Marlhy Murphy: Drumming has helped me get through a lot of things

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Marlhy Murphy | photo credit: Jack Lue

As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 11 – Spring 2020 – SoCal Inspired

I am a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. My music tends to cross genres a bit because I really appreciate aspects of so many kinds of music, and as a musician, I love to hear how mixing it up sounds. My background and first love is drumming, which has a big effect on my music — sometimes in just laying down drum tracks or in how I’ll sing or set the melody. For me, each song has its own life, and I’m not looking to create a body of work that all sounds similar but rather, individual pieces that can stand on their own but have a common thread of telling my stories and encouraging people to tap into their inner strength. I want my music to help people to feel empowered to take on the s**tty situations life throws at us. I want them to know they aren’t alone and have the strength to deal with anything. My most recent song, “Drive Away,” is one of my favorites and gets really personal about moving on from your past. I just released an acoustic version, and I love how it helps bring out the emotionality even more.

You play several different instruments, but mainly drums? I love the video you posted on Facebook of you when you first started playing drums. What was it about the drums that attracted you to the instrument?

I play drums, guitar, bass, piano, ukulele, flute, and sing, but drums were my first instrument and definitely my favorite. My parents and I were playing Rock Band on Wii when I was 5, and I always immediately went to the drums. Since then, I’ve had so many incredible experiences and opportunities as a drummer to where it’s honestly become a part of me. Drumming has helped me get through a lot of things in life (especially anger) and has been there for me when it feels like nothing else is.

Who were some of the early musical influences that inspired you to play music?

John Bonham has always been a hero of mine. He has an incredible feel and style that’s so unique to him, to the point where you can just hear a groove and know it’s Bonham. That’s one of my biggest goals as a drummer. Nowadays, I still look up to Bonham but also am really influenced by Gregg Bissonette, Matt Tong, and Steve Gadd.

Which drums and gear are you currently using and why?

Ever since I started, I’ve been playing Pearl Drums. I got my first Pearl drum set when I was 6 so that brand has always been special to me. For cymbals, it’s always been Paiste. I’ve been playing 02s for years, and recently started playing their Dark Energy line, and I’m absolutely obsessed with them. Sticks and hardware usually vary, and I use a DW 9000 kick pedal.

What does your practice consist of?

I practice for two to three hours a day, four days a week. I feel like one of the most important aspects of a drummer is variety. It’s great to excel in one style or genre, but expanding into all genres of music and becoming comfortable playing with them really helps to develop a better overall knowledge of drumming and music in general, so what I practice varies. Even if I’m not a fan of a certain style, I still work to grow stronger and overall well rounded, so I can always be prepared for any gig. You never know what opportunity may surface for you.

You also play several other instruments. Tell us about the other instruments you play and why you added those instruments to your repertoire.

When I first started getting into music, I became so obsessed with it to the point where I wanted to learn everything I could. I decided to learn a new instrument every year; that way, I would give myself enough time to become more fluent with the instrument before picking up a new one. The first one I chose after drums was bass, as I feel like bass and drums usually work as a team in music. I then moved to guitar and piano and added more instruments over the years. Being a multi-instrumentalist has really helped me to develop my career as a solo artist, writer, and producer. I enjoy playing in bands, but one of my biggest goals has been to be able to do everything on my own and not always have to rely on others to create my ideas. It also helps a lot when I’m trying to communicate my ideas or vision to others in collaboration.

Marlhy Murphy | photo credit: Jack Lue
What guitars do you play?
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I have a few guitars, but my favorites are my Fender classic acoustic and my limited edition ’90s Telestar Mona I got from a good friend and incredible blues guitarist, Robin Davey.

You mentioned on Facebook that music has tested your limits but that you weren’t going to let your younger self down. In what ways have you been tested, and what did you do to overcome those struggles?

Over the years, there have been a ton of obstacles. One of the reasons I wanted to be able to do everything on my own was because of issues in bands. It can be really difficult to find the right band where everything seems to truly mesh, and after focusing on drumming for bands for eight years and still not quite being where I wanted to in my career, I knew something had to change. It can be incredibly difficult to find the “jackpot” in the entertainment industry, and a lot of people are going to say “no” and put you down. I’ve had so many heartbreaks in music, and I’m still working on getting that “yes.” One of the most important things I’ve learned is that you know if you really want to be in music from the struggles. If you can have 100 people say, “you’re not good enough” or “it’s not there yet,” and you’re still pushing, just be patient. It’s going to take time, but it will be worth it.

What is your advice for young women who hope to work in the music industry?

The most important thing is to stay focused and be patient. No one story about a “big break” is going to be the same for everyone. There’s no formula or rules or image you have to fit into to get where you want to go, even though it may seem like it sometimes. In the end, we all have our own vision and story, you just have to wait to find the right person that will support you and believe in your project as much as you. However, that also means you need to stay on top of yourself and make sure you’re doing as much as you can on your own. You’ll always control your destiny, and if you sit and wait, nothing is going to happen. Set goals for yourself, network with potential coworkers or collaborators, write as much as you can. Finally, be happy. Always check in with yourself to make sure whatever project you’re working on is bringing you the happiness you deserve.

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