Derek Murray is a guitarist with Irish band ‘The Stunning’. He had a music shop in Galway where he sold second-hand instruments and records while putting himself through college. He is a native of Donegal.
1. When did you join the band, and how did that come about?
Sometime after I moved to Galway, I opened a small shop selling musical equipment and second-hand vinyl records in town. I used to pass the time in the shop playing guitar along to records. Steve, who bought his first electric guitar from me, heard me playing in the shop so, when he was forming a band, he asked me if I wanted to join. This was around 1987.
2. Describe the band in 3 words?
Fun, Melodic, Eclectic
3. Was music always your passion growing up?
My father opened a music shop when I was a child in Donegal. He played music professionally, so our house was always full of music. In my early teens, I bought a stereo and started collecting music. I spent almost all my spare time either playing or listening to music through my teens and twenties, so it was my main passion.
4. Where did you learn to play the guitar?
When I was 13, my father gave me a guitar. I got a few lessons from a guitar player who lived nearby. After those first few lessons, I continued to work on the guitar myself. I used to listen to music that I liked and try to work out the guitar parts by ear on my own. During school holidays, my father asked me to play with his band at gigs, so I had to learn fast.
5. You’ve enjoyed great success with the band – what is that down to?
The songs we recorded seemed to strike a chord with people. From the time we released our first single, we managed to get our music played on the radio, so when it came to playing live, we had a ready-made audience for the music. We’re all close friends in the band, and we enjoy playing together, so I think that enjoyment comes across when we play live.
6. If you had to pick your favourite gig/performance, what and where would that be?
It’s always great to play to a home audience, so our gigs in the Big Top during the Galway Arts Festival were special.
7. Do you ever get nervous going on stage?
In the early days, I used to get quite nervous, especially at the big open-air festival gigs where you might be playing to 40,000 people. Nowadays, it feels more like excitement than nervousness when I do a gig.
8. What’s your favourite ‘Stunning’ song?
In the live gigs, I really enjoy playing “Rusty Old River” and “Tightrope Walker”. It’s still good fun playing “Brewing Up a Storm” at the end of gigs to feel the energy of the crowd.
9. Who was your greatest influence?
The first record I ever bought was by Jimi Hendrix. As a teenager learning guitar, I was drawn to guitar players like Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, Rory Gallagher, and Paul Kosoff of Free. By the time The Stunning formed, I was listening to a lot of American Soul Music – people like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Johnny Guitar Watson.
10. How did you and the band cope during the pandemic?
As soon as the first lockdown happened, all our work came to a dead stop. We had a sold-out gig lined up in the Olympia Theatre in Dublin that first weekend, and it was cancelled with a day’s notice. For the duration of Covid, we had to rely on the PUP payments from the government. It was a good lesson on impatience.
11. What’s it like to be back on stage again, performing in front of big crowds and packed venues?
We’re all enjoying the gigs more these days than at any time in our lives. I’m always pleasantly surprised and humbled that, after all this time, people still want to come out and see the band.
12. What do you like to do away from music?
These days, with more time on my hands, I like to travel. I was in Spain the week before last, and I’m going on another trip in January. I meditate every day and go on a couple of Buddhist meditation retreats yearly.
13. What are your future plans with the band?
We have a busy schedule coming up with a couple of live gigs every week in December. As long as there are people out there who want to hear the band, we’re going to keep gigging and recording. I don’t see music as a job. I see it as a pleasure and a privilege.