Molly Murphy is my little sister. Which means she often steals my clothes, calls me out on my b.s., and generally enjoys annoying me. She also happens to be an incredibly talented singer-songwriter whose music is reminiscent of Joni Mitchell and Stevie Nicks, but with its own unique bent. I may be biased, but Molly is definitely an up-and-coming artist to watch. She spoke with me from her (relatively) new home in Nashville, TN about life as an aspiring singer-songwriter, what influences her work, and what challenges she has faced along the way.
EM: Tell us about your musical background; how did you come to pursue music?
MM: I started out doing basically every other form of art — painting, drawing, creative writing — and I had been interested in singing when I was younger. I have always loved music, especially lyrics, and appreciate listening to great lyricists. I realized eventually that, more than any other art form, music was what I was interested in. I went to Nashville for a summer on a grant from the University of Notre Dame and worked for a music company. I also worked with an artist who I’d met in Nashville, and she agreed to train and mentor me. At the end of the summer, I gave a demo to the music company’s founder and he encouraged me to pursue it. I joined a band at school and began writing everyday and putting on my own solo shows. About six months ago, I moved down to Nashville full-time. Now, I play out every week and continue to work on honing my craft.
Do you have a specific style? If so, what genre would you say your work falls under?
Folk-pop. It’s also art-pop. My voice gets compared a lot to 60s folk singers. I think that’s where the folk element comes in. I lean a lot on lyrics and my songs tend to be pretty lyrically heavy which is folky as well, but it also has tinges of pop and some pop color.
What informs and inspires your songwriting?
I try to put a lot of what I’ve learned from the visual arts into songwriting. When you’re painting a picture, you’re not supposed to paint what you think should be there; you’re supposed to paint what you genuinely see. I think my best songs are not written when I’m going off of a vague idea, but when I’m picturing a memory and writing about what actually happened. It’s important to incorporate details that are specific to a situation. There’s a theory in songwriting that you’re supposed to make the music broad, something that would appeal to everyone, but I don’t particularly like that. I think you can relate to any song if it has color and richness.
Who are your musical influences?
I’ve always loved Stevie Nicks and Cat Stevens. As I’ve started singing more and getting increased feedback, I’ve begun to gravitate towards more 60s folk and artists like Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez. That is probably my main inspiration now. I’ve learned a lot from listening to their style.
You also have a background in the visual arts. Does that come into play in your work at all?
Yes, definitely. I do all of my own graphics and all of my own cover art. This includes my website, everything on my social accounts, album covers and the promotions for my upcoming single. Visual art is a big part of my creative process.
What is the most difficult part about pursuing music professionally?
You’re always getting a million different opinions coming at you at the same time. It’s really difficult to learn what to block out and what to listen to. It’s a constant mental head game of keeping your confidence up and also accepting that not everyone is going to like you.
What is the best part?
The community. Getting to meet so many interesting people and collaborate with different artists. It’s really fun — performing, showing people what you’ve been working on, putting your art on display — which you get to do a lot in Nashville — is all really special.
Where can we see you perform or listen to your songs?
In Nashville, I perform every week and I started a writer’s round at Hopsmith on Wednesdays. I’ll also be performing in New York at the Bitter End the first week in February. My single is coming out February 14th and will be up on all music platforms.