A week or so ago, I had the opportunity to listen to Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr. He was in Charleston for an appearance. I had respect for him before, but listening to him in person raised my respect for him immensely.
And he didn’t sing at all.
Okay, that’s not entirely true. He did sing just a little bit, but more just playing around and only a few stanzas of a couple songs. His appearance was talking about the creative process and being true to yourself. And it was very cool.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, Murphy, Jr. is a jazz singer from Logan County. He won the reality show American’s Got Talent in 2011 and has done well for himself. Many “reality show winners” end up being a flash in the pan, blowing up one day and disappearing the next. Murphy, Jr. has done a really good job of staying relevant, touring and raising money for charity with his music. He has a new album coming out soon.
Murphy, Jr. was at the West Virginia State University Economic Development Center giving a Creators talk. He spoke to a lot of different things, including being on the reality show and meeting various celebrities, but what made the appearance impressive was his thoughts on creativity.
“We have a choice. We can be positive or negative. We have the power and the choice. Everything I’ve gotten is a blessing. Because it is a blessing, I’m supposed to inspire others,” he explained. “I grew up on Snoop Dog, and all that, but I choose to look for the positive. I sing as if Biggie Smalls was Nat King Cole and it comes out great. My music is blue skies and fluffy clouds. That is just me being who I am.”
Murphy, Jr. talked about his audition in New York for the reality show. He said there was a room full of people singing Frank Sinatra songs. They were all dressed like Frank, including the suits and the hats. And then there he was, 6’4” with dreadlocks.
“I noticed none of them had confidence. Why would the judges believe in you if you don’t believe in you? They had amazing talent, but no stage presence,” he said. “I could have sung on a mic with recorded tracks, but I thought my audience deserved more.”
Murphy, Jr. bristled just a bit when someone suggested he had “overnight” success. And he related that to everyone who is struggling to “make it” in whatever they are trying to do. “I’ve been blessed with many talents. It is really hard when you have those talents and nothing is happening. Everyone feels like it was overnight, but for me it was a lifetime,” he said. “You just have to believe in who you are. Nobody can be you like you.”
Of course, the music industry and every other creative outlet whether it is writing or music or art has people telling you how you are “supposed” to do things or that “you can’t do it that way.”
“What got me where I am is being true to me and I’m not changing that,” he explained of his decision to sing jazz and happy music. “The hardest part is staying true to yourself. It is just me being me. If I lose that, it’s not true.”
I’m a bigger fan now than I was before..