Bri Murphy never really had a chance at doing anything other than making music. Plaintive and soaring, her forthcoming LP Things We’d Rather Not Say waltzes out of your speakers with the breezy ease that comes from a life steeped in melody. An antidote to daily darkness but not a denial, the sweetness of Murphy’s music tempers the raw honesty of her lyricism with a deft hand.
Born to pianist parents, Murphy started playing violin when she was four years old. Since then she’s picked up piano, mandolin, guitar, French horn, and a little bit of banjo. While growing up in northwestern Wisconsin, she spent her childhood summers eating okra and sweet corn in the Tennessee countryside. A southerner at heart, her favorite family stories center around Uncle Jimmy, proprietor of The Uptown Club in the notorious original Printer’s Alley.
Murphy planned on enrolling in law school after graduating from Wellesley College, but fate had different plans in store. A series of personal tragedies led to a period of deep reflection, and in 2011 she moved to Nashville on a whim. “I didn’t know anyone there, and was immediately overwhelmed,” Murphy tells us. Rededicating herself to music, she began attending Belmont University (she now has her Masters in Classical Violin) during the day and gigging at night. Her virtuosity was quickly noticed, and Murphy has since shared the stage with artists from Chris Stapleton to Tanya Tucker, and toured the world as a fiddle player and background vocalist for other artists.
Worn out from incessant touring, in late 2015 Murphy decided to take a break from the road and focus on her solo career. In October of 2016 she released her debut EP, Throw Down My Heart, produced by Eli Beaird (Shania Twain; James Bay). The title track was chosen as a semifinalist in the 2016 International Songwriter Competition.
Murphy found the creative journey of a solo artist incredibly healing, and soon enough began work on a follow-up release. Determined to be particular and intentional in her work, she decided to take the project out of Nashville – and back to her hometown. “There's a sort of shine here that's great, but it's not really me,” says Murphy of Nashville. So she settled in to Pine Hollow studio in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Turning to studio owner (and sound engineer for The National) Evan Middlesworth for co-production, Murphy reached out to old high school classmates Ben Lester (Tallest Man on Earth, S. Carey, AeroFlynn) and Dave Power (The Staves, AeroFlynn) and local legend Robbie Weisshaar to track the record. Oh, and her dad came up to play keys.
Recorded during a cold snap – it didn’t get above 0 nearly the whole time they were recording – the record is infused with the warm glow of thick sweaters and crackling fires. Tracked mostly live, the band would start by just working through a song until the energy felt right and hitting record. The magical sessions got an extra dose of pixie dust at the hands of mixing engineer Jerry Streeter (Brandi Carlile, Vance Joy, Elephant Revival) and mastering savant Gavin Lurssen (Alison Krauss, Sheryl Crow, Loretta Lynn).
“I hope people take away a sense of hope and love from this record, regardless of what's going on in the world or in their life,” says Murphy. “I hope it also gives them courage to say things that are hard to say but need to be spoken. More than anything, I hope they find some pieces of the beauty, magic, and light we created up in the Northwoods when we were weaving these songs into a record, that they can carry with them through these strange and somewhat dark times.”