"I wanted to give a full portrait of who I am as an artist and writer" We chat to Kristina Murray
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Hey Kristina, how’re you doing today?
Where are you right now?
Lounging on my back deck, taking in the heat, humidity and summer sounds.
What have you been up to today?
I worked this morning at my day job, then worked this afternoon on a Dylan cover I’m singing with a friend for our show on Monday. We’re doing the song 'Romance In Durango' as a duet; there are a lot of words in that song!
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in Atlanta, but I live in Nashville now. Music is my most favorite thing in the whole world and my family and friends are number one in my life. I love simple things like college football, flowers, a good craft cocktail, dogs, laughing, porch sitting, and a really well-written song. I think music is mystical, mysterious, and magical and I feel lucky to have it so deep in my blood and brain.
What can you tell us about your new record, Southern Ambrosia, in two sentences?
It’s a very personal work and musing on love, life, desperation, hopelessness, hopefulness, strength, god, money, poverty and the “duality of the southern thing,” set to a backdrop and landscape of the South. It showcases my two true loves: rock ‘n’ roll and country music.
How did you go about writing and choosing which songs to record?
About a third of the songs were already written when I left Colorado to move back south, so they were two to three years old at the time. Another third I wrote right after I moved to Nashville, in 2014, and then the last third were written over the last year before recording in 2016/2017, except ‘Slow Kill’ which I wrote a month before it was recorded. I have a tendency to write more honky-tonk and traditional country songs, but, as my debut record illustrated, it’s not the only music I listen to and play. Mike (Rinne—my producer) and I wanted to give a full portrait of who I am as an artist and writer so we set aside most of the honky-tonkin’ songs and went with the collection that had the same lyrical thread; that eventually became Southern Ambrosia.
You recorded it at Welcome to 1979 and Sound Stage Studios, what’s that studio space like? And do you personalise it at all?
We recorded the record so quickly at both of those studios, there wasn’t really time to personalize either space—it was in and out and get it done; both studios sound incredible and feel really good. 1979 was a real vibe-y space… it’s an old tape and pressing warehouse so it’s got some haunts. So many incredible musicians and heroes of mine have recorded at both studios; I feel lucky that those reverberations that are stuck in the walls from all that great music seeped into me and my songs.
‘Made In America’ is a really passionate song, what can you tell us about it?
I wanted a big song that conveyed the feeling of despair and endlessness in struggling with never having enough money, struggling with mortality, struggling with spirituality and faith… while being simultaneously hopeful in remembering the power of inner strength and one’s work ethic. Georgia is famous for its red clay and massive thunderstorms… it’s what forged me. And I certainly am of the conviction that just barely scraping by isn’t living your best life. Essentially, it’s a song for me to remember “what stock you from” as one of my dearest friends always reminds me.
I also really like ‘Pink Azaleas’, what’s the story of that song?
‘Pink Azaleas’ is written about my childhood and my home that I grew up in, in Atlanta. Every line in that song is true, except now my mom has repainted that garden dinette a dark grey! I suppose it’s just an homage to the houses and childhood homes that raise us up. The bridge is written from my perspective as an adult - the summer air in the Deep South can be so thick at times… pair that with the cry of a train whistle and it can take you to a real lonesome, suffocated place.
What’s the one track you’d choose for people to really listen to?
Probably ‘Slow Kill.’ It’s the most political song on the record, but somewhat slyly; it’s not preachy but does highlight and question some of our American norms. It’s an upbeat, rockin’ song about a very dark matter.
How important is it to keep the heart of traditional country at the centre of your music?
I guess to me, the ‘heart of traditional country’ would just be beautiful, simple and plain songs that tell the truth, or someone’s truth; I hope I’ve done that here as I can only write what I know. Guitar is my favorite instrument so it was important for me to strongly feature tele and pedal steel, though sonically overall, the record strays from solely traditional country.
Everyone must ask you this, but what’ve you been up to in the five years since Unravelin’???
I moved across the country back to the south, re-established myself (basically at the bottom) in a new music scene and community, went through a painful break-up, moved twice, broke down and rebuilt myself, then recorded the album…all while working day and night jobs 40 to 60 hours a week, and playing shows.
How important has PledgeMusic been in getting Southern Ambrosia recorded and released?
I’m using PledgeMusic for the pre-order of the record and I cry every time someone buys it; it’s so important because it will help me pay down the debt I have incurred from recording and promoting the record. This isn’t new news, but it’s financially devastating to be an independent artist! [Laughs]
Obviously there’s a lot of talk about equality in general life at the moment, what experience of being treated differently as a woman have you had in your industry?
How long do you have? Here’s just one: for some reason, across the board (industry and business types, artists, fans, labels, radio) think that music is a competition and it’s even more competitive for women, so there persists the prevailing idea that there can ‘only be one’ artist who also happens to be a woman on a bill, or festival, or label. It’s is really quite crippling not only for working women artists, but in turn for fans of great music. (Of course there are exceptions in these professions and a lot of folks are fighting the good fight for artists who are also female!) Other micro-aggressions include: mansplaining at music stores, mansplaining by soundmen, not being listened to or taken seriously by sidemen, being told I “shouldn’t wrinkle or contort my face” while I sing. I think, however, seeing festival after festival bill, label after label, year after year after year, with little to no artists who also happen to be women, is the most continuously disheartening.
I visited Nashville last year and really like the city, the tourist stuff is great and all, but east Nashville felt like a place you could live. What’s your take on Nashville?
Nashville is an odd place. I love that it’s so much smaller than Atlanta, but that smallness can feel stifling sometimes. I feel challenged living in a place where some of the greatest music ever recorded came from: that is humbling and inspiring at the same time.
If you could recommend one song to hear this week, what would it be?
Just one is too hard! ‘Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire’ by Joni Mitchell; ‘Boogie On Reggae Woman’ by Stevie Wonder; ‘Can’t Cut Loose’ by Erin Rae; ‘Resignation’ by Paul Cauthen
What’s the question we should have asked you today but haven’t?
Where can someone pre-order your record? You can pre-order here at my PledgeMusic pre-order page!
Finally, how do you take your coffee?
I only started drinking coffee a year and half ago, so right now I only drink sugary espresso drinks: honey, vanilla, caramel, chocolate, any of the sweet stuff; if I’m gonna treat myself, I’ll buy the overpriced signature espresso drinks.
To find out more about Kristina, including tour dates, visit her website. You can also follow her on Twitter, like her on Facebook, or see what she's up to on Instagram.
Her second record, Southern Ambrosia, is out in September and is fantastic. Pre-order it at PledgeMusic.