“I’m gonna show you/ All that I can do,” Lucie Murphy declares on the opening track of her debut Poise album, Vestiges, and with that promise, she charges into a devastating yet strikingly confident reflection on grief, sorrow, and creative catharsis. While the New York City native was readying her first, self-titled EP under the moniker, her father – an avid record collector and musician who introduced her to everything from old blues and folk to punk rock – passed away unexpectedly, and the pandemic hit just as she was about to embark on her first tour with the project. The songs on Vestiges came together during a period of intense introspection, channeling uncertainty into resilience by finding different outlets for the artist’s whirlwind of emotions – sometimes it lights up in a fiery explosion that nods to the punk music she grew up surrounded wth, while much of the record’s second half is more of a slow burn, cavernous and mournful. From the heartbreaking title track to the cinematic ‘Vessels’, another promise – “I will live the biggest life for you/ So no one can ever forget you” – becomes an internalized truth: “So with every breath I work to preserve you/ We are inseparable now/ Live is all I have to do.”
We caught up with Lucie Murphy for this edition of our Artist Spotlight interview series to talk about her earliest musical memories, the making of her debut Poise album, and more.
Do you mind sharing some of your earliest memories of enjoying music?
My dad was a musician, just sort of amateur – he played guitar well, but he didn’t play professionally at all. But he had an encyclopedic knowledge of music, he just knew everything. He knew really obscure old blues and jazz, that was where his knowledge mostly lay, but he also liked punk and ‘90s hip hop. And I grew up just sort of listening to everything – he would just blast music in our apartment all the time and I would dance around. He would also play guitar and that really inspired me to pick up the guitar, because I just thought it was so cool. As far as I can remember, we were always sharing music with each other and disturbing all our neighbours.
What do you think it was that resonated with you at the time – was it more the music itself or the connection that you shared?
I think both, yeah. I think the connection was a really big part of it. I don’t listen to that old blues stuff as much. I want to know more about it; I wish I could pick his brain more to find out more and learn more about that world.
What were your first attempts at playing music like after you picked up the guitar?
I started playing seriously when I was 11 or 12, and I just sort of used YouTube and the Internet to teach myself at first. And my dad taught me – he didn’t know music theory or anything, but he showed me basic chords. And then he had a mutual friend, my guitar teacher Sara Landau, who I’ve been taking lessons with since then for about a decade. And she plays in the Julie Ruin, that band with Kathleen Hanna. She was just starting that project around the time that I started taking lessons with her, so I witnessed some really early Julie Ruin practices with Kathleen Hanna. And I was so young, I just didn’t understand that that was really cool and important at that time. [laughs] But now I look back and I can’t believe that I was around that.
What were you like as a teenager?
Well, I really hated my high school so much. I grew up downtown and my high school was an upper east side and it was very, like, no one was really into music or art. It was very small, I didn’t really feel like I fit in at all. And I chose not to fit in, too. I didn’t want to be a part of it. And so I had that, but then all of my friends were downtown and I had a really vibrant social life downtown, you know, exploring other parts of the city. So it was kind of this combination of me feeling really depressed during the day at school and then going home at the end of the day and hanging out with my friends in Tompkins Square Park in the East Village.
Was that sense of community partly rooted in music?
Not really, I was kind of always the one who was good at music within my friends. I studied photography in college and my love of photography really started when I was in high school; it was more art and photography that all my friends were doing. But I started a little band through my guitar teacher Sarah Landau with two other girls who were around my age, it was called Pink Veins. And we would rehearse a couple times a week maybe; it was just people to play music with at that time. And so I was doing that as a music outlet.
Did you know at the time that music was something you wanted to pursue?
I think I always saw myself doing it but I was afraid to take the first steps. You know, I was really nervous at that time and very shy. And I think I really wanted to be successful at something, because growing up in New York, it’s very competitive, people are very successful in different realms, which was a great environment to grow up in but it also put a lot of pressure on kids. So I knew I really wanted to be really successful at something, and music just seemed really hard to be very successful at. So I kind of was like, “Well, with photography, I see more of an actual career I can have and I can actually make money.” So I kind of put my eggs in that basket at first, but I found more of a music community in college at SUNY Purchase, and I really found that music was where my community was. Music is really what I thought about the most, it’s really what felt the best. And I also love that music requires so many other mediums, like, photography is a big part of my music and my visual studies have really informed my music.
At the same time when I was studying photography, I was in this band called Bruise with a couple of friends, and that was really taking over my life. And I had to stop because I had to finish college and we were getting too active. But just my community was music and my friends were playing music and just playing shows felt so much better to me. It just felt more positive and encouraging than the fine art world.
Where did you go in terms of songwriting after that?
So, I was in Bruise for like two years, and we played a lot, we toured. And it was basically getting to the point, especially because the photo program at Purchase is so rigorous, I couldn’t do both anymore. And then, I was writing a little bit during that time, but it honestly was very hard to have two creative outlets at the same time, so I kind of took a break from writing for a bit. And I tried being a tour photographer and I was trying different things with music that I thought I might enjoy. I didn’t enjoy it that much. When I graduated, I moved back to Brooklyn, and that’s when I was really like, “Okay, now I have time to really write and start this new project, I’m really going to get out there and give it my all, because this is what I love and I’m really ready now to give myself to music fully.” And that’s where I’ve been since.
What was your headspace like after you put out your first EP as Poise in 2019?
So, I moved back to New York after college, my dad passed away six months later, basically as I’m trying to get my music stuff together. And I hadn’t finished the EP yet when my dad passed away, so that was another roadblock and delay. You know, when something like that happens, your life is on pause for a while, you have to step back from things. So my headspace was weird because I was trying to make my career happen, but also my dad passed away and it was really hard to find the strength to get out there. And then also, three months later, the pandemic hit. So I was in a pretty bad headspace, but you know, that’s what inspired all these new songs for this new record. I think I was just frustrated that things were not going as I had planned in my head, but it also lit this fire in me.
Was that when you decided to rent a cabin in Vermont to make the album?
Yes. So what happened is, when the pandemic hit, I moved out of my apartment, and I’ve been kind of floating around ever since then. We rented the cabin just to make the record, because when the pandemic hit I just wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote for three or four months and most of the album came out. And so we got the cabin to record it, and my engineer Sam Skinner has a mobile recording rig that he brought up with us and we just recorded it in the house over the course of a month.
Were you thinking at all about your identity both musically and personally during that time?
Yeah, I’m still – I think I’m going to be someone who’s always gonna change her sound. You know, my first EP was so grungy and rock and then the album is way more pop-based and some country influence and a lot of different genres. I really had a lot of fun playing with different genres, and I think the next record is going to be a little more cohesive in that way, like really carving out a niche for myself. Basically my attitude was like, I’m not gonna worry so much about it being one genre, I’m just gonna try everything I like and not limit myself.
Part of the reason I’m asking is because there’s a line on ‘Vestiges’, “I’m thinking anyone who meets me now/ They won’t ever really know me/ If they can’t know who I came from.” I was wondering if that’s something you were especially conscious of – that even though you might not be able to capture it in words, you felt the need to talk about that heritage, because it truly is a part of you.
Yeah. My dad and I were so, so close and he’s such a big part of my identity, musically and otherwise. He was a photographer, we had so many of the same interests, just very similar personalities. And I always felt like he really represented me – I’m very close to all of my immediate family, but I always felt the most kinship with my dad, we were just the most similar. And losing that person definitely felt like a big erosion of my identity.
I don’t think I was thinking about that so much when I was making the record, other than just that one line and just reflecting about my life. I don’t think it plays as much into my music, I think it’s more just – I always felt really proud to be my dad’s daughter. Even though he definitely had his own problems, I always felt really proud to have this cool interesting dad, you know, and losing that was hard, for sure.
Is there another moment on the record that would isolate as being particularly special to you on a personal level?
The song ‘New Kind of Love’, that song means a lot to me. It’s about a friend of mine who was in an abusive relationship and it’s about how tough it is to navigate these situations, because there’s not that much you can do as a friend who is outside of it and not really involved. Because you can’t force someone to leave, you can’t force them to make better decisions for themselves, you have to just let them know you’re there to support them and that if they ever need anything you’re here. And it’s something that is still really hard to navigate. But I just really wanted this friend to know that I didn’t think that they were crazy, I had all the sympathy in the world for them, I understood why and how you could find yourself in a situation like that. Thankfully this person is no longer in that relationship, so things are definitely better. But yeah, that song, it took me a really long time to write the lyrics because I want to be very careful about how I talked about something so heavy and something that was not really my story to tell, other than my perspective. I think I said what I needed to in a really succinct way.
Do you feel that writing these songs that are so inspired by personal experiences, and also having this space from them now, has given you a new perspective in general?
Well, I think what it really teaches me is more just the power of putting your trauma and your pain into art. It always makes me feel like it was all worth it, if I can turn it into something beautiful. If I can turn it into a song that resonates with people, all the pain was worth it. I also think with this record, writing the lyrics, I really learned to be vulnerable, and I really was not afraid to say when I felt lonely or when I felt insecure, whereas before I felt more guarded. And I just realised that the lyrics that hit me the hardest are always the most vulnerable, the most honest, and it really is hard to do that.
Was there a specific song that felt vulnerable in that way and made it seem less scary?
Yeah, I think ‘Vestiges’ was a big one where I just really felt vulnerable. I think the song ‘Forgive’ for me was really vulnerable because it was about my relationship. And I’m in a really happy, healthy relationship, but even in healthy, happy relationships you have challenging moments. I really wrote that song thinking, “I’m going to write this and I’m not going to think about whether or not it might hurt someone’s feelings, and I’m just going to write what I feel.” My partner and I have talked about it and it’s all good, but just giving yourself that liberation, like, if the person that I was writing about didn’t know it was about them or wasn’t around to hear it, what would I say? It’s really scary but it’s important, because I think that’s what people are going to resonate with the most.
What do you hope people take away from the album?
I hope it’s comforting to people; I hope that it makes them feel less alone if they’re going through grief. I hope that it just colours their life and helps people get through their day. So much music has done that for me in my life – you know, we were talking about why I chose to pursue music instead of photography after all this time, and I think I really realised that music colours my life in a way that photography doesn’t. When I was depressed in high school, Elliott Smith just like saved my life. It sort of romanticizes your life in this really beautiful way, in that you can feel cooler and better about yourself just by listening to some band. It just heightens experience in a way that photography doesn’t as much for me personally. So I hope that I can do that for someone; I hope that it can heighten their experiences and their life somehow.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.
Poise’s Vestiges is out now.