About Chris Murphy

Chris Murphy BioFor 25 years, and with no sign of slowing, violinist Chris Murphy has made a living by writing, performing and recording original music. For Murphy, the path forward is charted by looking backward, to the troubadours and minstrels of ages past. Forget the exaggerated reports of the music industry’s demise. It’s only the record industry, a relative blip in the history of putting tones in sequence, that’s suffering. Music, and the opportunity to make a life’s work out of it, well, that’s not going anywhere.

“In another era,” he says, “I would have played square dances, and loved it. I would have been a court musician in Versailles in the 17th Century, or a violinist in a circus orchestra.” For Chris Murphy, inspiration spans eras and aesthetics, but the fundamentals are the same.

Born into an Irish-Italian family near New York City, Murphy was surrounded by the disparate and eclectic sounds of his neighbors’ traditional music. “I heard and was influenced by everything – from Italian-mandolin music, to bluegrass and folk, to Latin music,” he says. Inevitably, he discovered rock ‘n’ roll, claiming still further influence from some of rock’s most adventurous and eclectic icons: Lou Reed and Ry Cooder, Bob Dylan and Richard Thompson. “My real hero,” he says, “was David Lindley. Hearing him play fiddle and lap steel with Jackson Browne — that kind of esoteric, enigmatic soloing over songs is originally what I loved.”

He learned about Turkish and Indian music at Simon’s Rock of Bard College and then studied composition at Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music. A longtime instrumental dabbler, Murphy has mostly taught himself how to play percussion, guitar and mandolin, even some Eastern instruments, but he found his proper match at 22, when he picked up the violin. “It’s the one instrument you’ll find anywhere you go,” he says. “And it has a wonderful, charming kind of minstrel quality. I love all the myths surrounding it.”

Eventually, Murphy did as so many American adventure seekers had done before him: He sought his fortune in the West. Now based in Los Angeles, Murphy earns his living by teaching — guitar, mandolin and violin — working on music for films, and, mostly, by performing his work for audiences.

Playing violinAnd that’s hardly at the exclusion of recording. To wit, Murphy has amassed a deep catalog of 500+ works, 16 solo and 20 collaborative albums, and made cameo appearances on records by Har Mar Superstar and The Dandy Warhols, among others. Murphy’s recordings include the likes of Steve Hodges and Larry Taylor from Tom Waits’ band, Nels Cline (Wilco), Mike Watt (fIREHOSE), D.J. Bonebrake and John Doe (X, The Knitters), Herb Pedersen (The Desert Rose Band), Tim O’Brien, Bruce Molsky, Joachim Cooder (Buena Vista Social Club), Joey Peters (Grant Lee Buffalo), Walfredo Reyes Jr. (Santana), Steve Wickham (The Waterboys, U2) Trevor Hutchinson (The Waterboys, Lunasa), the legendary piper Pat D’Arcy, Wally Ingram (Sheryl Crow, Jackson Browne), L. Shankar (Peter Gabriel), Doug Pettibone (John Mayer, Jewel), drummers Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello) and Michael Jerome Moore (Richard Thompson, Better Than Ezra), including longtime collaborators: guitarist Nate LaPointe (Cubensis, Bobby Womack), bass player Andreas Geck (Christina Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson) and bass player Hal Cragin (Iggy Pop, Rufus Wainwright). In the last year alone, Murphy has written and recorded six new albums in a vast array of styles. Chris has also been featured on television programs such as ‘Til Death and The Ellen Degeneres Show; his diverse and chameleon-like talents make him a sought after composer and collaborator for film and television. A modern-day troubadour and considered a colossus of Americana, Cyrus Rhodes of No Depression considers Murphy “one of the best songwriters in popular music unjustly flying under the radar.” He is a new artist collaborator with Friendly Folk Records with his recent 2021 album titled SOVEREIGN.

He is that rare breed of musician that creates and performs in a multitude of music worlds with ease. As he searches for new ways to communicate through music, fusing styles and techniques from across the globe — a unique fabric of world music, he calls it — Murphy finds his element on the stage, where spontaneity and improvisation reign. “To me, the music is liquid, and I’m looking to have some kind of experience," he says. “I’ll twist and turn, and hammer and mold, and shape, cut and paste the music to do that. We’ve never done a song the same way twice.” As ever, Murphy re-forges the past to make a new way. He has performed in more than 40 states in the USA, England, Ireland, and The Netherlands.

