In 1973, famed singer / songwriter Michael Martin Murphey invited his 3-year-old son, Ryan to the stage with he and his friend, Willie Nelson, at the Abbot Reunion in Austin. Three years later when Ryan was 6, he joined his dad for a taping of Austin City Limits. He was in the studio at Caribou Ranch in Colorado for the landmark recording of Blue Sky Night Thunder (which yielded top pop hits ”Wildfire” and “Carolina In The Pines”). By the time Ryan was 17, he was performing regularly with Michael and the two even shared a top 10 radio hit, “Talking To The Wrong Man.” Ryan went on to be his father’s lead guitarist of choice, and even produced the Grammy nominated Buckaroo Bluegrass and Michael’s subsequent albums.
But the newest release, Road Beyond The View, slated for release on June 10, 2022, is their first truly collaborative record.
“For the first time in my career, I decided to make an album that is a full collaboration with another artist – my son Ryan Murphey,” says Michael. “We wrote, arranged, produced and performed all of the songs together. The result is something different than either of us have done before, yet it contains all the things with which we’ve experimented.”
Michael’s first album, Geronimo's Cadillac was given a rave review in Rolling Stone for his eclectic songwriting style: 50 years later he's still one the most eclectic singer-songwriters out there. Michael Martin Murphey has never lost his passion for exploring and pushing the boundaries. In the 70s, when pioneering the Texas Music Scene centered in Austin with friends Jerry Jeff Walker, Jimmy Buffett, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and Willie Nelson, he topped the pop charts with hits like “Geronimo’s Cadillac,” “Wildfire” and “Carolina In The Pines.”
Michael followed with a string of Country hits including “Long Line of Love,” “What’s Forever For” and “Still Taking Chances,” then turned his attention to American Cowboy Music with the release of Cowboy Songs, and became the number-one selling artist of Cowboy Music since Marty Robbins. He then focused on the world of bluegrass, again topping the charts and earning a Grammy nomination to boot. Along the way, Michael played music with symphonies, cutting-edge Jazz ensembles, Country, Folk and Bluegrass greats - and even performed in churches like Holy Angels in Kansas, where he made a live album with an expert pipe-organist.
Michael's long-time production and songwriting partnership with Ryan has been enhanced by Ryan's position as the head teacher of the Guitar program, AP Literature and Composition at the prestigious Nashville School of the Arts. Together, the father and son collaboration finds them returning to New Mexican and Southwestern dreamscapes they have known and lived, lyric and vocals set against complex acoustic and electric guitar work.
“It's country, it’s jazz, it’s pop, classical and folk,” Michael says. “It’s a little bit of all of those things. When I was in high school, I was a big jazz fan, but I was also a Bluegrass fan. I was a classical music aficionado, but also a hillbilly and cowboy music fanatic. I drove my parents crazy with folk and flamenco, Charles Ives and Johnny Cash! I still love genre-jumping!"
"I have always been inspired by the pastiche approach that my dad takes to songwriting,” Ryan adds. “I have never seen boundaries in music because of this influence. It is truly an Americana philosophy in the sense that freedom of expression is undeniably what this melting pot is all about. It is also Western in that there is always a new frontier to explore, and that wide open way of thinking makes it into our lyrical concepts. The Southwest, especially for me, is an example of where jazz, country, blues, pop, and latin music come together and are my favorite examples of how our American quilt lives on.”
In a sense, Road Beyond The View represents a full circle turn for the Murpheys. “When he was 6, I taught Ryan to play guitar,” laughs Michael. “I decided it was time for me to start taking more guitar lessons. So I went online with Ryan by way of Zoom and FaceTime and he painstakingly gave me Classical and Jazz guitar lessons.That led to the making of the Road Beyond the View album together."
The Murpheys, who consider New Mexico a second home, found inspiration in the Abstract Impressionism mixed with Realism, Abstract Impressionism, Imagist and Surrealism from Santa Fe. Taos and Southwestern artists.The cover features a painting from noted Taos artist Ed Sandoval, and the Murpheys were inspired by the work of New Mexico icon Georgia O’Keefe.
The title track, in particular, has many references to O’Keefe’s work. “I’ve had a lifelong obsession with New Mexico’s artists,” says Michael. “My own songwriting style is actually an experimental mixture of Abstract Expressionism, Surrealism and Imagist Poetry. My heroes in poetry are William Carlos Williams, James Joyce, Amy Lowell and Ezra Pound. My heroes in painting are Georgia O'Keefe, Salvador Dali, Ed Sandoval, Nicholai Fechin and William C. Matthews. Matthews has done several of my album covers."
“Road Beyond The View,” the title track, contains the central idea of the collection, Michael explains. “As human beings we are all on an risky, adventurous journey. No matter how much we plan, we encounter the unexpected along the way. The way we deal with that is the measure of our lives, the thrill of living is being open to what is around the bend that may be surprising – even shocking.
“What is encountered is sometimes inscrutable,” he continues.“Georgia O’Keefe’s arresting images in her paintings present an ineffable beauty beyond all understanding- making her a renegade. Design lives on in the skeleton where life once hung on the bones. The bones themselves have a kind of eternal life. The story told is multi-faceted, many-sided and open to interpretation."
Finally, says Michael, "I’m going to keep making music and experimenting with sounds and lyrics based on the unexpected; I have no idea where all of this will lead. Every day, I pray ‘God, lead me, but surprise me!’ This Road Beyond the View album is meant to be a theme song for a philosophy of living.”