This week we’re traveling with The Highway Girl herself, singer songwriter Samantha Murphy. A professional performer since age 6, Murphy has worked with Willie Nelson and Five For Fighting (just to name a few), and has brought her music to The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. When she’s not playing for packed audiences, Murphy is chatting with other talented artists on her show “The Highway Girl,” which features artists she meets on the road, like Aimee Mann and Martha Wainwright. Murphy’s latest single from her upcoming album is a cover of Johnny Cash’s track “Ring of Fire,” and is currently in rotation on Country Music Television. Read on to learn what The Highway Girl has picked up between cities.
How do you travel? Do you rent a bus?
Since I play solo most of the time, I tend to fly and rent cars. It’s been awhile since I’ve taken a tour bus, but I do love it. I sleep like a baby 10 hours a night in those bunks!
How do you handle time management on the road?
It’s tricky. I always want to make sure I get on the road to the next city as soon as possible. Then if I arrive with time to spare I can relax, maybe go for a run or do some shopping. On tour it always seems like you either have too much time or not enough of it. With my TV show The Highway Girl, I’m forced to schedule fewer shows than most artists so that I can film on days between gigs. So rather than getting one day in each city, I usually get two which is great cause then I get one free day and one free night to explore.
How does your creative development change when you’re on the road (writing new music, recording, promoting…)?
I tend not to write complete songs on the road. There’s just too much to do. I do, however, keep a journal of song ideas and memories that I refer to later when I’m off the road. When I’m on the road, it’s more about promoting, social media, and logistics for the next gig. It’s important to stay healthy and it always requires a lot of effort to find good food when you’re touring.
How do you book your shows?
It varies. I don’t have an agent per se, but I do have an assistant. Sometimes I reach out to fill an open day and sometimes they reach out to us. I like to collaborate with other artists to plan a group of shows together. It lightens the load. It’s always good to plan ahead when you’re booking tours. Most venues book three months in advance, so you should start routing your tour four to five months prior, which involves some foresight.
What are some of the obstacles you meet on the road?
Where do you want me to start? :) Reservations gone awry, paid by check when it was supposed to be cash, no Internet, promoter didn’t do his or her job, inclement weather forces outdoor gig to be canceled or indoor gig to be poorly attended. Anything can happen out there and that’s what makes it an adventure.
Do you have a marketing budget?
Define budget. I have a laptop, Internet, a healthy Rolodex and a very open mind. If I have a budget for a particular project, then I will allocate a certain percentage of it to marketing, but these days it’s pretty much about the Internet anyway. It’s definitely leveled the playing field.
Is there usually a set marketing plan you follow when you release new music?
No. There are absolutely no rules for releasing music in the digital age. I try to be as creative as possible in order to stand out. There’s so much music out there. It’s important to recognize how you’re different and really put a magnifying glass over those aspects of yourself.
Do you give songs away for free, and do you ever play free shows?
I do give some music away for free, but I don’t play free shows anymore unless they’re radio promos or I know there will be a large audience. It’s not so much about getting money for the actual product, it’s more about having people value what we do as creators.
How do you use social media to promote your music and your shows?
I use a combination of tools to spread the word. It’s definitely more of a conversation than an announcement. Also, different things work on different platforms. My approach on twitter is different than on facebook because so are the people following me and the relationships I have on there. It’s important to take other people’s feelings into consideration. If you don’t like receiving event invitations on facebook, why would you send them to your “friends”?
What advice would you give other artists who are looking to get the most out of their experience on the road?
Schedule free time and fun things into your tour. Play 4 or 5 gigs a week instead of 6 or 7. See the world’s largest ball of twine and take detours to do what you love. Don’t live your life for tomorrow. This moment is your life and it’s about the journey!