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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Ode to Collaboration: James Murphy

Some people are so talented that the artists they surround themselves with are made even more talented.  James Murphy makes the act of musical collaboration so effortless and inspiring for a non musician such as myself that imagination quickly manifests creation.

James and I first met at the weekly Rising Tides Open Mic at the Mosaic Piano Bar.  Eventually he became a member of the house band, and I relied on his improvisational ability weekly.  When I went up to the mic to freestyle on Josh the Scribe's theme, I often gave nonsensical musical requests such as "play the care bears reading Shakespeare to their grandmothers".  Mike would look at James, James would look at Mike, and what would ensue from their instruments would not only express my suggestion but also blend well with my tone and cadence as I rambled thoughtfully for an audience.

A little over two years ago I collaborated with James and our good friend and talented poet from the Rising Tides, Darlin' Nikki Janzen.  I shot some publicity stills for the album James was producing for Nikki and in exchange I asked him to write a song with me. That afternoon I hummed the chorus to an idea in my head; the very next day we met at his house and within a few short hours wrote and recorded the following song: The Lovesong of Angelo Muscat.


Since then James and I have written and recorded 4 songs together for my musical project, The Sacred Heart of John Wanke.

But as I mentioned earlier not all of our collaborations have been musical.  James first modeled for me about 2 years ago.  His facial structure is reminiscent of my personal muse, David Bowie, and he has the patience required to stand still in front of a camera.

We were both so pleased with the images that he later asked me to help style his onstage presence.  When he released his own solo album, Nothing Special At All, last year I was thrilled to photograph him for the flyers and album art.   


I also helped James paint a small number of one of a kind album covers; I cut two larger water colors into 12 smaller pieces and hand wrote the album information over his watercolors.


For the CD release show itself I decorated the venue and worked directly with James to buy used t-shirts which were each upcycled into a piece of unique band merchandise.

I hope to finish my own album but I do not plan to continue my musical career much further.  My musical abilities are almost entirely dependent on James supplementing my skills with his own tremendous talent.  Unsurprisingly James works with many other poets, musicians, and artists.  He is almost wholly dedicated to his artistic pursuits, in a way few others are.  He is the type of friend who makes me wish I could be rich, so I could pay him to do what he lives for, since he'll always make music regardless of whether or not he's making a living.

Jaem's Murphy and the Vedic Eden are on facebook.  You can download Nothing Special At All on Reverbnation here.

Here is a video of James performing my personal favorite track, What You Don't Know.

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