The New Aura
Singer and songwriter Maura Murphy, commonly known as Aura, is in the middle of reinventing herself and on the verge of stardom. She has three albums currently available on iTunes and is in the midst of writing another. After years of writing and performing in Los Angeles, Aura decided to follow her heart, pack her bags, and move 2,000 miles across the country to Nashville, Tennessee. Within weeks of being there, she acquired a high-powered manager, filmed a music video, and is being closely looked at by major music labels.
Cultmachine's Benjamin Emard was fortunate enough to sit down with Aura and talk with her about the exciting things happening in her career now and in the past. Their conversation covered topics from the new direction of her music to some of her most memorable experiences as a rising star. Clearly, fans have lots to look forward to with this immensely talented young artist.
Benjamin Emard: Who has been your greatest hero/role model through your career so far?
AURA: My greatest hero is really hard to pinpoint. I think as a music lover you have many heroes and each one of them influenced you at some time or another. Janis Joplin, The Doors, Bob Marley, Pink Floyd, Green Day, U2, Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins, NIN, OURS, Switchfoot and No Doubt were all are my main influences growing up. Going to Berklee College of Music in Boston opened my eyes to the world of jazz, blues and country. Most of the best music I have ever heard is by someone not many have heard of! That's why it's so important to search out local talent whenever you can!
BE: What has been your greatest challenge you have overcome?
AURA: The greatest challenge I and many artists face is giving up the dream. I never want to give up. No matter how many times you get knocked down, something good always happens. My songs have been in so many great indie movies! You have to wait a year or two to see the finished product, but it's always the best feeling of success when you do see them!
BE: Has there been a time where you felt like giving up and, if so, when?
AURA: Wow! I didn't know this was the 3rd question! There were times a few months ago right before I left Los Angeles, CA for Nashville, TN. I performed an AURA "Greatest Hits" show at The Roxy on Sunset Blvd. and rented the hotel room at The Highland Gardens next to the room Janis Joplin died in for the after-party. I write stories and songs with experiences in my life and this one really was a pivotal time. Instead of ending, I knew I just needed a change and on that day I decided I was going to move to Nashville, TN for sure. It took 5 months, but now I'm here!
BE: Your faith seems to be an important piece of who you are. How has it helped you to this point?
Aura with her brothers Kieran and Brendan Murphy
AURA: 100 million percent! My father was a Catholic brother from 17-34 years old. He is pretty close to a living saint. He left and met my mother, a schoolteacher who should have been an actress and they created 3 very talented children. They raised us Catholic and we are all well-rounded, but artistic and rebellious, and we paved our own ways in the entertainment industry, all incorporating our faith and values even when we didn't realize we were doing so. My older brother Brendan Murphy is a renowned Director/Producer for Altered State Ent., LLC in Los Angeles and my younger brother Kieran Murphy is a Director of Photography also based in Los Angeles, though he films all over the country, Canada and South Africa.
BE: What led to your decision to leave Los Angeles for Nashville?
AURA: I have lived in Boston, NYC & LA pursuing my career and growing as an artist. The next big music city was Nashville, TN, called "Music City." I felt like I was growing out of my rock/indie scene in Los Angeles and knew that I had just created an amazing album with some of the most amazing musicians in Los Angeles, but I couldn't perform as much as I would have liked which is as often as possible. I had a lot of success in TV & Film licensing through my friends and contacts in Los Angeles, but I wanted to be able to do what I was born to do which is to perform live! The energy of a live show is so hard to create on a record. I've come close, but my live show is still always considered something you don't want to miss, so I moved to Nashville where live music is played daily from 11am 'til 2am the next day. I feel home here right now.
BE: What are some of the biggest differences you've noticed between Los Angeles and Nashville?
AURA: Where do I start? Hmmm… Cowboy hats instead of trucker hats? Well, to tell you the truth, when I first arrived here a month ago and turned on the radio, I was surprised that it wasn't all country! There were plenty of Top 40 and Hip Hop stations! I thought I was listening to a rock station and then would hear the lyrics reflecting God and spirituality. On the FM stations here in Nashville, there are 14 Christian/Gospel Stations, 5 country, 3 Adult Contemporary, 4 Top 40 and 2 Hip Hop/Urban Contemporary stations. It's a big mix, but you notice right away the number of Christian Music/Gospel stations is equivalent to the other stations combined. This is the Bible Belt for sure, but Nashville is eclectic in its genres of music. My music transitions all of these genres. My new Nashville manager, Taylor Morrison, heard my last CD BURNING HEARTS & BLEEDING STARS and thought many of my songs sounded Contemporary Christian, so we shot a music video yesterday for the song CHOSEN to promote it to those fans and radio stations!
