James Murdoch Band
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James Murdoch Band

| INDIE | AFM

| INDIE | AFM
Band Rock Singer/Songwriter

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James Murdoch
In Transit
By Amanda Ash

We all know Hawksley Workman has the Midas touch, but before this producer extraordinaire laid hands on James Murdoch’s fourth album, it was already made of gold. Born in the Yukon, and now living in Edmonton, Murdoch has come a long way with In Transit — the record is spicy and gritty, bubbly and folky, all at the same time. His songs are inspired by his travels and subsequent performances, ranging from Spain to New York. “Get What You Deserve” highlights Murdoch’s confidence as a singer-songwriter, his vocals leading a striding pack of guitars and tambourines into the song’s revitalising message. “Transportation” chugs along with mechanical drums and plugging bass lines commenting on our inability to slow down in life, while “Lift You Up” acts as the silver lining that’ll make you want to dance. James Murdoch is like Joel Kroeker with lap steel, or Don Henley with less dirty laundry. In short, In Transit is an 18-carat wonder. (Indica/Aquarius) - Exclaim! Magazine


EDMONTON - James Murdoch has every right to be angry.

Like a commuter stuck in a two-hour traffic jam on the snow-covered streets of Edmonton, the rootsy pop musician endured his share of exasperating -- and terrifying -- obstacles en route to his just-released second album, In Transit.

The Yukon native suffered three severed ribs, a collapsed lung and a broken hand when an unknown assailant attacked him in Vancouver. He survived four blown alternators and a seized engine on various tours across Canada. To add insult to injury -- and mounting repair bills -- Murdoch was forced to record three versions of In Transit before his label, Indica, signed off on it.

You'd think the finished record, co-produced by folk/rock artist Hawksley Workman, would be filled with vitriol. Most musicians would be tempted to let such personal and professional setbacks sour their songs.

It takes a special sort, such as Murdoch, to channel these frustrations into an album of supple beauty. There's the occasional biting lyric, but his songs are couched in comforting layers of horns, pianos, banjos and warm, soft vocals.

Get What You Deserve, the first single, chimes with Henley-esque guitars. Kings and Queens is a wistful, whispery number along the lines of Crowded House, while Blindsided is a soft, intoxicating ballad and the only leftover from In Transit's first incarnation.

"I used to be the most impatient person, always getting angry and getting myself in trouble," says Murdoch.

"I do not do that anymore.

"After the first version was shot down, I had to make a decision -- do I continue to take (Indica's) money, appease them and make a record or do I just walk away? That's when I decided, 'Zen. Just chill out.' "

The Journal talked to the local musician/producer about his three recording attempts, Workman and honesty.

Q: What did the first two versions of In Transit sound like?

The first time, we went up to Whitehorse and worked with (Blue Rodeo producer) John Whynot. I was obsessed with The Band -- I still am -- so we wanted to make a loose, raw record. That's what I told the label I was going to do, they never questioned me, but as soon as they heard it, they went, "Aww, it's raw and loose and it sounds like The Band." They didn't like that.

Finally, I was convinced to take those songs and make slicker versions of them, which I did here in Edmonton, on my own (at Norwood Studio). We sped up the songs, made it more pop. They still didn't like it. They didn't hear a single on it.

This is when I said, "Look, we're basically going to stop working together or here's a list of people I'll work with and make the record for a third time. AND we're doing it next week because this has been three years of waiting around." It was really frustrating, but it did lead to this record.

Q: You've worked as a producer on several albums by local artists. What was it like for you to work with another producer?

Both Hawksley and I had a hard time dealing with that, but it was still great. He told me he had never really dealt with anybody who had known what they were doing before. We had this engineer, Andre Wahl, and the three of us could not work together at the same time. It was really weird -- we never got anything done. It was like we were trying to outdo each other. ... So what we ended up doing was Andre and Hawksley would work together, Hawksley and I would work together, and I cut all the vocals with Andre. Then there were five days when I was by myself, so I just threw down tons of ideas and then I was willing to hear, "I don't really like that and this is why."

Q: In hindsight, what do you think was missing from your first two versions of the album?

I think, to (the label), it came down to the songs. This version is even more honest. My songwriting really developed in the last year or so, especially lyrically. I decided to quit being so lazy with my lyrics and make every line count.

Q: What inspired Get What You Deserve?

