Q&A: Ryan Murphy of First Year On Earth

first year on earth
Austin-based indie roots/pop group First Year On Earth is an incredible new presence in music. Frontman Ryan Murphy was spurred to live one year of his life as if it were his last, after witnessing a friend tragically lose his life. He sold what he had and hit the road with nothing but a backpack and a bucket list, featuring items like
  • Run A Marathon
  • Move To New York
  • Be In A Play
and of course, Write An Album!

His blog, Last Year On Earth,  has since gained attention across the globe, landing him interviews on national morning television programs in his native Australia and a stack of online buzz. The top of Ryan’s bucket list was to become a recording artist in New York, but after moving there in mid-2012, he found the big city lifestyle didn’t suit his nature, so he relocated to Austin, where he met his fellow musicians who would together become First Year On Earth.
In collaboration with the rest of his bandmates, this self-titled EP was born. The band, comprised of Ryan Murphy (acoustic guitar/vocals), Kris Afflerbaugh (upright bass/backing vocals), Jordan Birchill (lead guitar/backing vocals) and Jimmy Milner (drums), was born from one simple question: What would you do with your last year on earth?
Planet Stereo: Thanks so much for doing the interview. How are you?
Ryan Murphy: I’m great thanks! Thanks for having me.

PS: Your new self-titled EP is coming out on the 25th. How are you gearing up for the release?
RM: Rehearsing as much as possible. [There’s] not a lot of writing happening right now; just trying to perfect the old stuff.

PS: Do you have a favorite song from the EP?
RM: “Best Is Yet To Come” was the last song I wrote on the EP. It’s optimistic and I still don’t mind listening to it. I’ll go with that one.

PS: What is your favorite part about going into the studio?
RM: That’s a tough one. The recording process can be very daunting. All of your musical imperfections get immortalized! I’d say my favorite thing is watching it all come together. It takes time, but once you see the pieces fall into it’s a pretty special feeling.

PS: Would you mind walking me through the creative process?
RM: I go hot and cold with being creative. Sometimes I need to write everyday. Other times (like now) I’m not writing at all. I guess it’s all relative though. We have a EP coming out and a tour to plan. When I have more time on my hands, I tend to write more. 
Regarding my process, I generally start with a melody, build a chord progression, write some lyrics, then take what I have to the band. From there we tweak it to something we’re all happy with. 

PS: You’ve shared your story on the blog, and it was a huge success. How would you say it is different sharing a story through a song, other than, of course, the actual music?
RM: Writing the the blog was a great experience. The biggest difference between blogging and songwriting is the time you have to get your idea across. My blog posts can be 4 pages long if I want. A song needs to be much more to the point; the ideas need to come out almost immediately, which can be challenging. 

PS: The blog was “Last Year on Earth,” and yet the band is the First Year. Would you mind explaining that difference to me?
RM: My “Last Year on Earth” ended…[It’s] time to grow from what I learned and turn the page. 

PS: How do you manage to find time to write new material?
RM: That’s a hard one! My life’s very busy right now with the release coming up and planning our tour. I think the answer is that you need to make time. To get really good It needs to be a habit not a chore.

PS: What would you like people to come away with when they hear your music?
RM: I’m just trying to express myself. I learned a long time ago I can’t control how people will perceive what I create (unfortunately). I guess I’d hope they could relate in some way.

PS: How did you get involved in music?
RM: My father is a singer. Growing up in a small town there wasn’t many options for creative types. I gravitated towards music. Some of my earliest memories are of my Dad teaching me the piano. 

PS: If you could work with any artist, past or present, who would it be and why?
RM: Paul Simon. I’ve been listening to him a lot lately. He has an incredible ability to connect his lyrics to amazing music. I’d like to see how he does that!

PS: What was the first album you ever bought?
RM: Morning Glory by Oasis. I believe it’s still in my parents CD collection!

PS: In music, especially with social media coming into play, which do you believe to be more important: quality or like-ability?
RM: Hmmm.. I’d say you need a mix of both. There’s nothing to say you can’t have high quality music that is likable. There’s also a good argument to say if you’re not writing music people can connect with you, must not be writing good music. I’m not sure my jazz musician friends would appreciate that comment though [laughs].

PS: Life is a bit different for you now than it was when you began the blog, so what if this was your last year on Earth, what would you all like to do?
RM: My last year on earth would be very different now! When I started it the first time, I was 24, just finished college, gigging and working around Melbourne, Australia. Just a few years from then, I’m living in Austin Texas, married an American girl, and I’m getting ready to embark on a tour of the midwest. The blog was definitely a life changing experience! If I did it again I’d have to include the wife 😉

PS: Any last words?
RM: Thanks for having me! Some great questions 🙂

First Year On Earth EP is out on June 25th, 2015. Click here for more on the band, to purchase tickets, or buy a CD.
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