Violinist and Songwriter

Chris Murphy on steps

Press for Chris Murphy

“Haunting and enchanting…A talented and innovative player traveling on the edge.”
~Dirty Linen Magazine

 

“He plays the violin like he was born with it.”
~Kaj Roth, Roth N’ Roll, 2016

Chris Murphy fuses styles and techniques from across the globe, weaving a unique fabric of world music. Murphy finds his element on the stage, where spontaneity and improvisation reign. Chris has amassed a deep catalog of solo and collaborative music over the years, and his diverse talents make him a sought after composer and collaborator for film.

The Tinker's Dream (2017 Album)

The Tinker's Dream

Press for The Tinker's Dream

“Cinematic sweep embodied in musical form! 9/10 stars!”
~Jason Hillenburg, Skope Magazine 2017

 

"The Tinker’s Dream is a musical work of high artistry!”
~Lance Wright, Indiemunity 2017

 

“This is [Murphy’s] finest release to date!”
~Shannon Cowden, Gashouse Radio 2017

 

“There isn’t a single song on The Tinker’s Dream that lacked the rich, organic instrumentation that hits you right in your soul when you hear it!”
~Matt Turner, No More Division 2017

 

“The Tinker’s Dream is a first-class release in every respect!”
~Lydia Hillenburg, Vents Magazine 2017

 

“A fantastic interpretation of Irish folk!”
~Dani Heyvaert, Rootstime 2017

 

“This is quintessential world music– brisk, clear, and vibrant! A true piece of art!”
~The Ark of Music 2017

 

“A songwriting and instrumental extravaganza! 9/10 stars!”
~Charles Hatton, Indie Music Reviews 2017

 

“One of the most respected instrumental talents in any genre currently working in the modern music scene!”
~David Shouse, Band Blurb 2017

Red Mountain Blues (2016 Album)

Red Mountain Blues

Press for Red Mountain Blues:

“Distilling the essence of Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, and Bob Wills into a heady spirit of moaning fiddle, burbling banjo, dandelion mandolins and high-lonesome harmonies, the songs on Chris Murphy’s Red Mountain Blues move and morph like a moonshine dream.

 

Surely, fans of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Ry Cooder, David Grisman, and The Band will find a certain redemption in Murphy’s tin-type Americana, a cinematic blend of bluegrass, country and folk aesthetics that sits comfortably alongside new-generation folkies like Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers, but suggests a much older vintage, and a far deeper pedigree.”
~James Rotondi, Brooklyn, NY

 

“The latest release from respected violinist and New York City native Chris Murphy, Red Mountain Blues, is yet another milestone in a career stretching back a number of years and featuring a number of largely unheralded gems that outstrip the work of much more visible contemporaries. These are fully realized slices of Americana goodness propelled by little more than a consistent triple punch of violin, guitar, and banjo augmented by occasional strains of mandolin. 9/10”
~David Shouse, Gashouseradio.com

 

“It is an immaculately produced affair that highlights the individual elements present in Murphy’s compositions with a generous and attentive ear…Track after track, Murphy shows why he is one of the best songwriters in popular music and unjustly flying under the mainstream radar…9 out of 10 stars.”
~Cyrus Rhodes, No Depression

 

“This is a deeply rewarding work that will appeal to a cross section of listeners. The melodies give each of the album’s fourteen songs instant accessibility without ever sounding too samey and the lyrical content has a wide vision rather than confining itself to rehashing tired tropes from the genre. 9 out of 10 stars.”
~Lance Wright, Indie Artist Alliance

Surface to Air (2016 Album)

Press for Surface to Air:

“Find Murphy – the Los Angeles fiddle master foraging for lyric themes in the underbelly of folk-rock tradition, turning up gems of Dylanesque guile, Tom Waits-approved gothic cabaret, and the kind of emblematic story-songs that have sustained songwriters from Neil Young, to Richard Thompson and Old Crow Medicine Show. SURFACE TO AIR, Murphy’s American pastiche, suggests that rambling souls are just as likely to spin their weathered tales in LA as they are in Dixie.”
~James Rotondi, Brooklyn, NY
February 2014

 

“9/10 Stars…Arch-traditional folk, jazzy strains, and blues find their way into his songs often and to excellent effect…. This is music with many beating hearts and their pulse is loud.”
~Cyrus Rhodes, No Depression

 

“9/10 stars, this is an extraordinary expansive album invoking a handful of wildly varied musical voices and an example of pure songwriting technique… Murphy’s violin slices through the mix for extended and highly melodic fills… Surface to Air is a 14 song collection that will impress long time fans and win over new converts by the score…”
~Jason Hillenburg, Skope Magazine

 

“9/10 stars Surface to Air is a deep collection of songs and instrumentals that plays coherently from first song to last and never lapses into self-indulgence… deserves repeated listening… exquisitely written and moves with smooth control.”
~Aaron Ellis, Indie Artist Alliance