With every interview, there is a rich story that I always feel unjust about simplifying for the sake of the main point in a regular news story. I really wish I possessed a skill with words so that I could use them so powerfully and effectively to feel satisfied in condensing the rich insight of a five minute interview into a few sentences. I lack the ability though I desire it very much.
In my travels downtown this weekend in search of sources on the street for a news story, I had the great fortune of talking to a few talented musicians who were also intriguing people as well. I felt awful chopping a man’s fascinating life story into a simple name, profession, and instrument plus a few quotations that would give a speck of insight into the life of this man.
So, perhaps it is guilt for my unjust editing that compels me, but here is a transcript of the interview that I had with Greg Merphy. Read on, because divulging any more would expressly continue what it is that I am trying to get past.
Q: What style of music do you play? Is it different from the music you listen to?
I wouldn’t say jazz standards, I kinda make it up as I go along but the style I play is really focused on jazz. I played jazz throughout college and just really stuck with it through playing. I listen to a lot of jazz but if you can believe it I listen to a lot of death metal but my sweet spot for music is jazz – always has been. Lots of John Coltrain, or actually Portland native Esperanza Spalding – I don’t know if you heard of her or not, she’s an amazing bassist and vocalist. Definitely influences of mine.
My history with the saxophone probably started in third grade. My mom try to get me to play alto, and I think at that time it was a little too big for me so I kind of quit. I think she sold that alto, but two years later I decided to pick it up again and it just stuck with me that time. I started playing tenor saxophone like I have here in high school and that one I fell in love with. I played throughout college and it’s been great to me.
Q: What was your reason for starting to play on the streets? Do you remember the first time you did this?
This is my second time playing in Portland. I played down in the San Francisco Bay area a couple times as well, but really I like to share my passion with people. I’m trying to become a teacher, but not music teacher, just a teacher so I can share what I’ve learned, and it’s pretty much the same thing. I want to share what I’ve learned throughout college, throughout high school my musical experiences. Just share them with the world. Whether I get paid or not, it’s fine by me. As long as they get something out of me.
My first time on the street was in Embarcadero, San Francisco, and I was very nervous. I’m very introverted, so being able to actually play… I kept on finding excuses, “Oh, I need to go get lunch.” But finally once I started getting playing, it was a bit more relaxed. I got to see people smiling “Oh, you’re playing jazz,” stuff like that. It was a great experience overall. Playing in Portland, I feel like there’s a bit more reception to street musicians. I very much like that, seeing the public standing here like you are, or children staring at me “What is that instrument?” It’s very fulfilling to me, being able to share that.
Q: Would you say then, that this takes a lot of courage?
Definitely a lot of courage initially, [to get started]. I wouldn’t say there’s a lot of musical criticism out there. However everyone likes music so being able to give the public something that they’ll like is 50/50. It’s just a risk. You don’t have any expectations to it and you’ll do great.
Q: Is there an official process with the city you need to go through?
there’s a process and regulations for that. I try to play at least a block away from another musician. I try to only stay at the same spot for about an hour if I can to give other musicians a fair chance if they’re out here, and if I’m sure in the corner with some people who are playing out for money to try to give them a few bucks after I’m done. It’s pretty much a community out here. I don’t want to be selfish when it comes to that.
Q: What do you do outside of music?
I’m working on getting into the grad school at Portland State and Concordia. Right now I’m just working full-time and playing music as a hobby.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
It’s great for other people to just stop by and complement me or even to just critique me negatively. I just like to give to the community.