The term could be really vindictive, but to me, I'm singing the song to myself. It's all about missed opportunities or 'shoulda, woulda couldas." I'm still tormented about being really mean to this girl in Grade 7 -- one verse is about that.

Q: It sounds like this album is much more autobiographical than your first, Between the Lines.

I just became really self-conscious of the fact that I felt like a fake -- I didn't feel like I was really saying anything (with those songs.) I really wanted to define myself and be taken seriously as an artist, not just some pop, blond-haired kid ...

It's also just been a crazy bunch of years -- you know, I was beaten up in Vancouver. I was so inspired after it happened. The guy could've killed me and I just felt so amazing to be alive. Over the last year, I've only really come to terms with the whole picture. - Edmonton Journal


James Murdoch @ 360
Friday March 05, 2004 @ 12:30 PM
By: ChartAttack.com Staff


Background/Composition
James Murdoch is a folky solo singer armed with an acoustic guitar and solid vocals.


Achievement of Rock 'n' Roll Expectations
• 80-100: Band exceeds skill and knowledge expectations. Rocked us so hard we peed our pants.

Grade: 83


World Domination Status:

Progressing well towards world domination


Comment:
Earnest ballads and unbridled enthusiasm always make for a good show — even for a much-maligned early time slot.


Learning Skills:
E=Excellent, G=Good, S=Satisfactory, N=Sad Really

Oral And Visual Communication:G
Eye Contact: S
Pronounciation:E

Lots o' denim contributed to the rootsy feel of this performer, although the foot-stomping almost got too Stompin' Tom at times. Still, he looked thrilled to be playing for even the few who had gathered at the early hour and that was a good vibe.

Stage Presence:G
Stage Banter:E
Image:G
Appearance:G
Use Of Stage:S


Musical Analysis
Level Of Participation:G
Problem Solving:G

The set consisted of plenty of songs about places and travelling in Canada, augmented by Murdoch's strong vocal talent. The folk sound would be good for adult contemporary radio... And he sure played the hell out of that acoustic guitar.

Teamwork:N
Work Habits:G
Organization:G
Audience Participation:S
Sound:G
Composition:E
Songs:E


Other Skills And Areas Of Interest
Charisma: E
Strengths/Weaknesses/Next Step:
Problem Solving:G

He showed charm while interacting with the fairly unresponsive crowd — which is a shame, because this guy's got something people should pay attention to. And the little buttons up the guitar strap were a nice touch.

Teamwork:N
Sexiness: G
Haircut:G
Indie Rock Footwear:G
Nods To Disposible Fashion:G
Cool Equipment:S
Level Of Inebriation:N
Actual Ability:E

- Caitlin Hotchkiss


We all know Hawksley Workman has the Midas touch, but before this producer extraordinaire laid hands on James Murdoch’s fourth album, it was already made of gold. Born in the Yukon, and now living in Edmonton, Murdoch has come a long way with In Transit — the record is spicy and gritty, bubbly and folky, all at the same time. His songs are inspired by his travels and subsequent performances, ranging from Spain to New York. “Get What You Deserve” highlights Murdoch’s confidence as a singer-songwriter, his vocals leading a striding pack of guitars and tambourines into the song’s revitalising message. “Transportation” chugs along with mechanical drums and plugging bass lines commenting on our inability to slow down in life, while “Lift You Up” acts as the silver lining that’ll make you want to dance. James Murdoch is like Joel Kroeker with lap steel, or Don Henley with less dirty laundry. In short, In Transit is an 18-carat wonder. (Indica/Aquarius) - Exclaim! Magazine


Canada is a whirlpool of talent, but it is extremely hard to break into the music business without the right motivation and without enough passion. Lucky for us, James Murdoch possesses all of these qualities that will one day launch him all across the world.

You can describe him as a child prodigy who has matured into adulthood. Born and raised in beautiful Whitehorse, Yukon, James was essentially born to be a rockstar. His father and uncles were all established writers, while his mother was a concert producer. If his life was a book, all these elements foreshadow his future as an accomplished musician. So far the story is going as planned, as his first solo record “Polyphonic” was nominated in 2001 and 2002 for “Outstanding Pop Record” at The West Coast Music Awards and Prairie Music Week. In 2004, the success story continued with James being signed to Montreal based Indica Records. This would prove to be a great turning point for James, as he would now be exposed to a much wider audience and a bigger pool of talent to work off of. He followed up his first record with “Between the Lines” which garnered much radio and video play on the likes of Much More Music and MTV Canada.

