16/05/2009

Drama queen

A nice feature from The Observer, titled 'Roisin Murphy: The drama queen':


Simply turning up and belting out a few songs isn't enough for Roisin Murphy. She works hard to make her shows as dramatic as possible.

I was about 10 when I first began to sing. My mother had been away for three weeks and I learned Don't Cry for Me Argentina. When she came back I sang it in front of her, my auntie Linda, my father, my uncle Jim and my grandmother. I spent the rest of my childhood hiding every time my family had a drink, because they'd always want me to sing Don't Cry for Me Argentina.

Performance was a shock to me. The first time I remember feeling I could do it was during the making of my first video, Fun for Me. I couldn't sleep the night before the shoot, I was so frightened. I had to play a ghost and a piece of merchandise in a shop window and I had no idea whether I was going to be able to pull it off. But I did, and I was able to bring something a little bit different to it, too. I didn't spend my childhood trying to be a performer; it was a big surprise to me that this was what I was doing. But it has always felt quite natural to me. I wasn't taught to do what I do; I found out bit by bit.

I've worked to try to get to a more natural place with my voice. I started in Moloko, my former band, as someone who just said stuff. I was learning to sing as I made records - which wasn't a bad thing because you've got a naivety and exuberance at the beginning. But when you tour you learn so much about your voice and you push it and stretch it. I think that's been my direction: getting more truthful. Being able to express yourself is one of the hardest things in the world.

There's a bit of acting in singing, but I think ultimately it's about character. A good voice is not necessarily a technical voice. It's the same old cliche, but it's about complexity and intelligence coming through in the voice - and if you hear that, you know it immediately. My performances stem from my character, becoming an overblown version of it.

The first performers that left an impression on me were Kim Gordon from Sonic Youth and Kim Deal from the Pixies. These postfeminist "chicks" were having as much fun and getting into as much trouble as the boys; I wanted a piece of that. I also love Iggy Pop. He's like a bullet from a gun; so much energy - and he's a giver. To perform well, you need to understand that giving and receiving are actually the same thing.

I try to make my shows as dramatic as possible, so it's much harder work than it would be if I just went out there and did a gig. But it's more worthwhile, because you create a story, a narrative. I'm definitely a storyteller in a performance sense. The narratives are never explicit, but it's about creating atmosphere with the simple tools of the stage: lights, choreography and clothing, too.

During my last tour, I was changing something in every song, which sounds complicated, but it was just one piece of clothing off and on, one change of lighting and a change of position. There's a kind of a haphazard and intimate feel to it.

I'm a fighter on stage. I've performed at festivals in front of audiences that don't necessarily know me, and I'll give as much that moment as any other. I'm not frightened of that and I don't ever give a pissed-off performance. I'll always give everything I've got.

I like being creative and, for me, performance is a part of that. I consider it a privilege to be able to perform and make music and videos for a living. It's a brilliant thing to do with your life.

• Roisin Murphy is currently working on her third solo album

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think it's a good article, which let Roisin in focus as a musician and performers.
Lovely picture, and the moon on her blouse, reminds me of the moon she draw and of 'Yellow moon' which I hear again and again - love it.

mexreel

a. said...

that last sentence has certainly got me all excited (!!!!)

john said...

honey, I saw her in New York and the woman means what she says

SHE GIVES IT HER ALL.

3rd album? Can't wait.