GEORGE MURPHY found fame at an early age, and it was almost unintended. The Dubliner was more into acting at the age of 17, but he applied to RTE reality singing show ‘You’re A Star’, progressed through numerous weeks, and went on to get a number one album. Now in his 30s, he has a far more organic approach to music.
“It always served as a platform,” he recalls of his early days in television, which helped establish his distinctive vocal and mellow, folk-tinged sound. “I was always grateful for it, but reality TV is not something I’d advise musicians to get involved in. Like-minded people making something together in a garage or a bedroom is much better. I know that sounds hypocritical, considering the background I come from, but honestly there’s a bit of me that wishes I’d never done it.”
In truth, music was almost thrust upon Murphy, though through his own actions, with the stage his first love and very much his focus at the time. Musically, he was a vocalist, and couldn’t read music, let alone play guitar. That came later, as did his new band, a passion project based around local pubs in north Dublin that accompanies him as The Rising Sons.
“It was great getting a number one album,” Murphy recalls. “That said, I didn’t feel like I earned it. It was given to me on a plate. I feel what I’m doing now so much more natural and so much stronger, and I think it might surprise people who have certain expectations of me. Any success I get now, I’ll feel like I deserve it.”
That confidence and attitude is emphasised by Murphy’s approach to shows: talking of playing to audiences with certain expectations, he sees a chance to win them over to his developing style.
“The ups and downs are really quite full on,” he says. “It can be a funny world, music, you can be on top of the pile, and the next day you’re yesterday’s news.”
Murphy regrouped post-reality TV by heading to New York, where he worked as a barman and learnt to play guitar, grifting for gigs in a city where he was a real unknown. The experience formed him into a far more complete musician. On returning home, his work with The Rising Sons inspires him, and is centred on practicality and passion.
“We play in the evenings in pubs in Santry and Lorcan,” Murphy says of the band, who do the pub gigs for fun, but play far more substantial shows as part of a tour between times. “It’s a neighbourhood vibe,” he adds, clearly passionate about the shows. “I love these guys. They all have full time jobs so I want them to be able to walk home, but I also want to be able to give this a real go with them.”
“They’re a good band in their own right, and they’re getting shows without me, too, now. Touring is a bit more difficult, and I’ve been advised several times to just get session musicians to go on tour. But it’s not what I want, really. It’s about more than just being technically good, it’s about community. I can play as just myself, and I don’t want to play with anyone else. This is my natural vibe.”
Finding that feel has been critical to Murphy, who finally seems like he’s found his place in the musical world, a far, far cry from where he started out. It’s been a long but vital road.