SHAUN MURPHY(1993 - January 2009)
Shaun joined Little Feat as a full-time member in 1993 for the recording of Ain’t Had Enough Fun. It quickly became apparent that whether she was belting out the blues or softly singing a ballad or backing harmony that listeners had better strap in for an emotional roller-coaster ride.
Shaun didn’t become a singing sensation with Little Feat. She had already accomplished that with Eric Clapton, the Moody Blues, John Hiatt, Bruce Hornsby, Meat Loaf (as part of the duo Stoney & Meatloaf) and Bob Seger. Shaun joined the Feat to help broaden the band’s ever-eclectic interests and to provide another lead singer after Craig Fuller left the band. The band wasn’t looking for a lead vocalist, but rather an occasional lead singer and backing vocalist. She fit the bill nicely.
For more than 15 years, she was an integral and dynamic force in Little Feat who bonded with the fanbase and helped the band rekindle its mojo through new music and updated classic tunes and covers. She gave a new feel to Cadillac Hotel, On Your Way Down and Changing Luck, and blossomed on tunes such as Hoy, Hoy, Driving Blind and It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry. She was an integral part of the band. She captured the hearts of fans with her class and style, and blew them into tomorrow with her incredible voice. She has pipes that are unrivaled. She is a rock-and-roller, a blue-eyed soul sister and a charismatic professional who works – and has worked – the big stage with the best of them. She brought it every night with Feat. You couldn’t ask for anything more. That’s why her time with the band was so important to so many fans.
Shaun’s passionate vocals are straight out of the Big Easy by way of Detroit. Sass and class. She excelled at lead, harmony or backup, had a formidable, commanding stage presence and fit in with the boys to make great music for a decade and a half. She reinforced that stage persona by being a great and caring person who always had time for fans.
In February 2009, Shaun departed Little Feat. She left this message for Feat Fans and the Little Feat community. “I must say that I have never met such an incredible bunch of folks in my life, you have become my friends. I will miss you all very much. You are such good people with open hearts and arms, I fear I'll never run across your likes again in this world. Thank you all for being there, you are the best! Love ya always!”
Shaun is still a working singer and you can catch her on the proud highway or via her website. If you have the chance, take in one of her shows and relive the magic. Buy her music. She’s worth it. Ten times over!
An Interview From December 2003: Shaun had some time during a Little Feat hiatus to correspond with us and the following came out of our conversations. Enjoy!
How did you come to the conclusion that you could have a career making music?
It was completely a flook, I was contacted by a woman who was looking for a singer for her daughter’s band called The Loreleis, a ‘60’s R&B band. This is the only time I’d ever ‘fudged’ on my resume’, actually, I didn’t even have one…. I told her this and that, thinking she was just hiring me for a singing job, like the one I had with a friend of mine in High School. Low and behold, what she did want, was for me to audition for her daughter’s band, YIKES!!!
Well, the next thing you know, I was standing in their living room, screaming through these old Vox speaker columns, (thankfully, they aren’t made anymore.) slamming this tambourine into my leg in fright….. When the dust settled, I had the job and an enormous bruise on my leg. Being a bit wiser, I never ‘fudged’ again……After I got through the initial butterflies, I realized I was enjoying this singing thing, at least more than the waitress thing……
What are you looking to accomplish in your music career?
I guess the first thing musicians want, is to get this ‘thing’ out of you. It sometimes feels like a pressure build-up, and you’re almost compelled to it. Of course, everyone’s different, but that’s how it felt for me.
I was rolling around, wondering what to do with my life before this, selling my household items, to get enough money to move to LA., (I still didn’t have a plan at that point, just wanted to get out of the cold in Detroit.) when this audition came along. I had dabbled in some poetry writing in school, but, it didn’t have a real outlet till I got into music.
Mostly, I’d like to create an atmosphere of poetic reality. Unlike some of the blatant reality of, rap, or hard-core rock, for instance. I feel that you, (the collective ‘you’) can have a GOT CUT OFF HERE!!!!!)
How does songwriting/collaborative songwriting fit into your musical plans?
Since I’ve joined the band, they really took me into their writing stable straight away. Although I was a complete fledgling on ‘AIN’T HAD ENOUGH FUN’, they were very open to any and all I brought in.
As time passed, I was able to contribute more and more, till I was writing all the lyrics for some of my songs; BED OF ROSES, RIO ESPERANZA. THE BLUES DON’T TELL IT ALL and HOY HOY were mine, with the exception of the tag lines, sometimes, it’s those missing lines, that can really make the song come together though, so I was glad of everyone’s contributions.
I love the collaboration process, sometimes it’s lines flyin around the room, sometimes you’re stumped, but, there’s always that line that comes out of left field that can put a mighty zing in the outcome, Paul’s great at those off the wall lines, I love it.
