Jason Murray Interview
Q: It’s been a couple years since we spoke. How have the last couple of years been?
A: I took a bit of a hiatus from songwriting and recording after releasing my debut album, and lived on the East Coast for a while. I eventually moved back to Boulder, and kindled the wish to focus on writing songs for a second album. While the songs for my first album were written over several years, I came back keen to try and accelerate the pace of my output.
Q: You released a new album entitled By A Thread? What was the motivation going into this album?
A: Well, while my first album consisted largely of songs about love and personal transformation, it also had a song called "End of a World" that delved into the climate crisis. Shortly after finishing that album, I kind of already knew that I wanted to flesh out those ideas more thoroughly on a second album, rather than them being limited to a one-off track. Making an album takes a lot of time and resources, and I went through a phase of asking myself what's really the point of making another album, and so the idea of a climate change focus lent the project a sustaining and needed sense of purpose. There was a lot going on nationally in terms of a concerted push to try and pass sweeping climate legislation, and a sense of how much is at stake in our historical moment pervaded the whole album process. My audience may be small, but it still felt important to use my music to explore various emotions and ideas around the climate crisis. I feel that we get exposed to a lot of alarming and even terrifying news about the state of the environment, and I wanted this album to be a sensitive space for anyone interested in using it to slow down, look inward and explore some of the emotions that get triggered or maybe repressed in the face of such realities.
Q: What are some of the themes on By A Thread?
A: I've heard it said that making engaging art about the climate crisis faces the challenge of it being a slow killer, and thus a bit elusive towards efforts to dramatize it in a relatable way. But it seems with each passing year we're seeing more and more visceral manifestations of this reality. It has left more and more distinct images and faces etched in our minds, such as through more frequent and intense natural disasters. With the album, I felt inclined in some songs to try and personify the natural world, such as being a kind of victim of collective abuse. In some other songs, like the title track "By a Thread," they are more centered around a kind of climate protagonist, who is dedicated to being totally open to this reality and ways of addressing it. In both of those cases, the subject is mostly feminine, which I think is partly in response to how our fossil fuel economy originated alongside concepts of trying to use science & technology to dominate nature and bend 'her' towards one's will. A couple songs are directed towards those more engaged in the domination, and came from me trying to explore what I would want to express to such people if it weren't rooted in anger, but more in a sense of what is being lost, from human to human, such as in "Wishing Well." In "Parachutes," I think I was gravitating more towards the adrenaline, disorientation and sense of emergency the crisis can evoke. My friend Graphic Grim, who raps on "Parachutes," perfectly captures the kind of unflinching, sober-minded, but also hopeful and determined way of relating to the crisis that I was wishing to convey with that song.
Q: How did you prepare for this album and what was your creative process like?
A: For this album, I felt it was very important to be in a mental and emotional space where these kinds of songs could emerge. I knew I wanted the songs to explore emotional and conceptual responses to the climate crisis, so during the writing phase I made it a daily habit to read climate news, as well as a daily habit to engage in the songwriting process. Regularly bringing my attention to various aspects of the crisis was essential for keeping me emotionally connected to what I was doing. The process of trying to overcome distractions to that emotional connection also became a central part of making the album, and certainly made its way into the lyrics, such as in a song like "Feel it All." I know for people in climate activist circles I've been in, and for myself as well, that regularly contemplating and processing the facts of this situation can evoke profound, and often heavy emotional responses. I guess I wanted this album to be a safe space to offer some validation and voice to those responses. Letting things flow, move, and be seen instead of getting frozen or stuck in the mind and body.
Q: Have you been playing live?
A: I haven't. I have a difficult time getting gigs. I've done one show since releasing this album, which was at an event put on by the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center in Boulder. It was called Envision Connection: An Art Show for a Better World, and was the most beautiful occasion and community for sharing this music.
Q: What else should we know about your music?
A: I'll be working on an instrumental guitar album this year, thanks to an album licensing deal offered by Sky Valley Records. After finishing that, my hope is to resume self-producing songs with lyrics and vocals. The music I most like to make isn't a good fit for today's music trends, but I've tried pursuing other professional interests, and know that making music is what makes the most sense for me. I hope to keep honing my abilities with writing, producing and performing music in the years to come.