Legendary R&B Singer, songwriter and actress Shirley Murdock, behind hits such as "As We Lay", "Go On Without You", "Husband" and also known for her vocals on Zapp & Roger Troutman's hit single "Computer Love" discusses her upcoming Lifesongs project, her Ministry, Career Highlights, Musical Journey, her self-titled debut album and much more...
TERRANCE: This year marks the 35th anniversary of your self-titled debut album. What do you remember most about the recording process?
SHIRLEY MURDOCK: Well, mainly just being a young artist and finally having the opportunity for that dream to come true and to share your gift with the whole world. I had the opportunity to get in the studio with the late Roger Troutman. He was my producer, my mentor, my big brother and friend. He taught me a lot about recording and the music business. His brother Larry was both of our managers for many years. He just took real good care of me and protected me, because being a young woman coming into the business it was almost like going into the ocean with a bunch of sharks. But the world opened the door and I walked by faith through the door that God opened and he put me in a really good environment. It was a drug-free organization, so there were no drugs. They respected me as a woman and they also respected me as a Christian, because they knew that's what I was when I walked through the door.
TERRANCE: What has the overall journey been like for you?
SHIRLEY MURDOCK: It's been an amazing journey and also the journey of coming out of Church, being a Church kid and being a born again Christian going into the mainstream arena. While I was making my record, Roger asked me to come out and sing backgrounds for him and so that was a really good experience to be part of the journey as the gateway to become a solo artist to work with someone who had been doing this for years. And so again, it was a great experience and he gave me an opportunity to come out and perform solo, even though I did background for him. He put me up front and I would perform "Freeway of Love" by Aretha Franklin and "Let the Music Play" by Shannon and many other cover songs. I really fell in love with every aspect of music while I was out with Roger.
TERRANCE: Are there any career highlights that stand out to you?
SHIRLEY MURDOCK: Getting the opportunity to tour with the late Great Luther Vandross. That was awesome. Meeting Bishop T.D. Jakes. God used him to open the door for my dream come true. I always wanted to sing Gospel. He gave me the opportunity to record a gospel album. He was like, you can't do both, so I had to make a choice. Do I stay with the secular career or do I follow my heart's desire? And I was signed to Warner Brothers at that time. I went to Roger and I told him that I had another opportunity to sing Gospel and wanted him to get me released from Warner and he did that for me. So after that I signed with Bishop T.D. Jakes label Dexterity Sounds and released my very first Gospel album in 2002 called Home. But, baby I take the good word everywhere I go, even when I was doing mainstream. Even on my debut album I have a song on there called "Tribute", so I never left that. Aretha Franklin is the person I really looked up to the most growing up vocally and the fact that she sang R&B and people loved her and she was popular, but yet she never forgot where she came from. It's encouraging for me as an artist to not forget where you came from and to include Jesus in everything I do. I would not be true to myself if I didn't do that.
TERRANCE: Talk a little about "Tribute".
SHIRLEY MURDOCK: When I put that on my first record, the record company did not want that, because nobody was doing that. Roger and Larry both fought to really get that on my record because they knew what that meant to me. So I did that when it wasn't even popular. And after that, my brother Howard Hewett who was on the same label had that beautiful song called "Say Amen". Elektra put out a double A-side which was really unusual back then of Howard's song "Say Amen" and my song "Tribute". After that, Mariah Carey and a whole lot of other people started putting Gospel songs on their records.
TERRANCE: What are your thoughts on your work being sampled and covered by countless artists in Hip Hop and R&B over the years?
SHIRLEY MURDOCK: I think it's amazing because it gives your music an opportunity to be discovered by generations to come. My biggest song "As We Lay", Kelly Price covered that, but a lot of people might not know I covered that song. It was first sung from a man's perspective and when I was first approached about recording it, I said I would do it if I could add some lyrics and what I added was 'we should've counted up the cost but instead we got lost in the second, in the minute, in the hour'. "Computer Love" is a song that I co-wrote with Roger and it was ahead of it's time and like you said, a lot of rappers sampled it. Right now Ne-Yo & Jeremih sampled it and Usher sampled it a bit in his new song too. A lot of young people in their 20's and younger may not know about "Computer Love", but they're getting it in this new music and then they might go back and research it. So it's amazing to see the music get passed down.
TERRANCE: And speaking of "As We Lay", do you think that song could work today if you released it?
SHIRLEY MURDOCK: Yeah, because it's life. Again, Kelly Price did it and it was very successful. I think she was nominated for a Grammy for it. Also, J.LO did a song with Fat Joe sampling it in the intro to her song. And you know what's amazing? Kanye West redid it as "As We Pray" for his Sunday Service and it is beautiful. I've had people hit me up on social media asking if I've heard it and yes, it's amazing. So it continues to live. I think it can because again it's something we deal with in life, but I hope too people understand that it's not a celebratory song but infidelity. It's a song about regret and the things you do and getting exposed, because what's done in the dark will come to light. It's not gonna effect just you, but the people in your life as well. It's definitely not gonna be a positive effect. Music has a way to navigate you through life. It has a way to encourage with your love relationship and make it more beautiful and to enhance the romance. So again, to answer your question I think it absolutely could.
TERRANCE: Everyone have their perception of what success is. How do you define it?
SHIRLEY MURDOCK: That's a great question. I think people have to be mindful because people look at success all different kinds of ways. I look at success as in when you are living the purpose in which God created you. Because all of us have this gift. We're all given' a gift. Some people might write, some people might sing, dance, speak or whatever your gift is. I look at it like this, the bible says, the gift comes without repentance, but I believe that repentance brings purpose to the gift. When you come in contact with God and have a relationship with Jesus Christ, he will reveal to you what your purpose is. Some people think you have to be popular to be successful and you have to be on TV and everybody know your name. You should not judge success by the numbers. Success is, are you walking out your purpose. I think we should get it more like that.
TERRANCE: Who are some voices in today's music that you thoroughly enjoy?
SHIRLEY MURDOCK: I love Jennifer Hudson. I love H.E.R. There are so many. I love anybody that can sang. Of course, Beyoncé has been around for a while but we have to really give her, her props. I like songs by Sia. I love Tamar. There are a lot that I like, but yeah I would mention those.
TERRANCE: Outside of music, what are some things that interest you?
SHIRLEY MURDOCK: I love art. I love to go to the art museum. I love writing music. I'm very involved in our ministry that my husband is the Senior Pastor. It's an online ministry called praying4you.org and it started off as every Wednesday from noon til 1. It was just a Wednesday prayer that grew into having prayer every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from noon til 1. We have 'In the Word' which is our Worship Service every Sunday at 3 that I sometimes do and some of the other ministers do. So we really have something going on every day of the week and we're very involved in that.
TERRANCE: And lastly, update us on what we're to expect musically in the near future.
SHIRLEY MURDOCK: Well, I'm working on a project that I'm calling Lifesongs. I'm writing inspirational songs, I'm writing love songs. I think that's what life is. Life is your relationship with God and inspiration. It's also your relationship with the people in your life. Your husband, wife, brothers, sisters and friends. There will also be a cover of "People Get Ready" because even in this pandemic, people been praying for answers and praying for help and God has answered prayers now because we have these vaccines coming and everything. I think when you pray for answers, you have to get ready for the answer. I grew up also with artists who were speaking on social issues, like Marvin Gaye, brother, brother, What's going on? And so I was thinking about what message would be positive for today's climate and we decided to go with "People Get Ready" which will come out I think around the first of the year. So I'm excited about that and the Lifesongs project and I will try to get it out to you real soon.
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