Video premiere: I’m Not Looking - Martha Skye Murphy
Music of the Month: Martha Skye Murphy premieres her latest video ‘I’m Not Looking’ directed by Nina Porter. Hate meets the South East London musician and actor upon the release of her new single. Martha’s debut release HEROIDES EP was recorded at Abbey Road Studios and will be released via Slow Dance Records with a limited tape release on Slow Dance Records and Big Score Records.
In your own words, what is your latest release 'Heroides' about and who is it for?
The title 'Heroides' is a reference to the collection of epistolatory poems written by Ovid from the perspective of women sidelined by ‘great’ men. This cliché from antiquity still resonates with women in modern life. My music is about in some way obtaining these women’s voices, giving them a reincarnation, but also using them to tap into the experiences that so many of my friends and the people around me seem to be having today. ‘Heroides’ is about grounding the everyday in the past. The bitter sweet. The EP is about a whole host of things though, mainly my experiences growing up in London and how the city can effect your mood and haunt you with memories. ‘Heroides’ is for all the heroines left by ‘heroes’ at the shore…
You have previously sung backing vocals for Nick Cave, did you find that this shaped your own music or way of working?
Nick has been very supportive of my music, as well as being a constant source of inspiration for me in terms of his method of story telling which is both strikingly vivid and abstract all at once.
What is your objective for the music you make, do you feel that it's didactic in some way?
My objective when I start to write music is selfish; I have a story or a topic I’ve been thinking about that I want to explore and understand further and to do this I have to translate it into a song. I write lyrics with a deliberate non-specificity. I try to obscure any details that are about myself within the lyrics so that people can relate to what I’m saying. I want the songs to be universal so that every listener feels as if they're being addressed personally.
Sonically, you seem to have taken influence from many different genres. Is this an integral part of your songwriting?
I think I’m just very impressionable when it comes to music that affects me, so whatever has had an impact whether it’s a film soundtrack or an album I’ve been listening to, I’ll normally find it has crept into my songwriting without me noticing until much later on.
The cover image for the EP is particularly striking, is there something that you are trying to say through that?
The cover image is taken by my sister Ceidra Moon Murphy. She is an artist and a big inspiration to me. The photograph draws on photographers like Brassai who captured the beauty of the dingy sides of Paris in the 1900s at night; the brothels and opium dens. There was never any intention to make a statement through being semi-topless with the artwork and yet it’s been incredibly difficult to get the image through publicity with Facebook, Instagram and Spotify rejecting it, hence the censorship of the image. In a way, this has come to embody the issues I’m discussing in the EP, regarding the unfair marginalisation of women in all circumstances.
Is there something specific about mythology that appeals to you and that you think either parallels, or is an escape from, modern times?
I am intrigued by how mythology uses the surreal to reveal the absurdity of human life. I find it remarkable that if you look closely at these bizarre stories where sirens seduce, people metamorphose, punishment involves sexual humiliation and gender is fluid, suddenly so many contemporary struggles and issues seem completely archaic. I think people connect to legend and mythology in an intense way because the tales are so beguiling and feel disturbingly real. They hold timeless truths.
You are also an actor- what is the personal importance of the arts to you?
Acting is a very different discipline for me to writing music. I feel far more naked when I sing to an audience because no matter who’s story I am telling, whether it’s historical, a friend’s anecdote or my own, people assume that you are exposing a part of yourself and that you’re vulnerable as a result. But I guess the pull towards acting is the same - I have an addiction to the escapism of inhabiting another character and experiencing their tale first hand. The importance of the arts for me is the ability they have to communicate something entirely different to two individuals despite the fact that you are seemingly delivering the same message to both.
Is there anything about the industry that you have found challenging?
I think there’s certain gender stereotypes that are still uncomfortably present…
What's next for you?
I’m currently rehearsing a one woman show called ‘Two Body Problem’ directed by Louis Rogers about an obsessive academic who goes to Antarctica on the false pretence that she is needed for a research project loosely connected to real life Frankensteinscience: Galvanism. When she returns from the location she was sent to (‘Deception Island’ which actually exists, check it out on google maps!) she finds out that it was destroyed in a volcanic eruption in the 1960s… It’s a ghost story. We're opening in this amazing old surgical theatre which has all the original operating tools stored in huge glass cabinets in the Museum of Science in Oxford and then moving it to London's Old Red Lion Theatre in November.
Interview Grace Allen.