Thursday 27 June 2019

'I was borderline nervous exhausted' – Roisin Murphy reveals why she's slowing down for summer and what she really thinks of the music industry

Roisin Murphy is hosting The Sync Sessions for Heineken Live Your Music
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Roisin Murphy has decided she’s not going to pussyfoot around anymore.

Last month the singer, songwriter and producer took to Twitter to express her frustration with the music industry and its ‘indifference’ to her work, prompting a flood of messages of support from fans, fellow artists, and industry professionals.

“I’m crying a lot, tiredness. I feel like I’m banging my head against the wall. I make good and surprising records, I kill myself to make visual, in which I prove it’s about ideas and soul because god forbid anyone should give me a budget. But I get indifference in the industry,” she wrote on July 4.

“I need support of some kind, I need the office work done upfront, I need others to work just a fraction as hard as I do. These things aren’t there, the more you do the more they expect you to do. I’m taken for granted. I give up. No more I can do on 56p no, no more.”

PIC: Roisin Murphy
PIC: Roisin Murphy

One month later the Wicklow-born, UK-based star is on a more even keel, describing the outpouring of emotion as “definitely of the moment”.

“I was borderline nervous exhausted at that moment,” she tells  “I was doing everything and the more you do the more you’re expected to do.  And I needed to have that wobble probably to have the traction to do what I did after it, which was slow everything down a bit and just give myself some space this summer to spend time with my kids and all that kind of thing.”

At that time she also released the self-directed video for her track Plaything, which features on one of four 12”s she’s releasing this year. The release of Plaything / Like came just a few weeks after the May drop of All My Dreams / Innocence.  The third release will now land in September.  In the meantime, she’s making some changes.

“The industry is really not that bad,” she says.  “People misunderstood [the tweets] as a problem I was having on social media.  I don’t have any problems on social media.  I have the most wonderful fans.  I’m the luckiest girl in the world in that way.  I’m lucky not to be super famous, because I think I would hate to walk down the street and be stopped by people who don’t give a shit about what you do, but only just because you’re famous, and not be able to walk down the street?  That would be horrendous.

“But as it stands the people who care about me and know about me, it’s because they care about what I do so that’s ideal, and the people I have on there that tell me I’m lovely and great keep me going on social media.  Even in quiet times I can go there and get encouragement.  I’ve no trolls or, touch wood, any of that issue really. 

“That’s not what it was about. It was about exhaustion.  And it’s about - even though it sounds counter-intuitive - it’s about taking more responsibility and not taking less.  It’s about saying, ‘Well, I’m doing all this stuff so when I say something you better do it the way I want it done’. 

“I don’t need to kind of pussyfoot around anymore.  That’s what I’m wasting my time doing, is talking through loads of intermediaries from one side of the business to the other, from one end of it to the other, from the making of the stuff to the putting out of the stuff to the this to the that.  What I say needs to go, basically,” she says, and there's no doubt she means it.

“I have to delegate to people that love me, actually, I think.  And I’ve started to do that – put people around me that love me.  It never occurred to me to do it all through the years.  I never thought that was even possible, to have your friends working with you.  In the music, yes, in the creative side, yes, but in the business side I need people who take me fully seriously.”

She is also adamant it’s not about being a woman in the industry.

“I don’t like to get drawn into that conversation because I’ve had an awful lot of good things about being a woman,” she explains. 

“I work with men a lot and there’s a yin and a yang that goes on when you work one guy and one girl.  And there’s things that I bring that they don’t bring and things they bring and I don’t bring.  There’s just an awful lot of positive sides to what I do - it’s quite positive to be a girl.  Obviously there’s still a big lack in certain areas of the music industry of women – there aren’t many doing anything technical and stuff like that.”

Thankfully she has not experienced any #MeToo moments in her two decades in music; “I’ve not got any terrible stories of what I had to do to scrabble my way to the top, obviously because I didn’t scrabble my way to the top.  I just scrabbled my way to the middle!” she laughs.

