Despite finding some fame and a wider audience after a stint on American Idol, it is same to say that Murphy, a singer-songwriter and talented folk-style guitarist, would be doing what he does, TV show or no TV show. What he does is connect with people deeply through his music. “I didn’t think I was going to be somebody that could make a difference with his music,” Murphy says, reflecting on his musical journey “…I found out that I could make people happy and get better every day.”
Referring to Murphy’s “musical journey” means two things. It’s not only the metaphorical “journey” that the musician has been on throughout his life, but it’s also his very specific mission, which grew out of the heavy challenges his childhood faced him with, including a degenerative disease that has left him with only minimal vision in one eye.
Murphy grew up living on the streets of Baltimore, as he and his sister lost their parents at a young age. He devoted his time to learning the art of music, originally focusing on piano, but later turning to guitar as the only tenable option for a life with unpredictable circumstances. “When I was about 14, my father got me a guitar. I’d had a keyboard, intermittently, because we moved around, and keyboards are not easy to keep with you need to quickly change living situations…”
After trying to maintain a stressful job where he was helping people, Murphy found himself with no money and made a decision that set his course for the future. “I went down to pier and just played my guitar and hoped the cops wouldn’t show…I made $60 in about an hour the first time and it was astonishing. It sunny and nice and I had people dancing—I mean I was terrible…It was in that moment that I realized I could sit in the sun, be myself, make ends, and make somebody’s day, and I didn’t want it any other way.”
Later, the artist decided to be systematic about reaching people. “I could travel and say, ‘I have to try and make a difference here,’” Murphy says. He would ask the homeless in the area what they thought, and the answer consistently came back that he should be playing music for people.
By Dan Walsh