. I had reasons to believe that we would be late if I told Robb the exact time we had to leave, so I added 30 minutes spare time to that, without Robb knowing… Due to that we arrived at the radio station earlier than expected… That trick never worked again after that btw! And I have to admit…that trick was never needed again, because  we’ve managed to be on time everywhere we had to go ever since.

And…there’s that thing with reading… Robb doesn’t always read everything…of which he recently posted proof…just a few emails to read…

Sometimes I have to be creative when it comes to making sure that Robb reads what I send him…by adding silly things for example. A while ago I made a to do list and I needed to be sure that Robb would read it. I added ‘practice choreography’ to that list and when he asked me what that was about, I knew that he had read the file 😉
And there’s another example of Robb not always reading everything…it sometimes leads to funny situations like this:

All joking aside…I’ve been working with Robb on the music for 4 ½ years now and it’s been a pleasure. We’ve done so much, had ups and downs, but one thing for sure…things are never boring behind the scenes. There’s always a lot of work to do but we’re always having a lot of fun! Robb, the band and me…we’re all very lucky to have the support from partners, wives, husband and family, because without that we would not be able to do this. We have a lot of plans and are working on some exciting projects, so the work continues….onto the next 4 ½ years!

Time for a Q & A with Robb now…Just like all band members Robb was sent a list of questions too… He complained, saying that I sent him 9 million questions to answer – I think math is a problem here 😉 – but he answered the questions, here’s what he said:

What drives you to write?
Something compels me to write, I do not know what but I need to write music. Things that influence what I write about are just everyday situations, nature, and dreams. I also like trying to put myself in other situations, imagining how it would feel.

Can you remember the first time you wrote a song? Describe it to me.
One of the first songs I wrote was called, “Turtle Dove”. Lyrics were; “I’m a turtle dove, I’m a turtle dove”. Half of this song credit goes to Rick from the band.

What’s your favorite piece of music and why?
So many to choose from but for now I will pick Holocene by Bon Iver. I am usually more about the lyrics of a song but the melody, arrangement and textures created are what never fails to get me. I have been listening to it for years and have not once got bored of it.

What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you while working on a song?
When I was working on Stars from the Sleep Tonight album I heard a few xylophone notes during the instrumental that really worked, but were not recorded in the mix, I thought I was going mad! What actually had happened was we had guests in another room where I had left a small xylophone, one of them by chance played a few notes at that particular time.  So I had to put it in the song !

Have you had any crazy fan encounters?
Not many, but the first time I was asked to sign something I just assumed the person meant one of the other acts that had played so I went to get them. #Awkward

How would you describe your music?
Lyric focused, emotive, my personal therapy! The music is arranged by whatever instruments and gear I have at hand, and whoever of my musical friends want to be involved.

Best advice ever given?
Don’t try to copy current musical genres, trends will change so just be true to the type of music you want to create, and maybe a future trend will sync with one of your songs.

First song ever sung?
The earliest song I have memories of singing is Nelly The Elephant, The Toy Dolls version.  It was a birthday party favourite !

Secret craving?
Sultanas, in anything

Favourite food?

What’s the hardest part about producing your own music? And what’s the easiest?
Hardest part is not having other people’s input, meaning I am sometimes unsure if something is working. Easiest part is not having other people’s input so I can do what I want.

Is there someone you’d secretly love to work with?
Not really, I am a loner. I am most comfortable writing among people I know and am close to. Songwriting for me is a very personal thing so it’s hard to switch it on if I am not relaxed. I love bringing songs to the band that are not fully finished, songs I am not even sure I like, hearing their opinions gives them a burst of new energy.

What do you like to do for fun outside of working on music?
I like traveling, going for a drive, gardening.

You’ve toured the Netherlands quite a few times now, what’s your favourite thing about the Netherlands?
I love the feeling of space in the country, the openness and fresh air. Also the people, always very helpful and welcoming.

Favourite Dutch word?

Oddest thing that has happened while touring?
It’s all weird, but one that sticks out happened when on tour in The Netherlands.  Returning home late from a gig, my turn to drive, and in front of me was a cyclist riding from side to side on the road. We laughed at this but I just assumed it was someone not realising there was a car behind them. As I slowly approached him he swerved out again to the middle of the road, cycled in a big circle and I will always remember as the car headlights shown on his face his very large grin! He was a happy chappy without a care in the world !

Cats or dogs?
Don’t mind either but cats seem to find me, so I will go with cats

Favourite gig so far?
A gig at Theater ‘t Heerenlogement in Beusichem during last year’s tour. It’s a great old theatre venue, we had a lovely meal with the owners Tineke and Gerard Holst, and a full house! Oh and wine back stage 😉

3 places you’d like to play?
Coachella, Burning Man, Dublin Olympia Theatre

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I would love to have a recording studio and work with other artists to record their music.  Other than that just be alive, healthy and happy!

Best software you’ve used for producing so far?
I use Pro Tools for recording as it’s what I learned in university. But actually before that, though it’s not software, I used a tape dictaphone for recording ideas and I would also record sounds I like when I was out. There will be a lot of weird stuff on there!

Best hardware investment for music production?
When recording Sleep Tonight I got a Focusrite ISA 828 pre amp, a set of 8 preamps that can be used on a bunch of things, I think I will always use it even if I get a larger variety of pre amps!

Favourite instrument?
Acoustic guitar, trumpet & wurlitzer close 2nds

How many instruments do you play?
A few, but variety of skill levels! Main instrument is the guitar and this feels most natural to me which is why I usually write with it. I play a bit of keys, harmonica, trumpet / trombone (badly out of practice) and the belly slaps.

Favourite  place in Northern Ireland?
Anywhere near the sea! North coast is great. The Mourne Mountains too. Not in the north but a recent favourite is Kellybegs, a small fishing town near Donegal in the North West of Ireland.

What trivial knowledge may save your life one day?
I know how to open a bottle of wine with a shoe

If you could live anywhere on this planet and take everything that you love with you, where would you choose to live and why?
I like it here, but it does lack some sunshine. So I would go somewhere in Tuscany, Italy, a farmhouse just outside Florence. I would take my new wife (not that I have an old one, but recently married) and my guitar. I could also take my macbook and phone, but I can live without them really. Tuscany has a lot of things I love, mostly reliable weather, scenery, art and culture all around. Oh plus coffee, wine and pizza are pretty good there too.

Top 3 songs on your playlist?
Currently on my phone they are:
Bon Iver – Holocene
Traveling Wilburys – Tweeter And The Monkey Man
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – Man On Fire

Favourite song from high school?
A few that always remind me of high school are:
Crash Test Dummies – MMM MMM MMM MMM
Wet Wet Wet  – Love is all around
The Cranberrys – Linger
The Corrs – Runaway
Enigma – Return To Innocence
The Connells – ’74-’75
REM – Daysleeper

Favourite thing about music?
Writing and recording, the buzz when something works.

Least favourite thing about music?
Promoting it, needs to be done but I feel like a broken record.

If you were a vegetable, which one would you be?
A chilli pepper

One perfect day…  what would it include?
Big sleep in, good food, sunshine, sea, maybe a sneaky wine

Thanks very much for this Robb!

You can follow Robb on Twitter and Facebook. Stop by and say hello!

If you’ve missed the blogs about band members Kevin, Dave, Rick and Al, click on their names and you can read all about them!


Introducing Alan Ladd

Kevin Carlisle, David Bennington and Rick McKee all have been questioned and introduced. Many people have been reading the blogs, but if you haven’t read it yet, go check them out…there are some interesting facts to find about the band behind Robb Murphy!

Next up is Alan Ladd, a.k.a. Kid-Al, another multi-instrumentalist in Robb Murphy’s band. Al plays keyboards/piano, strings and with gigs he sometimes plays bass as well. Al is also the man who wrote the strings for the album Sleep Tonight played by The Ulster String Quartet.
Al’s wife, Louise, is also very musical. Louise has a really beautiful voice and you can hear her backing vocals on multiple songs from the album Sleep Tonight. A very musical family!!


Besides being a very talented musician, there are more reasons why Al is such a valuable member of Robb Murphy’s band… Al is good company and he’s good with left-overs.
Left-overs…this requires an explanation…When Al is around you don’t have to worry about wasting food. If you can’t finish dinner/lunch, just pass it on to Al and he’ll eat it. Food magically disappears when Al is around! 😉
While I was going through photos to use for this blog I saw something I forgot about…something about poo… Another interesting fact…Al ended up witpooh poo on his set list…

This happened during one of the tours of The Netherlands. Band members often write down some notes for themselves on set lists and while making notes Al suddenly started laughing, saying that he had poo on his set list. This is what happens when silliness takes over from tiredness during tours…and believe me…that happens a lot!

To get to know Al a bit better, he also was sent a list of questions. Here’s what he said:

Tell me a little about yourself in one rambling, run-on sentence 🙂
Born in Yorkshire (England) and now living in Northern Ireland married with two kids, I play keyboards and occasionally strings for Robb Murphy  (you can see both Al and Louise in this video) but I also write software for financial trading platforms by day and I fit in a lot of running around my job, music and family, however, I also love travelling which probably stems from my time as european tour manager for the band Forward Russia

Coffee or tea?
Irish Coffee, Yorkshire Tea. I’ve definitely shifted mostly to coffee these days.

How did you meet Robb and where?
We met at Queen’s University Belfast which to be honest is a bit of a blur. I think we met on the first day of our music tech course and soon after started writing songs together, first in a ill-fated four piece guitar group, then as an acoustic duo then finally a three piece band. I still think some of the songs we did back then would fit well with the current tunes as if it’s all come full circle. Of course we’re a lot more mature now…

Describe one perfect day…
Lie in; Ulster fry; Something outdoors in good weather with the kids; A meal out followed by a gig/concert/film/show.

Cats or dogs?
Cat singular. We had two cats that didn’t get along and it was not fun. I’ve no time for dogs at all.

What’s your favourite piece of music at the moment?
Piece of music to me suggests classical but at the moment I don’t have time to sit down and appreciate classical music. So I’d have to say the debut album by London Grammar (“If you wait”).

Do you dance?
No apart from on rare occasions I’m made to at wedding receptions.
Sorry Al…maybe you forgot, but you do dance…and…there’s proof of that…click on the link to watch!
Al dancing

If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be and why?
Malta – interesting place and good weather this time of year.

Favourite place in Northern Ireland?
Antrim coast or the Mourne mountains. Since I’m an Antrim man now I’ll go for the coast.

What or who is your biggest influence as an artist?
Radiohead. They have spanned so many different styles there’s probably always a Radiohead song lurking in my mind somewhere. Oh and Brett Domino!

True or false: “Music is my first love”

Silliest thing you’ve done this past month?
Signed up for an ultra marathon (39 miles) in April.

What is your most valued possession?
My passport. I have to get away from time to time. Music-wise my viola which is 98 years old!

Future plans?
Lots but it’s all a juggling act. I’ve some running challenges this year and I’d like to record some music soon. I also have plans for my own business at some point.

If a penguin wearing a sombrero walked into your room right now, what would you do and why?
Take the hat and wrapper off and eat it right there. I’m a chocoholic.

How many instruments do you play?
In chronological order – violin, viola, piano, bass, acoustic guitar. If it has strings I’d give it a go.

What’s the hardest part about being a musician and what’s the best?
Hardest part is practising. Best bit is seeing the work pay off whether it be live or in the studio.

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion?
It has to go beyond the sound. You can be playing great faultless music but if it looks like you’re not into it then you’ve lost half the battle. As musicians it’s really difficult to remember that when you’re playing. It’s almost better to make mistakes and smile through it. I remember watching back a video of my first ever band gig and cringing about how static and serious I was.

As a pianist and string player, how do you feel the classics help the modern music scene?
Everything builds on what’s come before so you can relate most things back to classical music even if it’s not obvious.

What does the word “interpretation” mean to you?
Ha – all my parts in Robb’s songs. It might not be exactly what he intended but I always hope it’s as good if not better than what he was thinking. If he laughs when you play something you know it’s good. It took me a long time to realise that!

Big Bird or Elmo?
Elmo and Andrea Bocelli ( ) ha ha.

Top 3 places you’d love to play live
Leeds town hall, Ulster hall, Glastonbury festival

What surprises you the most?
My kids. Almost every day.

Favourite song from high school?
Toughie again. In early high school I liked Jamiroquai. Hearing ‘Everything in it’s right place’ by Radiohead was a big shift in my taste but I’m going to choose ‘Flying’ by Death in Vegas. The song reminds me of the first gig I went to with schoolmates at Manchester Ritz. It was 9-2 on a school night. Good times. ( )

What inspires you?
People achieving things they thought were not possible.

Thanks very much for this Al!

You can follow Al on Twitter. Stop by and say hello!