Roisin Murphy. Photo: Getty Images
Roisin Murphy. Photo: Getty Images

She's being modest.  Murphy enjoyed massive success as one half of Moloko for almost a decade before embarking on a phenomenal solo career, spanning four studio albums; Ruby Blue, Overpowered, Hairless Toys, and Take Her Up To Monto, as well as an Italian LP, Mi Senti, and some time out to be a mum (she has two children – Clodagh, 9, with former partner Simon Henwood, and 5-year-old Tadhg with her current beau Sebastiano Properz).

Rather than release another Roisin Murphy album, she decided to “think laterally” and release the four 12”s, which are designed “for dancing” and the club and have been produced by Maurice Fulton.  Much like her shows are a feast of artistry from the music to visuals to her costumes, the 12”s are beautifully realised in every sense, with accompanying short films, directed by Murphy herself, artwork by Bráulio Amado, and laid down on vinyl via The Vinyl Factory, the team behind the aforementioned Mi Senti.

“I have worked with a hero of mine, Maurice Fulton, on these tracks, somebody I’ve wanted to work with for 15-20 years actually.  I did ask EMI to get hold of him to work with me on Overpowered. That never happened,” she says.

“It’s a privilege to just watch him work.  He’s a very mysterious character. He doesn’t do interviews, so I get a lot... when I meet the guys, in dance music especially, it’s ‘tell us about him, what’s he like, why doesn’t he do interviews?’. He’s a very mysterious person even when you know him.  Even though I’ve watched him work I don’t know where the work’s coming from... it’s coming from his gut, his stomach.  He’s a really soulful, authentic producer.”

Once the tracks were laid down, Fulton tested them out in the club.  If they filled the dancefloor (which, of course, they did) they were done.  “There’s no comeback after that point.  If it works it works, that’s it, that’s what we’re trying to achieve,” says Roisin.

“What came out of that was I don’t think about the visual stuff when I’m writing the music.  The music will tell me where to go visually.  Out of that whole process came the whole thing about me exploring my history, club culture, and that’s what I’ve put into the videos and into the artwork and the way it’s been released on four 12 inches and all that.  So, the stronger the idea behind the music the easier it is to come with the ideas for the presentation.”

An album would have required a different approach.

“I would have finessed it to make it into a Roisin Murphy album.  I would have mixed it down more slickly.  I might have had backing singers, more layers, and things like that. But if it worked in a club I couldn’t change it.  That’s how it worked with him so I thought I can’t rationalise that as an album.  And club music, it’s not for making albums,” she reasons.

There’s another lateral venture for Murphy this year.  She’s hosting The Sync Sessions podcast for Heineken Live Your Music, which the brand says 'explores the music's power to connect us with new people, fresh perspectives and life changing experiences'.

The six-part podcast series (one episode releases every month) kicks off with Murphy in conversation with elecrofunk superstar duo Groove Armada – Andy Cato and Tom Findlay – about their own personal music journey to date.  They also choose ten tracks that were hugely influential in their career which will then be added to The Sync Session playlist on Roisin’s Spotify channel.

“They had to really sit down and explain to me what they were doing,” she says of working with Heineken.  “I’m not of this youth generation that understands all these things.  But the more they talked about it the more beautiful the idea seemed to be.

“It was an easy one to get on board with, the idea of talking to your peers and having a comfortable conversation about music and hopefully opening people’s minds to the beauty of like when you discover new music  - doesn’t have to be brand new, but new to you.

“This is an antidote to the way that the internet suggests things to you based on the things you already know about.  So we’re trying to open people up to new things and it’s a lovely idea so it’s worked really, really well.”

Murphy had worked with Andy on her album Overpowered, but says that despite not knowing Tom they had a “right old chat”.

“He was brilliant, absolutely brilliant, and I was surprised to actually find that he was a soul boy and into jazz funk before he was into house,” she says, adding, “The nice thing about it is that they opened up to me more readily than they would to you, as a journalist.  It becomes more comfortable more quickly.  We get an hour and a half to two hours together to just talk and it’s lovely.”

The Sync Sessions is available now on iTunes, Android, or wherever podcasts are available or you can visit to stream episode one featuring Groove Armada.

Read more: 'Ireland is a great place to be odd' - pop star Roisin Murphy

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