BE: What inspired you to become a singer/songwriter?
AURA: I had a very big voice since I could first hold a tune somewhere in my toddler years and performed in Musical Theater, town and school plays throughout childhood and high school. I grew up 40 minutes northwest of NYC and went to my first concert at Madison Square Garden for Z-100's Jingle Ball and saw Hole, Weezer, The Indigo Girls, Bon Jovi and the headliner, Green Day. I remember taking my savings the next week and buying a blue Fender Stratocaster guitar just like Billie Joe from Green Day had, and a small amp, and cord, and the rest… is a long history of songs! I never put down that guitar! I still play it today! American Made lasts!
BE: Do you write your own music/lyrics?
AURA: I write all my own music, but also co-wrote on my last album with a very talented songwriter, Brian Blake, on 4 songs and my co-producer, Hall Cantrell on one. I wrote the majority of all lyrics, but have had co-writes that create amazing music, so I am open to it all. Nashville is ALL ABOUT CO-WRITING! The more people you network with and the more written hit songs you have, the better your chances. Period!
BE: When did you know that this was your calling in life?
AURA: It's funny, because those are the lyrics of CHOSEN. "We may feel broken, but we are the Answer. This is our Calling, We Are The Chosen." I felt it when I wrote songs for my grandmother after she died and after a friend, we raised money for with our teenage band, THE UNDERAGED, died from cancer in his senior year. Those 2 songs touched people in a way I had never seen or felt before. The family of my friend said the song gave them hope that their son was in a better place and that God had a plan for his short, but purposeful life. In many of my songs, I talk about death, which is a very big part of life, but in my new songs, I don't think it will be as big of a topic. I really want to focus on life and being happy in the present moment. Then at death, your spirit can look back and reflect and be satisfied with what you have done! Life is about NOW.
BE: Who is your favorite artist and why?
AURA: Again, this is a very hard question, but I'd have to say Jimmy Gnecco of OURS. He is currently on tour opening for Lana del Rey. Lana del Rey, a big fan of Jimmy Gnecco and his band OURS, wrote a song called JIMMY GNECCO. I met him while attending Berklee College of Music, because friends of mine knew him. I was blown away by his voice and the intensity of their music, which would be called Emo before Emo existed and in the best way Emo could ever sound! It was Emotional Rock at its finest and his songs and voice were probably the biggest influence on my 2nd and 3rd albums. All the albums are amazing, but OURS' first album, DISTORTED LULLABIES, is in my Top 10 albums of all time collection!
BE: Who are your biggest musical influences and how have they influenced you?
AURA: Green Day, U2, and Radiohead have also been bands that have really influenced me. Their songs make people feel the emotion, relate to the lyric and make their bodies groove to the beat. Great songs, great voices, amazing lyricsGreen Day was my first favorite band and I remember people thinking they wouldn't last and look where they are now, 5 Grammy's and2 Tony Awards for AMERICAN IDIOT the musical. Never underestimate the underdog or 3 punk rockers from Berkley, CA!
BE: You're on the verge of making it big. What do you see in your future?
AURA: I see a lot of touring! This is what makes me happier than anything. I am married to my music and performing live and touring the country is at the top of my list! I feel like I've seen a lot and yet not nearly enough of this great country of ours! I'm excited to be able to do what I love, performing live and see the country at the same time!
BE: If you could pick one moment in your life to live again, what moment would it be?
AURA: Wow, I like this question…hmm. I opened up for OURS @ The Roxy in 2012 and though I had opened for other famous artists before, this was an honor like no other that I will never forget. Sharing the same stage with your idol is the dream I had at that first concert in Madison Square Garden. It's indescribable as the feeling in your stomach is the same as the feeling you had when you first knew that you had to be an artist on stage like the artists you were watching. Having it come true is what life is all about. I'd live that day over and over again if I could!
BE: Your website mentions a tortured past. Is there anything specifically that this is referring to?
