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Michael Murray: Oh Darlin'

Each year the University of Auckland's School of Music holds a songwriter competition with contestants drawn from their Popular Music courses, this year there are five contestants and Elsewhere is pleased to be able to offer them the chance to answer our Famous Elsewhere Songwriter Questionnaire.

Every year the show sells out so bookings are advisable ( All five contestants will perform two original songs with their band. The generous prizes are $1,000 of MusicWorks product, from MusicWorks, for the winner plus four finalist awards of $200 each of MusicWorks product, a mixed and recorded single at Roundhead Studios, mastering of the recorded single by KOG Studio, produced by Godfrey De Grut and promotion of the single by Kiwi FM.

Five additional awards will also be announced including NZ Music Commission Best Vocalist, APRA Best Arranger, MusicWorks Best Instrumentalist, Mushroom Music Publishing Best Lyricist and NZ On Air Best Song, acknowledging the highest quality in each category.

The judging panel includes Vicky Blood (artist Manager for Gin Wigmore, ex-BMG UK), Don McGlashan (artist, The Mutton Birds) and Jason Huss (Roundhead Studios engineer).

We introduce you to Michael Murray who was brought up on the sounds of soul and Motown - heard through tinny speakers in the smoky garages of his extended family. Michael blends these sounds with a potent dose of filthy rock’n’roll and rhythm & blues.

A man of many tastes, he is known to throw in elements of jazz, blues, and folk, for a little extra flavor. His writing style is based around full commitment and no nonsense (well, maybe a little). Whether it is a soft, honest, heart-wrenching ballad, or a remorselessly sarcastic parody of his take on mod- ern society, Michael gives it everything, until every pore of his skin sings and sweats intensity and emotion.

Believing that music isn’t just something you listen to, but an experience, Michael loves to create atmospheres using the raw energy and dynamics of live instruments, throwing polish out the window in favor of pure energy and soul.

The first song which really affected you was . . .

Hard call... Although probably Jeff Buckley's rendition of Hallelujah, which is kind of funny because I'm an Atheist.

Your first (possibly embarrassing) role models in music were . . .

I seem to remember being into the classic boybands as a kid Backstreet Boys, Five etc... When I started playing music it was pop-punk Good Charlotte, Greenday, Blink... Most consistent role model would probably be my Grandad though, haha.

The one songwriter you will always listen to, even if they disappointed you previously, is?

Stevie Wonder, mums favorite, was a staple growing up.

As songwriters: Lennon-McCartney or Jagger-Richards; kd lang or Katy Perry; Madonna or Michael Jackson; Johnny Cash or Kris Kristofferson?

Lennon-McCartney, Perry, MJ, Cash

The three songs (yours, or by others) you would love everyone to hear because they are well crafted are . . .

You Never Give Me Your Money by the Beatles, The Tracks of my Tears by Smokey Robinson, and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John

Melody first? Words or phrase first? Simultaneous?

Buzz, Emotion, Energy, in my opinion the words and melody are simply a way of communicating these things, whatever order they come in is just a result of what's the easiest way to say something in that instance.

The best book on music or musicians you have read is . . .

The only musician book I've ever read was a little one about Hendrix which my uncle gave to me when he was drunk... That or Music Theory for Dummies.

If you could co-write with anyone it would be . . .

So many to choose... but at the moment Paul McCartney

The last CD or vinyl album you bought was . . . (And your most recent downloads include . . .)

I had a really bad vinyl addiction for a while, but I got off the stuff a while ago, last thing I remember was a Sinatra LP and a Sir Elton LP, there was a 3rd that slipped my mind. Last download was the Ryan Adams discography.

One song, royalties for life, never have to work again. The song by anyone, yourself included, which wouldn't embarrass you would be . . .

Once again, a million answers, but at the moment, Something – The Beatles

One line (or couplet) from a song -- yours or someone else's -- which you think is just a stone cold winner is . . .

Being indecisive is not helpful as a songwriter... once again so many, but the first one that springs to mind “We're taught to love the worst of us, and mercy more than life but trust me, mercy's just a warning shot across the bow” - Joe Henry

Songwriting: what's the ratio of inspiration/perspiration?

I'd hate to admit it (as airy-fairy and artsy as I like to think I am), but probably around 1:3 in favor of perspiration. I think the purer to the inspiration a song is the better, but simply put, songwriting is really effing hard, and you have to really work your arse off if you want to write something you're happy with.

Ever had a song come to you fully-formed like it dropped into your lap?

Yeah definitely a couple of times, can't really remember which ones though.

And finally, finish this couplet in any way you like: “Standing at the airport with an empty suitcase at my feet . . .” (You are NOT allowed to rhyme that with “meet” however)

Gnawing at your words as they break down the bullet in my teeth

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