Major Murphy Walk Us Through Their Ruminative LP “Access” Track by Track
Jacob Bullard shares the origin story for each of the songs on the Grand Rapids group’s second album.
From the opening track and pre-album sample “Access,” it’s perfectly clear that Major Murphy hails from the part of the world that’s given us soft-rock staples like Wilco and the slew of apprentice groups that have cropped up in recent years. Their new record of the same name couldn’t have come from anywhere besides the Midwest, positioning its commendably calm demeanor against turbulent lyrics chronicling several recent years in the life of vocalist Jacob Bullard, in which he and his partner/bandmate Jacki Warren became parents.
Most notably on “Real,” this new chapter of life invited plenty of comparison between life as a capital-A adult with that of a young child, relearning how to breathe after committing to a new definition of normalcy. The music, then, often feels like the deep exhalation of someone who’s just quit smoking, learning to diffuse stress without the aid of past vices.
With the record out today, Bullard shared with us where each of Access’s individual tracks came from, recalling the stressful personal events that inspired the record’s meditative sound. Hear the full record below, and read on for his insight.
I wrote this song during a period of time when I was in an acute process of trying to understand my identity and responsibility in the world. I think a big realization that I was trying to express in the song is that that process is never ending. How do we justify our past and our future in the present moment? I was trying to understand how the outer material world is connected to our inner selves. The phrase, “Everything is make believe” is trying to speak to the way that consciousness can facilitate change in what appear to be fixed realities in our world and lives. This is important work everyone must do, and it takes a lot of care to understand ourselves and our responses to our experience in the world.
I was trying to do something funky with this one. Props to a song by a friend’s band, Spissy, for inspo on this one as well. They have a song called “Radio” that is a short little pop-y song with a fun breakdown in the middle that I was listening to a lot around the time I wrote this. The sound of the song is kind of an onslaught that is trying to speak to the onslaught of information and things that vie for our attention everyday. In terms of relationships, a lot of times you need to be able to cut through that onslaught to be able to focus on something important and precious. Lyrically, the song is kind of pining for the satisfaction of receiving the attention of someone important to you.
3. “In the Meantime”
This is the second oldest song of the bunch. It is exploring “sunk cost theory” and a kind of “refiner’s fire” notion. Jacki and I worked on the bridge together, which was fun. We basically felt like there was no way the bridge lyrics could be subtle with how the music built up there, so we just embraced it and went for the most obvious and literal possible. It’s a “when the going gets tough, the tough gets going” kind of sentiment. I think it is easy to fantasize about “the end of the world” because it’s a kind of savior complex. It’s like the ultimate cop-out of all our woes to have everything just implode into oblivion. But in my life, it hasn’t worked like that. Life is more absurd than that. In the wake of calamity or destruction, there is a vacuum of possibility.
I remember writing this song in one sitting. I also remember writing it at night on an unplugged electric guitar so as to not wake my family. I made a whispering voice memo and showed Jacki the next morning. She really liked it. It was a great feeling to have it all come at once. It is a response to cynicism and exploring having a sense of hope in the face of unfavorable odds. It is grappling with the challenge to justify rationality with imagination.
I debated naming this one “100% Real” but felt it was too cheeky, but that’s where my head was at, noticing the ways that “realness” is difficult to ascertain. Our psyches are being tested. I think the song is probing at metaphysical questions like: What is our “essential” humanness? As one evolves, what is carried forward, and what is left behind? Lyrically it started with trying to teach my two year old at the time to breathe through his nose, but simultaneously I was also starting to learn about breathwork and meditation. Again, lyrically I’m dealing with cynicism and trying to work through daily practices and take baby steps.
This one and “Real” were written in close proximity to each other and have always existed as a kind of suite. Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what’s on the other side? Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers, and me.
7. “Tear It Apart”
This is the oldest song on the record, written early 2017. It was written in a period of stress and challenging circumstances, which is true of all these songs. I was really grappling with my new identity and responsibilities as a parent and becoming an adult and trying to maintain relationships. I was feeling the tension between creativity and destruction and how they feed off of one another and/or intersect in a powerful way. I was also working at a deli and our motto as a staff was “tear it up.” When you work in food service you really see how sausage is made and human’s kind of animal nature, so that is all in there as well.
Jacki and Benji and I planted flowers in our front yard and they started blooming around the time I wrote this one. I was working a lot and would miss Jacki and Benji while I was gone. We had just gotten our own one-bedroom apartment, it was pretty crammed, but our first place without roommates and a special time watching our family grow. After writing a lot of songs that were coming from an anxious place, I wanted to write something that was an affirmation.
I remember the phrases “love is blind” and “justice is blind” were tumbling around in my head when I was writing this song. I was thinking about love and justice and the future and my role in all that. I think the phrase “I just can’t turn a blind eye now” is speaking to standing on the other side of some tough experiences and realizations and seeing a need to change and evolve. It will take a lot of work, but the important thing is to start.