Interview with Anna Murphy – Eluveitie

28-09-12 – By Sam
As a huge Eluveitie fan (and amateur hurdy-gurdy player), I was very excited to have the chance to sit down and talk to Eluveitie’s Anna Murphy before the band’s recent show in Leipzig. We chatted for about half an hour about her musical background, playing the hurdy-gurdy, and her upcoming solo album; what follows is a few of the highlights of our conversation.

Metal Exposure: Could you tell me a little bit about your background? Did you grow up around music?
Anna Murphy: My whole family consists of musicians. My parents are both opera singers, my grandparents were opera singers, and we have lots of other musicians and crazy artsy people in our family. I actually never wanted to have anything to do with music – I just wanted to study archaeology or become an astronaut or something. But somehow, I just sort of fell into the music business too (*laughs*).

ME: What sort of music were you exposed to as a kid? Any traditional folk, or just opera?
AM: Just opera. And my mom listened to ABBA. My stepdad listened to Pink Floyd, which was cooler. But otherwise, there was opera all around me.

ME: You were only 16 when you joined Eluveitie. Did that cause problems with your family or your school?
AM: It was hard for all of us. I asked the school if I could go on a two-week tour and just bring all my materials and study on the road. And their answer was a very definite “No.” So my decision was clear. I just said, well then, bye, and fuck you. My parents were surprisingly cool with it. We figured I was young enough to start doing something academic years later if things didn’t work out with the band. But it hasn’t come to that.

ME: In the band, you play the hurdy-gurdy. Have you ever had a hurdy-gurdy emergency on stage?
AM: I actually had the most epic hurdy-gurdy fail ever! I brought both of my hurdy-gurdies on tour once, and while I was playing one of them, the handle fell off. Then I started playing my other one, and the exact same thing happened! So both handles were just gone, and I was standing there on stage like a moron. Luckily, our tech came up with an emergency solution: He taped the handle of a screwdriver on so I could finish playing the show. It actually seems pretty funny now…!

ME: You’ve been working on a solo album recently, and from the samples you’ve posted, it sounds like it’s going to be really different from anything you’ve done before. Could you tell me more about it
AM: I’ve been writing my own songs for a long time, so that’s why I have so many side projects – I have a lot of ideas that just don’t fit in Eluveitie. At one point, I wrote nine or ten songs that fit into an overall lyrical concept, so I decided to do a solo album. I’m the kind of person who comes up with ideas and needs to get them out right away, so I immediately recorded a demo. I’m hoping I can use it to find a label. In terms of influences, I just write about what’s going on in my life at the moment. I try not to concentrate on one specific style; all the songs that will be on the album sound really different from one another.

ME: Are there any bands that you would like to see if you had the chance?
AM: Yeah, it’s a real bummer, because Archive are on tour right now – they’re a trip-hop band from the UK. I’d really love to see them, but I can’t, unfortunately.

ME: Speaking of being on tour – life on the road sounds like it can be both fun and challenging. What do you like best about it, and what don’t you like?
AM: I love everything about it! I get up in the morning and I can do anything: mix songs, write music, or go for walks. It’s such a privilege to be able to make a living by going on stage for an hour or two to just have fun and make people happy. That’s why I don’t like people who complain about touring being so hard. I mean, obviously, if you’re going to get completely wasted every night it’s going to be hard; you’re going to feel like shit. Or if you have to travel in a small van, of course. But the way we do it, it’s really not a hard lifestyle. The only thing I don’t like is having to dry my shampoo bottles right after showering – it’s just annoying.

ME: What sort of items do you bring on the road with you?
AM: I like pajama pants and other comfy stuff. I don’t really think about what I wear – apart from my stage outfit, obviously – because I don’t feel the need to dress nicely when I’m on tour (*laughs*). I need to bring my bass to record stuff and practice, and I need an audio interface and all the recording gear. I also need one good computer game – at the moment, it’s Batman Arkham City. And I lose my voice a lot, so I bring my own kettle to make tea.

ME: Tell me about your tattoos – do you have any special stories behind them?
AM: My first one is the one on the side of neck, and it says “Dessumiis Luge” [in Gaulish script] – that’s a track that I wrote with Meri. It was my first-ever tattoo, and we got it in New York; Merlin, Chrigel, Meri, and I all have it. The one on the back of my neck says “Sacrapos” – that’s the track I wrote for Evocation I. It means something like “An evil look that seems holy.” The ghosts on my arm are artwork that was done for the band Ulver by [Romanian artist] Costin Chioreanu. I have a hurdy-gurdy on my wrist, and the tattoo on my hand is an Eluveitie-Finntroll friendship tattoo.

ME: I’ve heard that you’re a big Star Trek fan. Are there any other TV shows you like besides Star Trek?
AM: I like the remake of Battlestar Galactica, and also Big Bang Theory – everybody likes that! Other than that, I don’t really watch a lot of TV shows.

ME: Anything else you’d like to add?
AM: Thanks for the interview, and thanks to anyone who’s interested in what I have to say! Hard to imagine! (*laughs*)