Curtis McMurtry
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Curtis McMurtry

Austin, Texas, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2009 | INDIE

Austin, Texas, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2009
Solo Americana Folk


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos




Curtis McMurtry has a famous father, whose father is even more famous. But it’s his mom who turned him on to “anything that wasn’t white dudes with guitars.”

"That’s still great music to me,” clarifies McMurtry, himself a white dude with a guitar. “But it’s not really the best music anymore.”

The 23-year-old McMurtry recently released his debut LP, Respectable Enemy, on Berkalin Records. It’s a remarkably assured and focused effort for someone his age--or any age, really. His voice is deep and creamy, like an Iced Turbo at Jo’s, the coffee shop across the street from Austin’s esteemed Continental Club, where he and his dad often play. Their sounds, however, are disparate, even though Curtis faithfully covers James' “Gulf Road” (“a perfect song,” says Curtis) on Respectable Enemy. Whereas James mainly sings as a means of conveying vivid, poetic stories, Curtis clearly places an equal premium on acute sonic elements, having earned a degree in ethnomusicology from Sarah Lawrence College. His compositions, laden with an array of strings and horns, are virtually impossible to pigeonhole, oscillating from chamber pop to jazz-funk (“Whiskey Sweat”) to folky Americana. If Magnetic Fields took a South Texas sabbatical, Respectable Enemy is what might emerge.

“My primary influences are songwriters like Townes Van Zandt, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits—and a ton of Ray Charles to balance out the wordy stuff,” says, McMurtry, who aspires to have his songs played on the radio, even though nothing on the radio sounds anything like his songs. “And I listen to a lot of 20th Century classical music, a lot of Stravinsky and more dissonant composers.”

Although McMurtry says he’s “been pretty lucky in love,” Respectable Enemy rarely ventures far from tales of relationships’ bitter ends. “It only takes a bad moment to get the inspiration and exaggerate it,” he explains. “If I have a sinister or mean thought, I tend to hang on to it, write it down and hopefully let it go. But I have an easier time bottling those feelings and using them to make a character than I have bottling the happy, in-love feelings. Those characters aren’t particularly interesting, but the sinister, mean characters have more to say.”

And yet, on Repectable Enemy’s best song, the gorgeous “Ezekiel,” in which McMurtry explores his upper register so successfully that you wish he’d explore it more, nothing so sinister as maturation drives a wedge between companions. Joined by the reedy Diana Burgess, McMurtry sings, “We grow, we grow, we grow, we grow, we grow until we don’t fit.” Such non-conformity might make for a rough domicile, but on Respectable Enemy, it’s harmonious as can be. -

"Austin Chronicle Album review"

Pedigree doesn't guarantee talent, but Curtis McMurtry clearly inherited a deep narrative inclination from his father and grandfather. That familial tradition surfaces in the 23-year-old's character-driven songs and thoroughly realized, detailed settings, though the scion's debut LP also begins carving out his own distinct path. Signaled at the outset with the southwestern sway and Calexico-brushed horns of "Ghost in My Bed," McMurtry's sound issues with diverse styles throughout, aided by notables including Will Sexton on guitar and Warren Hood on violin, with Diana Burgess shading the songwriter's low, sleepy drawl with a gentle harmony and cello. McMurtry's vocals still need to be grown into, but lyrically he already turns arresting phrases: the worn relationship of "Foxhole," nostalgic lilt of "Eleanor's House," jagged and brooding "Down to the Wire," and swooning dread of "Ezekiel." Perhaps the greatest testament is his father's "Gulf Road" inserted almost indistinguishably amid his own compositions. Respectable Enemy signals a bright future for one of Texas' greatest cultural dynasties. - Austin Chronicle

"New York Times Texas Edition"

The Next McMurtry

Curtis McMurtry, an Austin singer-songwriter, will play at a CD release party for his debut album, “Respectable Enemy,” in the same town that his grandfather, the “Lonesome Dove” author Larry McMurtry, attended college in the late 1950s. “He’s the reason I write every day, because he does,” Curtis McMurtry said. “When I stayed at his house growing up, I woke up to the sound of his typewriter.” Mr. McMurtry’s father is the singer-songwriter James McMurtry. Though their styles are different — Curtis is baroque folk, and James is gritty roadhouse rock — the son was inspired by the father in other ways. “My father’s songs taught me to enunciate when I sing, and to fit the lyrics to a strict meter to help get the meaning across,” Mr. McMurtry said. “I like my songs to hold up on the page independent of the melody, and that’s probably because my dad’s songs always do.” Love is a theme on the album, with characters who chase away loved ones. “These people have all done something wrong and have chosen to blame someone else for it,” he explained. “They’re villains who think they’re the victims.” - New York Times

"Rolling Stone"

Backed by a stand-up bass, cello and occasionally a horn section, the 24-year-old McMurtry epitomizes the catch-all nature of Americana. But there's nothing haphazard about his artistic process. The son of revered songwriter James McMurtry, Curtis draws on a music composition degree and his experience composing modern-day chamber music for his own über-descriptive songs. "He's got so much more training than I did, and he knows theory really well," his father told Rolling Stone Country recently. "It's kind of hard for me to hang with him sometimes." - Rolling Stone

"NPR Mountain Stage"

Curtis McMurtry makes his first appearance on Mountain Stage, recorded live at the Culture Center Theater in Charleston, W.Va. McMurtry spent four years writing contemporary chamber music for the banjo at Sarah Lawrence College. He soon felt the pull to sharpen his skills as a singer-songwriter, though, and moved to Nashville, where he studied alongside some of his heroes, including Guy Clark.A character-driven writer, McMurtry has begun to carve out his place in a family tradition of storytelling that began with his grandfather, novelist Larry McMurtry, and his father, songwriter and guitarist James McMurtry. Curtis McMurtry's debut album, Respectable Enemy, tells stories of characters who are wise beyond McMurtry's own 23 years. - NPR

"KUTX Ones To Watch"

Austin’s Curtis McMurtry is the next in line of great McMurtry writers. His grandfather is author Larry McMurtry, and his father is local singer-songwriter James McMurtry. Curtis says he’s learned a lot about hard work from both, but his mother actually had the biggest influence on his music. Despite his Texas roots, Curtis studied chamber music in New York before returning home. Will Sexton helped produce Curtis’ debut album, Respectable Enemy. - KUTX


Still working on that hot first release.



Though Curtis McMurtry is only 24 years of age, many of the characters in his songs seem to have given up on life decades ago. His debut solo album Respectable Enemy (August 2014, produced by Will Sexton and engineered by James Stevens) chronicles the narrations of unapologetically bitter individuals still haunted by the ghosts of lovers and friends they have long since driven away. Few other songwriters inhabit such lonely, spiteful people with such conviction. From the doomed narrator of "Foxhole" to the resigned nostalgia of "Eleanor's House" Curtis writes to break your heart into sharp, jagged pieces.

Curtis was born and raised in Austin, Texas and grew up listening to local songwriters like Matt The Electrician, Jon Dee Graham, and his father, James McMurtry. From 2009-2013 Curtis studied music composition at Sarah Lawrence college in Bronxville, NY, primarily writing contemporary chamber music for banjo and strings. In 2013, Curtis moved to Nashville to sharpen his songwriting skills by co-writing with veteran writers including Fred Koller and Guy Clark.

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