AURA: Hmmm… my PR Rep in Los Angeles, CA, Emi Foster, wrote that bio and I still think she struck a chord with how she described me as an artist better than I could have. There is an inner struggle in me since I was very young. My dad said my favorite saying was "I can't wait!" "I can't wait to drive!" " I can't wait until I'm 18 and move out!" "I can't wait…." Well, looking back now, I wish I had lived in the "NOW" a lot more. My life blew by. It was a roller coaster of ups and downs, successes and small failures. It was a story that I still want to write, but I always wanted the next thing to come instead of enjoying what I had right then and there. Sometimes I will scroll back through Facebook and just be amazed at all the shows I performed, the people I performed with, my friends becoming famous. It was continuous and it's a fast moving train… success. So is failure. You have to make sure you're on the right train! I may have gone off point here, but what I was trying to say is, I thought my life was very dramatic. I had lost a few good friends and close family at a young age, and that was torture. Also, my success was not coming as fast as I wanted and it felt unfair. Really, everything happens for a reason and I'm so blessed and grateful that it's happening now. Now, I know how to appreciate it and enjoy every second of it!
BE: Who have been your biggest supporters so far?
AURA: Countless people! Before there was a Kickstarter, friends and family have been donating to my CD recordings, ticket sales, Battle Of The Bands (at least 10 of those), voting on radio stations and so on! I have a long list of people to thank! My parents didn't want me to be a rock star, not many parents did. Now, they do thanks to teen pop stars, reality shows and the Internet. However, when I wouldn't put down my guitar ever and they couldn't take it away from me (because I bought it), they helped me pursue and attend Berklee College of Music. My brothers, who never missed a show without a valid reason, stood up front and cheered like my biggest fans, not like brothers. My friend Brad Burns, who was the first person to give me money for my first CD, and his parents, who followed in his footsteps, greatly supported me and my music. Then came my GIRLS, friends that became fans and fans that became friends! I owe a lot to my following of female friends/fans in NYC, Boston and LA. I'm currently making my Nashville group as we speak! Women are my #1 fans, but my music appeals to men, because I always wanted my brothers to love the songs, too!
BE: What is your favorite song? Choose one of your own as well as one from another artist.
AURA: This is like choosing a favorite child. You feel like you're cheating the others. My favorite song to sing, to represent who I am as an artist, in a nutshell is LOVE IS A DRUG. Playing that song live with the huge crescendoing bridge back to a soft, bluesy lullaby almost always hushed the audience. That song is why I'm married to my music. Love is such a powerful human emotion! We are one of the only languages that has one word to describe all kinds of love! As beautiful as it is, love can be addictive and sometimes an illusion. I am learning how to separate the two, but it's a lifetime-learning process.
BE: What was your childhood like?
AURA: I grew up 40 minutes northwest of NYC in a medium sized town called Suffern, N.Y.. With glasses and awkward looks until my late teen years, I learned how not to judge people by their looks, because I was judged. I'm very empathetic. Most would probably say TOO empathetic. I feel everyone's pain. It makes a great song, and it makes me a fiery personality!
BE: What instruments do you play?
AURA: I started with trumpet, French horn, piano, acoustic & electric guitar, bass guitar and I'm hoping to learn to play the mandolin in Nashville! I love the mandolin!
BE: What is your creative process? How do you go about writing new music, and do you have a specific method?
AURA: Something has to happen. Something that makes me go right to my guitar and it just comes rolling out. I most often write songs off the top of my head by recording it on my iPhone. I usually keep 50+% of the lyrics and chords. I change it based on what I hear playing back. It's different when I write with someone else. Usually, the music comes first and then the lyrics. My own personal songs come right from my heart to the top of my head into my iPhone! Emotion is in the NOW. The song has to be 90% finished for me to move on. The feeling isn't always there when you come back to it and you can't risk that! I have so many of these songs, and I just need some time to complete them! New album by the end of 2014 is definitely in the works!
BE: What are your favorite books and movies?
AURA: The 20th question and you throw me for a loop! OK, favorite movie is SWERVE. My brother Brendan Murphy wrote and directed it and my brother Kieran Murphy was the Director of Photography. My second Los Angeles roommate, Shiloh Fernandez, (RED RIDING HOOD, EVIL DEAD, THE EAST) stars in it. This movie is inspiring, thought-provoking and gives me the chills! Favorite books are The Bible (best book ever written), every book written by THE ALCHEMIST author Paulo Coelho, THE SECRET by Rhonda Byrne and HOW TO KILL A ROCKSTAR written by Tiffanie De Bartolo.
BE: Thank you for the interview and we wish you ALL THE BEST!
Aura's music is available on iTunes and information on her upcoming album and tour dates are available on her website at AURASINGS.COM
Taylor Morrison Music Group
AURA ON THE WEB:
AURA's Official Website www.aurasings.com
AURA on Facebook www.facebook.com/aurasingsmusic
AURA on YouTube www.youtube.com/aurasings
AURA on Twitter www.twitter.com/aurasings
AURA on MySpace myspace.com/aurasings