Can you describe the whole process of creating "I'd Be Lyin" as well as the getting it included on the band's new album?
I was working with a friend of mine on the road with Bob Seger, and we started messing around with the first verse, well, time went on and the song ‘ne’er got back too’, so it was pretty much shelved for a few years.
Piero and I got our little studio together, and he ask me if I had any lyrics, so I dragged out what I had, (which wasn’t much….) and started to put it together, and actually came together fairly smoothly, he took it over and put the perfect music for it.
We also wrote a few other things, starting to ‘stock-pile’ some tunes. When we were doing ‘KICKIN’ IT AT THE BARN’ Paul and Fred had already cut 7-9 songs with our engineer, Gil Morales, and I had submitted three to four sets of lyrics, to be up for grabs with the guys, but, sometimes it just ‘don’t work out’, so by the time the album was at a close, I still didn’t have anything on it, so, ‘what are we going to do’? Well….I just happen to have a finished product that I think would be Featable, and voila, I’D BE LYIN’ made it on the CD.
What else do you and Piero have up your sleeves?
We’re continuing to write and record at our house, so things are moving along. I’d like to send some of them out to other artists as we’ve been writing some fairly eclectic tunes, some of which I’m not sure would be ‘Featable’.
We’ve been playing around with some gospel, and pop stuff, as well as some bluesy rock, so, the whole thing is basically an approach in the athletics’ of writing, i.e.; the more you write, the more you write…..
What one song stops you in your tracks every time you hear it?
I told Al Kooper once, when I first heard his song: I LOVE YOU MORE THAN YOU’LL EVER KNOW, by Donny Hathaway, at that point, I almost wish I had been a man, so I could sing that song…..sometimes the gender thing, to me anyway, just doesn’t transfer well, sort of like me singing a James Brown song, I could do it, but, it wouldn’t be the thang’…
What 3 performers would you like to work with?
Actually, I’ve pretty much done it. Bob Seger, Eric Clapton, and The Feat’s, you couldn’t ask for much more prestige.
How have you seen the Internet contribute to the changes that are occurring in the music business?
First and foremost, it’s given the big muckimucks at the labels a huge wake-up call, although the trickle down effect reaches across the boards. When you have a ‘typical’ arrangement/contract’ with these labels, you can face up to an 86%-14% split. Guess who’s who??? So what little actually comes to the artist, is diminished even more.
I have never gone to the ‘napster’ sites or the like, but, have frequented the iTunes store, where you can purchase songs for $.99 each. For the most part, the more access people have to the music, assures closer contact with all of us.
You have maybe on CD in stores, and once that’s sold, the turn around/reorder rate is incredibly slow, and let’s face it, buying music is a passion buy at best, your desire can fade, transferring to another artist, if one or the other isn’t available in the stores, so the internet is a fabulous resource for that sort of thing.
What is the absolute best thing about your ten-year tenure with Little Feat?
I can’t think of just one thing, I guess that I’m still here! Being with the Feat all these years has allowed me to really hone my writing skills, and be with one of the best loved bands in America today.
Although we’ve always been known to be a ‘musician’s musician band’, I think with the great help we’ve had since Bill first initiated the Grass Roots movement, things are slowly but surely changing, and we’re all getting the word out. The fans are a tremendous resource and a huge help to us. We couldn’t have done it without you!!
What is in store for the future?
We want to keep on keepin’ on….. I still feel we have a lot of good years to write, record, tour, and meet new friends, as Fred sez: ‘Out there, on the proud highway’.
How did the atmosphere of "The Barn" contribute to the new studio album?
It certainly created a relaxing atmosphere, with the exception of the police calls…..
Actually, one of the neighbors just didn’t realize we weren’t one of those ‘pesky’ R&R bands out to ruin her life, with all that boom-boom and bang-bang…. After a fruit basket or two, she really mellowed….
As for the barn, Fred was able to get enough of it done enough to finish the CD, but, it’s still a work in progress. When it’s finished, there’ll be no stopping us…
What advice do you have to offer to people wanting to establish a career in performing live music?
Learn as much as you can about your craft as you can. I’ll always regret not continuing with those piano lessons my Mother tried to give me, what did she know? I’m never going to need this stuff….
On a serious note, the more you learn, the more you realize that’s out there to learn. I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t discover something.
What do you do for fun?
Fun? I guess the fact that I have two separate lives, and can go back and forth into two different realities, one; to run around with these great bunch of guys and make soulful, sometimes rock, sometimes bluesy, and even jazzy music together, then two; I can be home and ‘nest’……life don’t get no bett’rn this!!!
Shaun Murphy links: