Lisa Murray Speaks on Growing Her Music Career in Rural Ireland

Growing up with an obsession for music, it was written in the stars that Lisa Murray would make a career out of her passion. Murray received a bachelor’s degree in Music and Modern Irish from Trinity College Dublin as well as a master’s degree in Music Production, Technology and Innovation from Berklee College of Music. Murray’s devotion to music coupled with her education led her to become the talented artist, audio engineer and music producer that she is today.

Adding to her uniqueness, Murray resides in the countryside of Ireland, and when she’s not singing, playing an instrument or producing music, she can be found immersed in nature. Additionally, Murray is very involved in female empowerment initiatives and holds the position of chapter director for Dublin as well as fulfilling a myriad of roles within She Knows Tech. Murray shares more on her passions for music and gender equality in this exclusive interview.

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got your start in music.

A: I started playing piano when I was seven and immediately fell in love. I was the type of kid who would hear a new song on the radio, sing along and learn every word—I’ve always had a musical ear and a natural ability and affinity for music. So, then I went on and taught myself guitar and the ukulele, and just dove deeply into whatever instruments I could find. Then, in my early teenage years, I started performing live—in local music and theater productions—and I absolutely fell in love with being on stage.

When it came to deciding what I wanted to study at university (Trinity College in Dublin), I knew music was my path. Initially, I thought I wanted to be a film composer and be the next Danny Elfman or Hans Zimmer, but as soon as we did a project in the music tech department, and I got to actually see how music is made—from setting up the microphones to mixing the track—I decided music technology was the right path for me.

Q: What have you been working on recently?

A: Over the years, I’ve spent the majority of my time producing and engineering tracks for other clients, but over the past year specifically, I’ve been focusing more on making my own music. I’ve been really building out my catalog and defining my sound. I’m focused on taking time to hone-in on where I want to sit sonically as a self-producing artist and develop my sound identity.

Q: What inspires you as an artist?

A: Living in the middle of the countryside in Ireland, surrounded by fields and cows, sheep and goats, I find inspiration in the downtime. It gives me the opportunity to connect with myself on a deeper level and focus on making long-term creative decisions.

Q: When did you first hear about MXL Microphones? What was the first MXL mic that you used?

A: The first-ever mics I used were MXL’s—it was on a recording project I did at Trinity in the music tech department, and I ended up choosing the MXL 2006 condenser mic to record my entire thesis project, which was a pop music production. Then, I was accepted to Berklee on their “Outstanding Woman” scholarship, which was a dream come true. I had the pleasure of being mentored by Sylvia Massy, a prominent American record producer, mixer, engineer and author, and she introduced me to the MXL 990 condenser mic.

Q: What MXL mics are you using today, and how do they fit into your workflow?

A: In addition to the MXL 990, I also have the MXL CR89. The 990 is fantastic and I use it all of the time for both vocal and instrument tracking, but when I got the CR89 I was completely blown away. The sound capture is so clear and open, especially on vocals. Sometimes I’ll use the CR89 to track ukulele and vocals simultaneously, and there’s no need for anything else, which is amazing.

Q: Are there any specific features of the mics that stand out to you, or that are specifically beneficial for your workflow?

A: Both the 990 and CR89 do a fantastic job of capturing my unique sound, which is a mix between 80s nostalgia and modern pop. One of my favorite things about MXL mics is that they’re quite flexible and adaptable. I know if I need anything recorded, my CR89 or my 990 would be perfect. They capture the sound in a really honest way, which allows me to get creative in the mixing process, adding in color and different textures and harmonics.

I love to hear my voice through the MXL 990 and CR89. I believe that when you get to know a microphone and when you get to know a brand, it’s important to stick with them because it’s going to make you more confident in the consistency of your sound. I definitely plan on continuing to record all of my tracks with my MXL mics.

Q: COVID lockdown – yay or nay? How has working from home been for you?

A: I was actually in the middle of my master’s program when the pandemic struck, so I ended up going back home to the countryside in Ireland where I completed my degree remotely. At the time, I had absolutely no equipment of my own because I went from working in the studios at Trinity to working in the studios at Berklee. So, I had to slowly build my own home studio as I was going along.

I was on a tight budget, so I spoke with Sylvia to see what she would recommend, and she said to me “you should get the MXL 990 because that microphone sounds like it’s worth so much more than it costs—it’s truly the best budget microphone.” So, of course, I immediately placed my order for the 990, and when it arrived, I built my own vocal booth out of pillows and blankets and whatever else I could find in my bedroom. Then I proceeded to record my entire Berklee master’s project with my MXL 990 and it was great.

One really unique thing about this time is that I was able to collaborate and work on great projects with people from all over the world, in the comfort of my home studio, where I can do everything aside from mastering. I get my mastering done by Piper Payne, who’s an amazing mastering engineer based in Nashville. I pride myself on having an all-female team, I love that for my music.

Q: Best advice to other artists/producers/engineers trying to get started?

A: Go for it. Nobody knows what they’re doing when they first start out, so don’t get discouraged. In the beginning, you might be confused about what buttons to press or what plugs into what, but there are so many great resources out there. Don’t be afraid to network with people in the field, you’d be surprised how willing people are to help.

I work for She Knows Tech and and we do so much work in bridging the gender gap in the music tech industry. I’m also seeing so many more female-fronted initiatives popping up that you can turn to for questions or advice. Even if somebody knows every single microphone in the book, and you’re intimidated by those lists, don’t worry. It’s not about what you know, it’s about how you can creatively apply your skills and define your standards.

Q: What other projects do you have coming down the pipeline?

A: As Ireland continues to open back up, I hope to start doing a lot more live shows. The Irish music scene is all about live performances. Pre-pandemic, everywhere you go, no matter what night of the week, each pub has a musician jamming out in the corner. I can’t wait for the music culture to return to the streets of Ireland and be a part of it. I’m also releasing my own original music this summer, and my debut single ‘The Kind of Girl’ came out in May and is available on all streaming platforms. I was blown away by the success of this first release, hitting over 10,000 streams on Spotify in one week and getting a lot of radio play in Ireland. I’m excited to continue to grow my artist project and keep making music.

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