Róisín Murphy: Highly Visible


For singer Róisín Murphy the creative process has always encompassed everything from the music, to the accompanying videos, and the photographs that go with each release.

When ‘Ten Miles High’, the lead single from her new album ‘Take Her Up to Monto’, was released Murphy created the video herself. It showed her darting around London in hi-vis gear. Decked out in neon yellow Murphy made work-wear high fashion.

Chatting on the phone from London we joke that she’d fit right in at Perth airport which is often filled with day-glo yellow work gear.

“Everyone there looks like me! Excellent – I’m going to have to get down there.” Murphy said.

The avant-garde singer has another connection to Perth. Last year on her European tour Murphy wore a costume created by local performance artist Ginava. Murphy had nothing but praise for the local drag performer.

“He’s amazing,” Murphy proclaimed. “It was absolutely incredible – what a piece. It’s got to go into a museum, it’s a piece of art.”

The singer ended up wearing the shaggy tinsel creation after local photographer Claire Alexander captured Ginava performing to one of Murphy’s tracks at The Court Hotel. When she expressed how much she loved the costume – Ginava sent the outfit to her.

In 2015 the singer toured with her album ‘Hairless Toys’. It was the third solo album for the former Moloko member and followed a period where she’d eschewed albums in favour of a series of singles and short EPs.

Now just over a year later Murphy’s returned with another record. ‘Take Her Up to Monto’ features songs written at the same time as those featured on her last album. Murphy and collaborator Eddie Stevens benefiting from a prolific creative output during their writing sessions.

Murphy said finishing off the songs from the earlier session had been a different process for each tune. Revisiting the compositions after a long break saw some of them dramatically changed from their original form.

“Some of them have been really heavily reworked, and some of them haven’t been touched.” Murphy said. “’Mastermind’ and ‘Thoughts Wasted’ were really complicated things to finish, even ‘Ten Miles High’ has a total epic arrangement. The vocal arrangements on tracks like ‘Whatever’ are really complicated.”

Across the nine new songs Murphy tackles a variety of styles. Fans have already shown an outpouring of love for the heavy disco sounds of ‘Mastermind’ which was shared with fans ahead of the albums released. Another stand out tune is ‘Lip Service’ which features bossa nova styled beats.

“It’s a love song,” Murphy said, “It’s a nice simple and pretty tune and it probably does come as a bit of a surprise on the album.”

Murphy said she’d spent a lot of time deciding which order to put the tracks on the album so it took the listener of a journey from its intro of thumping disco through many different musical landscapes.

Murphy said living with her partner Italian music producer Sebastiano Properzi had affected her musical tastes. Murphy said she’s constantly surrounded by Italian music. So much so that she recorded an EP of Italian tunes.

“It taught me a lot about singing.” Murphy said of her ‘Mi Senti’ EP, “I learned a great deal from that Italian project. I think it’s a good thing for singers to do cover versions now and again. It’s a bit of a learning curve. If you write your own songs, you tend to write for what your voice can do. When you have to take someone else’s song on you have to push yourself outside your range, and that’s good for you.”

Murphy said she liked setting herself challenges, which is why she’s begun to make the video clips that accompany her songs herself.

“It’s quite a modern thing, being able to take control across a range of disciplines. It’s easier now to get hold of the technology. The video for ‘Ten Miles High’ was made with a brand new type of camera that’s so tiny you can hardly see it. It looks like your just holding a phone.

“It meant I could shoot on the tube, shoot in the stations and just run around Canary Wharf and nobody tried to stop me because we were so surreptitious. It’s much easier than it ever was to do these things and I just really enjoying doing them.”

Murphy said most people didn’t bat an eyelid as she ran around the city making the video.

“There’s a women on the bus, I sat down next to her singing and she just looked out the window.” Murphy proclaimed, “It really looks like I paid everyone to pretend I’m not there. I’m there in my hi-vis and nobody notices.”

The concept of ‘realness’ something Murphy was inspired by after watching the documentary ‘Paris is Burning’. The singer said the idea of taking an archetype like an executive or a college girl and playing it straight had led to her hi-vis excursion.

“I like the idea of doing it a little bit better than the reality, then it becomes real.” Murphy said.

Róisín Murphy’s ‘Take Her Up to Monto’ is out now.

Graeme Watson

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