Interview Outtakes: Murphy Lee on Being an Independent Artist and the Fate of His Lost Tunes

Nov 29, 2010 at 12:30 pm
click to enlarge Murphy Lee - Jennifer Silverberg
Jennifer Silverberg
Murphy Lee

In this week's paper, Calvin Cox spoke with Murphy Lee, who co-hosts a healthy cooking show called Good 4 U with fellow St. Lunatic Kyjuan. Although Murph's no longer on Universal Records as a solo artist, he's still signed to the label as part of the St. Lunatics. (That group's album is now due early next year, according to a mid-November Post-Dispatch interview with Nelly.) As we discussed earlier this year, Murph's post-major-label solo bow, You See Me CD/DVD was a smashing success: It became Vintage Vinyl's best-selling album of 2009 after being in stores just two weeks. In his recent interview, Cox got some more details about his forthcoming musical endeavors-- and an update on what life is like as an independent artist.

Calvin Cox: As someone who's been on both sides, what are the pros and cons of being an independent artist? Murphy Lee: The pros are that you can do what you need to do. How the game is today, you need to put out a lot of music, so it's cool to be able to do that. The con is the money-spending. It cost way more than you might realize to get the word out. Being independent is very costly, but it can make you a lot of money.

What's the most important thing you've learned from being signed with Universal? I learned that even if you're under a label, you've still got to work like you're independent. I think I got a little lazy by letting [the label] do things for me. We stopped being hands-on like we were when Country Grammar and Murphy's Law came out. Back then we were passing out promos, and just grinding like you're supposed to. After selling a certain amount of records, it's easy to get caught up in the label stuff, and pretty soon your album's not being pushed.

After the success of Murphy's Law, everybody was waiting for the follow-up album. What was the hold-up? I don't know what was wrong. When we were doing shows, I'd drop "Dat Bullshit" and people would go crazy like they knew it. I was trying to push it as a single, but the label just wouldn't push. Every time I tried to drop a single, it wasn't a priority - and when you're not in New York every day, it's hard to turn over desks. Phone calls and emails aren't enough when you're dealing with big labels; you've got to stay on them. When Universal got divided up, I was caught up in the sauce with people getting hired and fired, and nobody knew what was going on. I was stuck, and I couldn't put anything out unless they said so. I sat for like three or four years, and had four or five albums done.

Do you plan on releasing any of the music you made during that time? Definitely. Be looking for the Lost Tapes on

Finally, how does it feel to put out another St. Lunatics album [City Free] after all these years? It's incredible. City Spud's back home, and he's on every song. We've all grown since Free City came out, so you can expect the album to be even hotter.