Feb. 2011 by Gillespy [GvdH] exclusive for Willy DeVille International Fans.
Shawn Murray is a freelance Drummer, singer/songwriter most known as a member of The Mink DeVille Band from 1984 until 2009. During this time Shawn has performed extensively with Willy DeVille over 30 European, Canadian, and American tours. Shawn also Recorded or performed with Jon Bon Jovi, John Hammond, Ben E. King, Eddie Bo, GE Smith with Great Caesars Ghost, The Mardi Gra Indians, Queen Ida, Mick Taylor, Mark Newman, Ricky Byrd, Richie Cannata from Billy Joel, Teddy Kumpel, Jeff Pevar, Cadillac Moon, and many more. He also works as a studio drummer producing music with New York area producer/engineer/musician Bob Stander (1995 -present). In this exclusive WDIF interview with Shawn he talks about his passion for the drums, his almost 25-year career with Willy DeVille, New York and much more.
[Drummer , singer/song writer Shawn Murray / photo © V. Bureau]
- Hi Shawn, Would you tell us a about when you first got started. What made you choose the drums?
SM: I was in first grade - Music class – Upcoming School Concert - The teacher tapped out a beat on a snare drum and asked if anyone could play it. I was the only one who volunteered. So I went up and gave it a try. By luck, I played it note for note and she said “Ok Shawn, you are the drummer!” I played my first show one month later. True story.
- What kind of music did you listen to while growing up? And would you say there was someone that inspired you to pick up the drumsticks or did you go to school for music?
SM: I was influenced by what my older brother Dennis was listening to on the radio at the time. Mostly Rhythm & Blues music such as The Temptations, The Four Tops, The Young Rascals, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, etc. I loved Rhythm and Blues and Rock 'n Roll.
- About your gear: I've seen you play on Gretsch- and Ludwig sets. What kind of drum kit do you play now? And can you tell us more about your equipment?
SM: Currently I am endorsing GMS drums made in Farmingdale NY. So I play and record with those drums and also play on an old Rogers vintage drum kit as well. The reason the audience saw me with so many different varieties of drum sets while performing, was because of the backline company. If they could not get GMS, then my second Choice would be Ludwig, Yamaha, or Gretsch. Basically whatever was available at the time.
[Shawn’s passions nowadays, cars ‘n drumming]
- Are there any bands or Recording Projects you are involved in at the moment?
SM: My most recent project was recording Ricky Byrd’s new Record (Joan Jett & the Blackhearts/Southside Johnny guitarist). Also playing with “The Mark Newman Band” (Willy‘s guitar player from the last 3 tours). I also played drums on all the tracks of Marks latest record “Walls of Jericho”. We play gigs in NYC and on LI. I also freelance with bands in and around NY.
- The last 10 years you worked with the multi-talented Bob Stander, he is producer, engineer, songwriter, arranger, drummer, guitarist, bass player and credits on over 350 recordings. Are the two of you friends and how is your collaboration?
SM: Bob Stander is good friend of mine. We have mutual tastes in Music. So if he needs a drummer for a session, I’m the first on speed dial.
- One of the most recent works (Oct, 2010) with Bob Stander was a song 'Broken Is A Place' written, sung and played by guitarist Ricky Byrd. Is his music much different in style than you used to play?
SM: Not entirely. It’s more old school R&B and good old fashioned Rock 'n Roll. And I am very comfortable playing that type of music since that’s what I grew up listening to.
- Have you ever wrote, recorded and released solo work of your own?
SM: No solo albums yet. But I am planning to write more. I always co-wrote with the bands I have been in over the years. The most recent being a tune called (LOOK UP) with a great bass player friend Chris Weigers. Which is the debut song from the band “ARUSHA”. The music is Ska with Jazz and R&B influences. Jimmy Haslip from the Yellow Jackets co–produced it. Bob Stander was the Engineer on that Record as well.
[Shawn through the years]
- Are you indoctrinated into the world of drum clinics, if yes how do you like it? And if you don't, why not?
SM: No. I don’t do drum clinic’s although I do enjoy teaching private drum lessons. I may change my mind down the road. You never know.
- Besides Willy you have played with many musicians! Is there someone that you maybe have always idolized, that you’ve had the pleasure of playing with on stage?
SM: Yes! I did enjoy playing with John Hammond and Mick Taylor of the Rolling Stones.
- Talking about Willy DeVille, when he asked you in 1984 to join Mink DeVille, did you ever see him perform before?
SM: I saw Mink DeVille perform twice in NYC before I joined. Once at the Bottom Line and the other show was at The Ritz. I was impressed with Willy and the band. They had the Soul, R&B, Latin, with Rock n Roll elements mixed together with that NY attitude, it produced a very unique sound.
- How did you get an audition with Mink DeVille?