James Murdoch With his own success, James was able to open up Norwood Studio in Edmonton to help other talented young artists start their own career, such as Amy Seely and The Wheat Pool. This, however, did not stop him from creating his own music, and in 2005, he released “Postcards EP” and followed that up in 2007 with his most current album titled “In Transit”. His latest album is produced by musician/producer Hawksley Workman, which, in my mind, gives James instant credibility. With Workman playing on many tracks, and other talented musicians contributing, this album is produced to perfection.

I was lucky enough to watch James Murdoch perform at the The Backstage Lounge when he was in town a while ago. Before his set, I sat down with him and talked about his musical background as well as his new album. What amazed me most was his professionalism as a musician. With his musical talent, he has been able to travel the world, from Spain to New York, and with all of these experiences in mind, he was able to create a solid record “In Transit.” When he was on an East Coast tour of Canada, he received a phone call from none other than Hawksley Workman, asking if he could produce his new record. With all of these elements combined, there was no doubt that this would be a great record.

His live performance was just as amazing. The passion he exuded on stage truly showed his desire to make great music. He can be described as a blend of Keane and Jason Collett, with a touch of Paul McCartney and Coldplay. James is a great example of how young Canadian artists are putting together full bands of surprising quality and touring for way less money than they deserve. There were many highlights to the night, too many to name off, but what impressed me the most was his versatility. He could change from a danceable tune to a soft ballad without making the transition too awkward, which made the set sound smooth and pleasing. There were three songs that stood out for me. First being a song titled “Goodnight” which is a tender ballad that can touch anyone’s frozen heart and turn it into mush. This was followed by “Give me your love,” which is a funk-rock based track, which can make just about anyone get off their seat and dance. The final song that impressed me was the first track off his new album “Get what you deserve.” The passion the entire band exuded on stage for this song was electric, and it truly invigorated the audience. - Ronatron.net


As the Balkanization of indie music into genre-bending splinter groups continues unabated, it's refreshing to hear a musician willing to get back to basics. Edmonton-based songwriter James Murdoch does just that on his latest disc. You'll find verses that alternate amicably with choruses, hooks that go down easy, and heartfelt lyrics about time-worn topics like zig-zagging the globe, heartache and the romance of country living. While some of the songs seem almost deliberately designed to land Murdoch a deal soundtracking the opening credits of the next O.C.-style TV drama, dig deeper and you'll find some hidden gems. Album closer "Blindsided" — a simple acoustic number in which Murdoch's vocals recall Ryan Adams' — threatens to steal the show from radio-ready cuts such as "Give Me Your Love" and "False Alarm." Though co-producer and all-around gun-for-hire Hawksley Workman's name is plastered all over In Transit, this record is all Murdoch's. - ChartAttack


Discography

-May 2009 "Wondering Where the Rush Has Gone"

-2007 "In Transit" produced by Hawksley Workman
Indica/Aquarius - Reached regular rotation on several HotAC stations nationally. Major support from CBC

-2004 Between the Lines; James Murdoch Band, Indica/Aquarius. two videos on regular rotation on Much Music.

-2002 Polyphonic; James Murdoch Band (Released under Alex Murdoch), Independent

Photos

Bio

Yukon born and Edmonton based James Murdoch brings you beautifully crafted songs that are a spectacular blend of roots wrapped in pop sensibility that highlight his powerful vocal talent.
James is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist and has recorded 4 solo records.
In 2003 James signed with Montreal based, Indica/Aquarius Records.
He has performed all over North America, from New York and L.A. to his home town of Whitehorse Yukon.
As well as being performer, he is also an accomplished producer and multi-instrumentalist.
James is equally at home on stage either solo, duo or with his full band.
His newest record, In Transit, was recorded last summer with Canadian superstar, Hawksley Workman.
It has since received high praise from press and public alike. Exclaim Magazine calls it, "An 18 Carat Wonder".
In Transit was nominated for 3 Western Canadian Music Awards in 2008.
James will be releasing a new album in the spring of 2009, just in time for the festival circuit.
The record is an organic, "live off the floor" capture of James' songs. It has a very "rootsy" feel, not overly produced, in the vein of Jason Collette, Amos Lee and Blue Rodeo.