RISING STAR: Robb Murphy

The DIY approach was the only way for the multi-talented songwriter. Listen to his debut album in full

Who/what/where is Robb Murphy?

I am originally from Comber, but have been living in Belfast for the last ten years. I am a sound engineer / producer who writes songs and spends way too much time on my own in the studio.

You've just released your debut album, Take a Stand. How would you describe your sound?

Its always hard to describe your own sound, but I would describe it as a mixture of acoustic, pop and electronica. I mainly try to create positive, uplifting sounds but some darker and ambient tones sneak in.

Which artists or bands would you cite as inspirations/influences?

I listen to a lot of music and really like hearing new styles and sounds. Going back to when I started to write music I was inspired lyrically by David Gray, Counting Crows, REM and also a lot of singer-songwriters: Paddy Casey, David Kitt, Declan O'Rourke, Iain Archer, Gemma Hayes, Brian Kennedy. I am also into dance music, so that creeps into the album too.

You recorded the album yourself, having graduated from Queen's University with a degree in Music Technology. Is the age of the 'producer' over?

With the advances in technology it's much easier to technically record a decent demo, but a good producer can really bring a song to life.

Most musicians starting out cannot afford this expense, so it's great that you can at least get an idea recorded and work with the arrangement and experiment with sounds. While recording the album there were times when an extra pair of hands and ears would have been great to give another perspective.

Recording the album yourself presumably means that you don't have a record deal, and the promotional backing that comes with it. What have you been doing to promote the album yourself?

Yeah, this is the part of the music business where I am most out of my comfort zone. In the studio is the place for me. I have only sent the album to some local radio stations so far. BBC Introducing with Rory McConnell gave me great feedback and actually invited me in to record a live session with them, which was my first gig. I will also be getting some live shows together, continuing to send the album to various places, and hopefully people who like the music will spread the word.

Your lyrics are impressive. Are lyrics and a narrative as important to you as melodies and production quality?

Thanks. Yes, definately lyrics are important to me. Even someone who is not initially into the lyrics will at some point start to think, "What is this song about?". I work quite a lot on the lyrics, sometimes a few different drafts before I am happy. If I am writing a song and accidentally put a cliche in I throw it away and try to replace it with something else, though I am sure some still made it through…

What kind of subjects do you write about?

The album is mainly about my own experiences in life, stuff that everyone goes through: relationships, work, ambitions, motivation, desire, loss. All this is mixed in with situations I hear of happening elsewhere in the big world.

Having worked so hard on your debut, what do you make of artists who apply for shows like The X Factor and have everything done for them?

That's just another route to take, but I wouldn't stand a chance on The X Factor! Some of the contestants have been really talented and it's a great opportunity for them. I like the whole creative process of songwriting and developing an idea that has popped into my head. I am also a bit of a control freak, so I would not feel comfortable being in the hands of others, not at this stage anyway.

What advice would you have for the lonely singer-songwriter out there who doesn't have your production knowledge to record their own work, or the contacts and cash to record elsewhere?

I was that 'lonely singer-songwriter'. For a few years, before I went to university, I was using a cassette tape dictaphone to record ideas and sounds. Definitely one of the reasons I joined Queen's was to get access to the studios, so there's an idea…

Songwriting can always be developed and improved, so even if you do not have the means to professionally record the songs, keep writing and developing these ideas. When you then get a chance to record something you will be ready with strong songs that you have worked on over time.