This story originally appeared in the Spring 2009 issue of Limelight Magazine
By GEORGE AUSTIN
Lennon Murphy thinks that it was “cool” that her mother named her after the late, great Beatles singer. As John Lennon and the Beatles did, she does draw a lot of attention because of both her music and non-related music aspects of her life. But that’s about as far as the comparison goes. She’s not a Beatles fan at all and has not done research on John Lennon. Her music sounds nothing like the Fab Four. But Murphy says her mother loved John Lennon.
“To her, he was a good man, a gentle man,” Murphy said. “I was born in New York. He was a New Yorker. New York loved John Lennon.”
In her young life, Murphy’s has been the subject of stories in the national media. From becoming an 18 year old rock star to her mother dying and her custody battle for her sister, to a controversy with Yoko Ono over the trademark of her name, much of her life has been in the public eye. But even though she does not get a lot of radio support for her music, she says the press has helped her to develop that loyal fan base. Perhaps they may find out about her because of the controversies, but when they listen to her music, they like what they hear.
Murphy said the disagreement with Yoko Ono, Lennon’s widow, over the trademark of her name helped her to get a lot more fans for her music.
Because of the issue, radio show host Howard Stern and television show host Bill O’Reilly did interviews with her.
“I was trying to do Stern for seven years and it took her suing me to get on,” Murphy, who performs under the name Lennon, said. “It’s a little weird.”
Murphy said she never talked to Ono. She said there was a mediation about the issue with lawyers. She said Ono could have handled the matter better. Murphy said Ono sent her a paper asking for termination of the Lennon trademark because she felt Murphy falsely acquired it.
“She could have had the damn trademark if it was that important to her,” Murphy said.
When asked about her musical influences, Murphy said her mother brought her up with musicians like Barry Manilow and Harry Chapin, but as she got older, she got into much different music with bands like Nine Inch Nails. Murphy says what draws her to a band, no matter what type of music it is, is the songs more than anything else. She is currently writing some songs for some young pop acts who are clients of her manager.
“It’s something I’ve never done before,” Murphy said of writing songs for other artists. “It’s something new and maybe it’s something that will help me buy a house. It’s fun.”
When Murphy was a young girl, her mother, who was a chef for people who were chronically ill, wrote songs in her spare time. Murphy wrote songs as a young girl as well, and said her mother quit writing songs after admitting her daughter was better at it than she was.
“It’s all her fault I got on that stage,” Murphy said of her mother. “I like writing songs. I didn’t want to be in the spotlight. She said I had no friends, I was always staying at home. I’m putting a band together for you. I said I’m not getting on that stage. Needless to say, I got on that stage and fell in love with it.”
Murphy said she writes songs about things that happen in her life.
“I always find it’s better to write something about what you know instead of faking it,” Murphy said. “So I write about my experiences. I write a general story so people can interpret them into their own lives.”
With her new band, Devil’s Gift, Murphy has gone a much heavier route with her music. She said she always wanted to perform more in the metal music vein, but never had the opportunity, especially living down in Tennessee which is not a hotbed for metal. She said she and Jason Suecof had some time off and decided to go into the studio to produce some music. They started working on the record for Devil’s Gift in September of 2007 and finished up in December of that year. Suecof could not tour with the band, so Murphy had to get five musicians for a tour of Europe that lasted three months at the end of last year.
“The music was a great hit,” Murphy said when asked about the audience reaction to the band in Europe. “People loved the record. It’s got a lot of great press.”
Murphy said she wants to continue with Devil’s Gift, but also with her solo career and acoustic performances.
Murphy was named “one of the hottest chicks in metal” by Revolver Magazine. Asked if there is a stigma to being a beautiful woman in the music industry or if it detracts from her music, she said good looks helps a woman or a man, not just in music, but in many other industries. She said musicians have to personify the music themselves, not just with the words and the guitars, drums and keyboards, but also with how they act and dress on stage to get people’s attention, especially for opening acts.
Murphy’s advice to young, female musicians who want to make it in the music industry is to go to school, get a college degree and become a doctor or lawyer.
“That will make you happy,” Murphy said. “I grew up in the country world and I saw what happened. It’s a hard business.”
Murphy has toured with a lot of well-known acts, such as Alice Cooper, Tesla and Heart. She says Cooper has become like family and his daughter is one of her best friends.
“To get to do Europe with Journey was an amazing experience,” Murphy said of another one of the acts she has opened up for. “You never realize how many hits they have until you see their show every night.”
Murphy, who is now based in Florida, said the only time she gets nervous is when she is playing on stage by herself. She said she is fine when she is playing with a band. To get over those nerves, she said she tries to have a good time on stage, making an acoustic show like a rock show, as much as possible.
Murphy had a battle against family members to get custody of her sister. But Murphy apparently has been a good influence on her sister, considering her sister is now about to graduate from high school early at 17 years old.
Murphy allows her fans to download her records through her website and to pick the price.
“Music is free,” Lennon said. “If they want the song, they are going to find it one way or another. It’s the state of the music industry. You want to get the music out there. If it’s free, I’d rather have them enjoying the music than make the $10.”