The 'Britney' backlash: Budding songwriter rejects record contract
By Simon Umlauf
CNN Headline News
Singer/songwriter Alexi Murdoch has been compared to David Gray and James Taylor.
(CNN) -- Too often, once musicians sign the dotted line, their music is usually sent down a production line to be tweaked, remixed and injected with additives and preservatives, and packed and delivered. Once it arrives in stores, its lifeblood has been sucked dry, to the point it somehow sounds like everything else, even though MTV loudly proclaims it's "Spanking New."
"I've seen friends of mine get on major record labels," singer/songwriter Alexi Murdoch recalls in a relaxed Scottish accent.
"Everybody is sitting there listening while the record is being made and people who have never picked up an instrument, who probably couldn't even hum a tune, are sitting there talking about what needs to be done with this music," he says with disgust.
The young musician, who has been compared to David Gray and James Taylor, recently turned down a contract with a major label to produce his first full-length album.
"I really don't want people involved in the creative process while I'm recording, who really don't have anything to do with music, whose interest, by necessity, is just pure economics," Murdoch says. "There is going to be something [at stake] other than just the integrity of the music."
It's this dedication to the artistic integrity of songwriting that has music industry insiders humming Murdoch's tunes. One of the first to take notice was Nic Harcourt from KCRW in Los Angeles. In September, Harcourt invited Murdoch to perform on his radio show, "Morning Becomes Eclectic," after hearing the folk singer open for a band in LA one night.
Harcourt's "Morning" has been dubbed "the best three hours of radio in America," with music supervisors from ad agencies and television studios tuning in daily for an original catchy sound. At the time Murdoch didn't even have a manager and slapped together a tight demo of his debut album, "Four Songs," for Harcourt's show. Three days after the interview, the phone started ringing and hasn't stopped.
Two tracks off of "Four Songs" ("Blue Mind" and "Orange Sky") landed on the WB's highly rated teen drama "Dawson's Creek," and "Orange Sky" was played on FOX's teenybopper show "The OC."
Murdoch released his album "Four Songs," independently in August.
Since Murdoch released "Four Songs" in August, it has become the top seller of the year on the online independent record store CD Baby -- the same Web site that helped launch Jack Johnson's independent debut album, "Brushfire Fairytales."
Like Johnson, Murdoch slings a guitar over his shoulder and gently strums the audience into a head-nodding, foot-tapping trance. The young Scot's voice is earnest and comforting, with emotionally revealing lyrics that follow the tone of a conversation, rather than a monologue.
In four short months, Murdoch has received an overwhelming response from his tonal treasure, "Orange Sky."
"This summer I was invited to play at this singer/songwriter festival in Philadelphia," Murdoch says. "I got up in front of six or seven thousand people and I started to play this song that's actually on this EP, and hundreds and hundreds of people started singing along with it because they knew the song already.
"That was a moment for me when I realized, 'Wow, this music is so much bigger than I am,'" Murdoch says. "I realized it's not really me leading the way ... the music is totally in charge of this whole ride."