Michael McDonagh talks to Candy of The Murphys
The Murphys – Pat and daughters Cindy, Candy and Katie – have been described as Ireland’s ‘first family of country music’.
Their father, Pat, has been in the business for forty years so it is unsurprising that the three sisters would at some point join him on the road, singing their own brand of Irish country music.
IW: Are you back living in Ireland now?
Oh yes, we are back in Ireland for nearly a year now, we were in Potters Bar and still get over regularly but now we are based between Kerry and Monaghan, so there is a lot of travelling involved.
IW: Fill us in on what you have been up to?
“Well, our new single came out just a few days ago called Dancing with The Fisherman. It got to No 2 on the iTunes Irish Country Chart, we were surprised by that as it happened very quickly and is great – but we were very surprised. It is a song written by my sister Katie and myself.
“We are back in the studio in Navan, well between Navan and Slane, David Arkins’ Crookedwood Studio where we made our first album, we are very excited and about halfway through.
“We have a ‘live’ session, which is very rarely done now.
“We really wanted that live feel on the recordings and this album is a complete opposite of the first album.
“Both are country, but this will be different.
“We did not want people to buy our second album and find it anyway similar to our first album and this one will be more Irish-centred, as we very much wanted to create our own brand of Irish country music.
“This is the music that we all grew up on in our family. We were breaking ground with our first album, which had all kinds of branches of the country music tree, whereas with this new album we are going very much in the Irish country direction, but very much in our own style.
“When people hear it, they will know that’s a Murphys song – it is what we are calling it modern Ireland, per se.
“It is very much a mix of celebrating old and embracing new in Irish country music, a real mix and a very lively Irish album.”
IW: On your stage shows is it is a broader mix of old known ballads and country music?
“Our stage show is absolutely a country show, we do all kinds of country, but the main heart would be Irish – we don’t want to be anything but Irish. We don’t want to be American or sound American.
“It is a mixture of covers and originals but drawn from the Irish country scene.
“We pay homage to all the people we grew up listening to – like Philomena Begley, who was a huge influence on us girls as she really broke the glass ceiling and paved the trail for all of us female artistes. She did that a time when it was hard.
“It is okay for us now; we get to go out now and play anywhere in the world, but she paved the way for all of us.
“Susan McCann is another fantastic female singer who influenced us but there was also Brian Coll and Big Tom and all the greats from that time and Joe Dolan, too, was a huge influence on us.
“There was also Brendan Boyer and then the Furey Brothers & Davey Arthur, they were a huge influence. We saw George and Eddie at the Gleneagles Hotel in Killarney a few weeks ago and they were so good, we went out of there on a cloud.”
IW: Going back to what you were saying about Philomena and Susan do you think it is harder for women than it is for men?
“We think about that question a lot as we are a predominantly female act – apart from our dad.
“We have always tried to go out and deliver what people want to hear and do our very very best as Cindy, Katie and Candy Murphy.
“We don’t ever go out and look at it like we are challenging the men.
“What we try to do is just perform the music as music is a great therapy for people out there and it is magical thing – we are joined to the people through music.
“We do not like that to be about males or females –
it is not about the fact that we are girls it is about the fact that if people are going to come to our concerts, they can connect with us through our music.”
IW: Do you not think it is harder for women because women in the audiences come out to see the good looking male singers, but the men don’t go out in the same way to see the female singers, so it is harder for them to build an audience?
“That is a very true statement – but it means that as girls we push harder, and the material you deliver after that is very important.
“Don’t forget that some of the biggest country acts in the world are female, like the Dixie Chicks or Carrie Underwood or Dolly Parton – there is a reason for that. You can’t ignore that it is happening on the other side of the pond.
“Everyone’s journey is everyone’s journey, I know lots of guys who are trying to break through, too.
“In some cases, it IS harder for girls to breakthrough, but I think maybe it is an industry that needs to broaden out – lots of new ideas and great music needs to filter through.
“With that, it will all fall into place, as it should fall, I do believe that.”
IW: Is the Irish country music scene thriving? Or has it cooled off a bit? Is it still cool?
“I think it peaks and troughs. Irish country music is just going through a change, not a bad change. Absolutely, it is still cool to be playing country music in Ireland, even here in Kerry and Kerry would not be a traditional country music county, more traditional folk music.
“But even here now, we already see the awareness of country music, in the last 12 months I’d say it has really become prevalent.
“There is a lot of growth happening and a lot of change coming across the industry at the moment, it is very positive, there is a lot of good talent coming up – which is good for the industry.”
IW: Are you doing many dates at the moment?
“We are up to our eyes at the moment finishing the album, which will be out in October. We are lining up a big Irish tour following that.
“We are synonymous now with original material, which we have written, and we have spent a year compiling this album and have worked very hard and are very proud of it.”
IW: Will you be playing over here in the UK at all?
“Absolutely, absolutely. There’s talk about one or two dates before Christmas.
“We have a lot of family and friends over there.
“Our time in England has been a huge influence on us. You will actually see that on this album as this is very much our tale of our journey through Irish country music.
“We are very clear now about our style and sound, we know it works – everywhere we play we always get a standing ovation, so we are looking forward to getting more people to know The Murphys.
“When people do know The Murphys, then it works, and we have never had a bad concert yet and I am very proud to say that.”