Stephen Murphy is the lead vocalist and keyboardist with the band Black Tie Stereo, which will release its second EP on Friday, Sept. 29, with a party at Radisson at Lackawanna Station hotel, Scranton. Murphy also is a freelance composer and accompanist who has composed music for theatrical productions. He also served as music director for Arts Alive for the past 10 years. A graduate of Scranton Preparatory School and Carnegie Mellon University, where he earned a degree in music composition with a minors in piano performance, conducting and accompanying, he lives in Scranton.
Meet Stephen Murphy…
Let’s talk about the new music from Black Tie Stereo. What would you say is the biggest difference between this EP and the first EP?
The first album was sort of a compilation of songs that I had written, some with the other band members, and some on my own. With this one, the four of us in the band actually sat down and fleshed out all of the ideas that we had and picked the five songs that we liked the best and that our producer liked the best. It’s the first one where the songs actually have all four of our styles and incorporate all of our writing. It’s really the first time we went through everything with a fine-toothed comb and said, “This is how we want to present ourselves.”
Who have been some of your major musical influences? I hear some Maroon 5.
Personally, I grew up playing classical music and playing Billy Joel. We share a birthday, which is really cool, and I can really relate to him as a singer/pianist. He’s a huge influence on me, just because he’s so good. I also love film scores from people like Hans Zimmer and John Williams, and that goes into my compositional work, and that bleeds over into the stuff with the band. Vocally, I really like guys like Brendon Urie from Panic! At the Disco and Freddie Mercury. All of those things come together, and I like to pick out different aspects from each one and blend them all together.
What usually inspires you to write?
Everyone goes through their own journeys and has their own problems and their own ups and downs, and what I try to do is find the scenario that I or one of our bandmates or one of my friends or someone that I saw on the street is going through. And I try to put myself in that mindset. Even if it’s not something that I’m feeling at the time, I make it what I’m feeling at the time. That’s what I try to do. Even though the songs that we do with the band come through my voice, sometimes it’s a different narrator each time. In the song “Run Jamie Run,” I’m talking to someone that I noticed might be in a relationship that they shouldn’t have been, and I’m trying to sing to them. With “Miss Romance,” I’m noticing that in today’s culture, someone that might be looking for a long-term partner, rather than a Tinder match, has a hard time dating. We try to relate to people in each of the songs while still remaining true to our voice.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Going out and hearing other bands, grabbing a craft beer, playing video games. And we do a lot of hanging out as a band.
Do you follow sports?
Red Sox and Cowboys.
All-time favorite movie?
“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”
Favorite TV show?
“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
I had the best time in New Orleans. But San Diego is also really good.
Favorite place to vacation?
I haven’t been there in a while, but I really like Ocean City, Maryland. It’s the beach, but it’s also always busy with a lot happening. I like that better than just a peaceful beach.
Favorite thing about NEPA?
It’s a very close-knit community. It’s always nice to see people from here, because they’re always very unique, and you can always relate, because there’s a lot of like-minded opinions. At least in the circles that I run in.
Favorite book or author?
“Jurassic Park” by Michael Crichton.
Video games. I play whenever I can.
Is there anything about you that might surprise people?
In high school, I was in all of the plays, and now, I’m on stage all the time. But I’m far more comfortable in an orchestra pit. If I’m playing a keyboard in an orchestra pit and conducting, I actually feel more engaged with the audience than if I’m acting or performing on stage.
Have you had a moment in your life, or a time in your life, that really helped shape you into the person you are today?
My grandmother would watch my sister and I while my parents were at work. When I’d come home from school in first or second grade, she’d say, “OK, you can do your homework, you can help me in the yard, or you can practice piano.” And I would always choose to practice piano. Half of it was because I loved piano, but a lot of it was because I didn’t want to do yard work or homework. (Laughs) But I didn’t like to practice, so that sort of developed into her saying, “OK, if you’re not going to practice, at least just play.” And so I had to sit at the piano and just play music for a half hour or an hour, and that led to me improvising and composing. And that evolved into sitting at the piano for hours every day. Sometimes I’d practice, and then I’d write and improvise, and it just really developed not only a love for music but (also) all of the different skills that I have as a musician.
UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at email@example.com.
Photos by Emma Black