Often Greek Gods were portrayed barefoot because they were thought to stand above us, having no need for the protection of shoes. Following in their footsteps, Murray Lee is often around the Quad Cities playing gigs barefoot. He doesn’t consider himself a Greek God nor attribute them for his foot fashion.
“It’s a southern thing. I grew up in Arkansas, and they didn’t even allow us to wear shoes”, Murray said. “It really is a comfort thing, for the lack of sounding overly hippy. It gives me a sense of grounding, connecting my feet to the bare ground.”
Murray Lee’s feet have connected to the ground of the Quad Cities for a long time. He is a multi-instrumentalist, playing in numerous bands in the QC for over six years now. Though he started music late, it hasn’t hindered his appreciation and dedication to the craft.
“I’d always loved music,” Murray said. “It was just one of those things where I was so enamored by it, and you never thought I could be part of it. It was like something untouchable. A lot of it was just me going for it, and never saying no is how I ended up in four bands.”
These four bands include Rude Punch, Heads in Motion (a Talking Heads tribute band), Logan Springer and the Wonderfully Wild, and Murray Lee and the Sons of Hades. Murray Lee and the Sons of Hades consists of Murray Lee, Austin Bullard, Phillip Schissler, Ryan Osborne, Schuyler Miller, and Brandon Forber. The band recently released a new album, Dark Wings, Dark Words, described as an original Greek myth set to folk music.
“(I) Started writing it about three years ago, the 2nd time I released it, the first iteration had four songs,” Murray said. “I played and recorded every instrument myself and sang it. I put it out, and this was all before I had the studio. When I had friends play it, it had a new life…We sat down and wrote a lot of the new songs together. It really taught me that just because you can do everything yourself doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best thing to do.”
Often asked, “Why write an album to a Greek myth set to folk music?” Murray sights a love for modern retellings of Greek myths citing the film O Brother, Where Art Thou as an influence. But Greek myths play a more significant part in Murray’s subconscious.
“I had some deep introspection, and I realized when the first time I had read the Odyssey and Greek mythology,” says Murray. “My dad had given me my first copy of the Iliad and the Odyssey before he went to Afghanistan. My dad was in the army, and this was when I was in middle school, right after the twin towers fell. My dad gave me a copy of those right before he left. Once I remembered that it all makes sense now. If you really read the lyrics of the album, it’s an anti-war album. The whole story is about Hera and Zeus playing their games and innocent people being affected by it.”
Murray has been on his own musical Odyssey for years now, going from a little bedroom, recording his first album, to recording his new album Dark Wings, Dark Words at his very own studio space. The studio space, aptly named Modern Myths Studios, was opened three years ago in the East Village of Davenport. He originally opened it as a home for his original concept albums.
“I started doing it all myself because I never thought I could afford to go to recording studios to record, and then I ended up spending way too much money on recording gear,” Murray said. “It grew out of necessity, started having people record parts, and it turned into me needing a space to hold all the artists and equipment.”
The studio is open to others as a rehearsal space or to record. There is plenty of space and equipment to suit a band’s needs. Murray offers production and composition services and is always open to musicians who want to collaborate. He hopes to offer musicians a place to rehearse, record demos, film live sessions, anything involving the pre-production process, and podcast production. Opening a studio in the Quad Cities was important for Murray, specifically because of the people.
“One of the things I like about a recording studio is I can pick this up and put it anywhere,” Murray said. “All it is is equipment. The rooms are just treated rooms. I could go get any room and treat it. Really, it comes down to the rapport I’ve built with musicians. I could move to Seattle or Chicago, but I couldn’t call a piano player and have them here within 5 minutes, at least for free. It extends to why anyone would stay anywhere. It’s more about the people that you’re with and around than the place you’re at.”
Going from recording in a small bedroom to recording everything himself to now recording his own albums with multiple bands in his own studio space, Murray has come a long way. Murray’s musical Odyssey has taken him many places, but his bare feet continue to be grounded in the Quad Cities.