not a girl: the ali murray interview;
Last night Isle of Lewis songwriter Ali Murray, with whom I have been regularly conversing about cake since he dropped me a line to introduce me to his music, apologised that despite warnings to the contrary he had been addressing me as ‘Lisa’ from the beginning. I told him it was fine because when he first got in contact I thought he was a girl.
He recommends sponge cake with peanut butter, incidentally, which sounds nearly as good as my favourite Rich Tea biscuits with chocolate spread. Today I made some scones, but I burned them a little, and I am still sick.
How did you get started writing music and performing?
I’ve had a passion for music for as long as I can remember but I started learning guitar when I was around 9 or 10 years old and I started singing when I was in my late teens. My musical ability came about fairly naturally, I think. Throughout my adolescence I was obsessed with punk rock. It changed my life. By the time I was in my late teens, I gradually opened my mind up to all different kinds of music from all different places by all different kinds of artists.
I became aware that there was a world full of beautiful music that I had never even attempted to explore. The more varied the music I listened to, the more varied my own musical creations became. I liked challenging myself to write music that I would like to listen to, and I still do stick by that approach. My music is a very selfish endeavour.
I was involved in a couple of bands in which I was the singer/guitarist/songwriter but they came to a dead end for one reason or another. I eventually became completely demoralized with working with other people in order to write the music that I wanted to write. I was fed up of the drama involved with being in a band so I decided to go solo. After a couple of years of writing songs in my bedroom and recording some bad demos, I decided that I wanted to record a professional album, which I did.
I have never been fully comfortable as a live performer. I’m a lot more comfortable in the studio than performing infront of an audience. Live shows can be hit or miss for me.
Anyway, I started performing live by doing some support slots at local shows. I would be asked to support either a local performer or a touring musician that would have a local tour date. My first solo performance was supporting Teddy Thompson. I was a mess but it went ok. I did a few more local shows and then I organised my own debut album launch which was a really good gig.
Three words to describe what you do…
Atmospheric folk music
What influences you?
Life, death, music, literature, movies, nature, dreams, sounds, people, places, experiences, thoughts, feelings…
What releases/shows do you have planned at the moment?
I wrote and recorded my debut album, An Endless Lullaby, back in 2010. I did a bunch of live shows in support of the album, local and throughout Scotland. After that I released a couple of accompanying EPs.
I took a good break away from music after that but now I’m back to writing and recording new material. I have no shows planned at the moment. I’m just taking things one step at a time. I have no idea what the future will bring for Ali Murray.
What do you think of the local/Scottish music scene in general? Do you think bloggers on the mainland should be doing more to recognise music that is produced outside Edinburgh/Glasgow/Dundee?
To be honest, I hardly listen to any Scottish music. There’s only a couple of bands from this country that I like. I don’t keep up with the current Scottish music scene, or any music scene for that matter, so I’m not the best person to ask for an opinion on this matter. However, it would be nice in general for more attention to be given to Scottish artists outwith the big cities. I’m sure there’s a lot of talented people out there whose music will never see the light of day.
Speaking from experience, I know how difficult it is to be noticed by anyone when you live on a remote island in the north of Scotland, especially when your music isn’t ‘cool’.
And what are you listening to at the moment?
Recently I’ve been listening to The Cure, My Bloody Valentine, Antony And The Johnsons, Rhiversa, Peter Gabriel, Depeche Mode, Cat Stevens, Faye’s Arms and many more…
Ali Murray has recently made all his music available on a pay-what-you-want basis at Bandcamp.