Once upon a time, on a rather cold winter Monday, I sat down at the Poacher’s Arms with a pint of stout…
I thought I was the most British person in the building until Westminster Park’s Steve Murphy dressed in tweed came through the doors.
With a TARDIS filled with records at home, and a tabby cat called Billy Braggs (which Billy Braggs the English folk-artist knows about), Steve embodies his life with his love of music. He calls himself a “snob at everything.” As a coffee snob and a film snob, I personally think he’s being too hard on himself.
With The Jesus and the Mary Chain “fuzziness and romantic preppy vocals” playing Just like Honey in the background, Steve was brimming with nostalgia about on how “This is the sort of stuff I listened to in High School, and I thought “I wish I could find a girl who likes this, and we are going to make out to this.”
His wish definitely came true by meeting his wife Colleen (one-quarter of Westminster Park) in this very pub.
Checking out the scenery
In preparation for meeting with Steve, I hiked around Westminster Ponds listening to Steve’s solo album Lonesome Scrapbook. While I walked along the wooden boardwalk, the trees and the hills were conducting his melancholic voice like a familiar bandmate.
I wondered how many times he walked the same path as I did, especially that he spent his high-school days skipping class to spend time with his friends at the ponds. It’s no wonder that his JRLMA-nominated band is named after this beautiful park. Or maybe because it sounded “British and cool.”
However, the main difference between the band and himself as Steve puts it, “Is that whenever I write a song it’s like a solo record, but then we go to the band, we sort of break up what I play on the acoustic guitar.”
Sad but true
Now I got to be honest with you, I’m a sickly optimistic guy – to the point that I’m pretty sure Paramore’s Rose Coloured Boy is certainly based on me. If you got the same condition as me, I reassure you that Lonesome Scrapbook is healthy sadness.
Do not shy away from it.
“I am an optimist at heart,” Steve explains. “But I feel like it’s important to listen to sad songs, so you don’t suppress your real emotions. Sometimes it’s nice to be sad.
Steve is inspired by the English acoustic folk-artist Nick Drake, and 1800 Spanish guitarists, to the point where he is growing his fingernails so he can turn his fingers into individual plectrums to hit the exact chords. He is literally one with his guitar, which would make his musical heroes proud.
However, Steve does have one muse that inspires him, that causes other Londoners dread, despair and delays: The LTC.
“Usually the last eight years I write a song on the bus and waiting for the bus.”
Thank you buses, you have done something right. Now can I pay for a ticket using my debit card now?
After three pints and three hours of recording, Steve and I ended up quoting British panel shows which are so niche I wouldn’t dare to put up on this article. However, what resonated with me the most was when Steve put down his pint and said, “It would be awesome for someone who listens to my songs at a rough time and they would say ‘finally someone gets it, finally someone understands me.'”
Good news Steve, you understand me.
To listen and buy Lonesome Scrapbook please follow this link and pour yourself a well deserved glass of wine.