There was a moment in 2016 when singer/songwriter Chuck Murphy realized people were listening. After spending three weeks in the hospital with a stomach ailment, Murphy returned home to find he had three million SoundCloud listens to his song “Falling Star.”
When Murphy’s album, Peace Be With You, hit No.3 on Billboard’s Folk Americana chart in the Fall of 2016, it was proof the artist was coming into his own.
From his earliest days in Minnesota as a 10-year-old with the electric guitar and amp his father received in barter, Murphy found that music was his way to express himself. “The neighbor kids and I would go from house to house carrying our stuff,” Murphy recalls. “I think that was my first tour.”
As the youngest of four children, music helped him navigate his turbulent home life where his father ruled with an iron hand. As the youngest, he was often the brunt of his father’s aggression and songwriting became therapeutic, giving Murphy a means of expression.
Right out of high school, he went into the Navy to avail himself of veteran college benefits. Discharged in Jacksonville, Florida, he enrolled in college, but after a couple of years found music calling again and left to perform.
Murphy notes, as he matured as a songwriter, his content remained a matter of the heart, just a different matter.
“In the beginning, I just wanted to play and write music,” Murphy says. “I found myself writing about break-ups and love. Then I started seeing things happen in the world and that began to motivate me.”
By 2014, he had made his way to California and in the latter part of the year he released “How Many Times” off the CD produced by Nashville’s Jeff Silverman. Murphy was astonished by the SoundCloud response -- within a month there were 86,000 listens.
He wrote “Falling Star” in January, 2016, when one of his major musical influences, Glenn Frey, passed away. After hitting 23 million listens on SoundCloud, by the time “Peace Be With You” arrived, Murphy had garnered an audience.
“Peace Be With You” had begun in 1978 about his brother, six years his elder, who he describes as his “protector.” While they were wrestling on the side of the house as kids, his knee was accidentally pulled out of joint. When he started screaming, his father came out and began going after his brother.
“And then I started going after my father for going after my brother,” Murphy recalls.
The song was so intensely personal, he only got as far as the chorus and left it for years. He didn’t finish it until he was in the recording studio in the Spring of 2016. Suddenly it all “flowed out like a river without thinking about it,” Murphy says.
Subconsciously his fear for the world had intervened. It was no longer just a personal message to his brother; it was a plea to the world.
“Cowgirls,” recently a Top 40 Breakthrough in New Music Weekly, has taken an interesting route. The song began in the late ‘70s when Murphy bragged he could write about anything. At that moment, someone challenged him to write about the Dutch Boy paint can in the room. He wrote a song called “Dutch Girls” that was musically inspired by the Police. In 2000, Elisa Fiorillo, a backup singer for Prince, recorded the song as “Cowboys” for a solo project. That effort was shelved when she returned to Prince and Murphy decided to change it to “Cowgirls” and record it himself.
By and large, he’s not a story-song writer. Murphy is inspired by the world’s unrest. A recent song deals with the current deportation situation, an issue close to his heart as the housekeeper and her children who live with him are like his family.
“My process is that something happens and it just comes home,” Murphy explains.
Murphy formed Big Coyote in 2010 to perform and record his vision. At the same time, he began One West Media to support the band through visual media and One West Records for his projects. The newest single from Chuck Murphy, "Free To Be Free", comes from this project.
The artist doesn’t just talk the talk; he walks the walk! He believes in giving back. He has formed a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Music and Kids, to organize his efforts to help young people learn about the music industry, develop their talents, and pursue careers in music. Music and Kids identifies gifted young people and assists their efforts with scholarships for one-on-one, after school music lessons with paid, qualified instructors. Music and Kids has recently formed partnerships with the City of Palmdale, CA, and the Child Safety Network, a national organization dedicated to the promotion of child safety.
Chuck Murphy & Napynap perform to bring attention to Music and Kids and all proceeds from their performances and album sales go to fund the mission of Music and Kids (www.musicandkids.org).
Murphy’s objective is to use his platform to help change his environment, his community, and whatever portion of the world he can reach to make a difference.
“Every day I wake up and ask for the strength to be the best I can be -- the strength, the wisdom and courage to deal with today the best I can.”