SM: After Thommy Price and Joey Vasta Left, everyone that was left in the band brought down their friends to audition. Ricky Borgia was my connection.
[with Willy DeVille in 1991 and in 2008]
- You have worked - with interruptions - almost 25 years with Willy, actually longer than anyone else has! How would you like to describe your relationship?
SM: Of course it started out as a business relationship, but evolved into myself becoming his friend /confidant as well as sometime’s his Contractor, finding great musicians for his touring band (Seth Farber, Bob Curiano, Ed Manion, Dave Keyes, Mario Cruz) An example being after Willy Decided to break away from “THE MINK DEVILLE BAND” in 1987, he recorded a solo album with Mark Knopfler. After that record came out, Willy called me and asked if I would help him put a touring band together for the ‘Miracle Tour’ to play some dates in the States, Canada and Europe. We stayed friends until he passed in 2009. I really miss him.
- Was it a shock to you when Willy decided to tour with an acoustic trio without a drummer?
SM: We did play over 30 tours together at that point and I understood that Willy needed a change and I didn’t take it personally.
- Is there a DeVille song where you as drummer obviously have pressed your mark on?
SM: I tried to play all of Willy’s songs with respect to their original versions and not overplay. I am always thinking of playing for the song first, then maybe try and come up with something a little more interesting to enhance it for live like rocking it a bit more. Songs like Jump City, Cadillac Walk, Hey Joe, Loup Garou, Lilly’s Daddy’s Cadillac, Muddy Waters, I had some room to improvise and play something a little different on these songs, but generally Willy didn’t like it when you changed “the feel” from the original that much. We tried that in 2007 with Italian Shoes. I tried playing a half time groove for the verse and played the 2&4 on the chorus. I noticed that it was messing with Willy’s vocal, so I went back to the original feel. He liked it when I played simple. Willy wasn’t a fan of fancy drumming at all or drum solo’s . Of course the exception to that rule would be Boris ('bad enough') percussion solo on Demasiado Corazon.
- What was your favorite DeVille song to play?
SM: It’s hard to pick a favorite. “Jump City’, “White Trash Girl”, “Mixed Up”, “Love and Emotion”, “Lilly Daddy’s Caddilac”. These come to mind first.
[with the Mink DeVille Band in the eighties and nineties]
- December 9th you played a show called 'The Spirit Of Mink DeVille' at Mirelle's in Westbury NY with members of Willy DeVille's Touring Band. Honoring the Man and his music again! What do you think about all these tributes, memorials and celebrations?
SM: It saddens me that Willy is gone and it’s over. Of course, when we got together it’s not the same without Willy. By doing these shows it’s a way for the band to come together “to play and honor his music.” Its fun to see everyone socially as well… And I think the fans like it! The Show at BB Kings was very good for not much rehearsal. We also had a great time at the show in Westbury in spite of a light turnout. It’s all good if you have the actual band members playing and singing the music. I got my nerve up and sang “You Better Move On”.
- You've now been on stage with the Mink-bassists Joey Vasta, Bob Curiano and David Keyes (maybe even more), what would be the ideal rhythm section for you?
SM: That’s a tough one. I enjoyed playing with them all! They are all great!
- What would you say was the most exciting show you have ever played?
SM: That’s another difficult Question to answer. There were so many great shows. But, what immediately comes to mind is 1984 in Basel, Switzerland. We opened for Bob Dylan and Santana in the afternoon. The sound on stage was perfect! Then after that show we hopped on lear Jet and played a show in Paris that same night! Also Playing New Years eve 1989 at a University outside of Frankfurt, which was the Year the Berlin wall came down. (Total Meyhem!) The Montreux Jazz Festival of 1994. Great show!
- Your surname Murray is generally thought to be Irish, or maybe Scottish. Are your ancestors from the UK as far as you know? Have you any association with Ireland (Scotland)?
SM: Ireland yes, and Germany. My Mother is German and My Father was Irish.
- You are married with children. Do you expect your kid(s) going to be in the music business as well?
SM: I’ve never pushed my kids into getting into this business. They both can play the drums pretty well but say it’s too hard to make a living as a musician. If you want to be really great you have to live it. It’s not their thing. My oldest son is going into the Medical field. And my younger son is into working with computers.
- This is a standard question in all our interviews: nowadays there are many digitalized recordings of independent origin (bootlegs) in circulation among the fans on the internet. What's your opinion about that?
SM: I don’t like to see anyone get ripped off for unauthorized recordings. But if someone records a show and they share it without selling it, that is a form of free promotion.
- We already interviewed Joey Vasta Jr (bass), Paul James (guitar) and you (drums). Which former Minker should we ask next in your opinion?
SM: Louis Corteletzzi.
[the Mink DeVille Band in 1994]
- Finally, do you want to say anything else to our readers?
SM: I just want to thank you and the fans for your support all through the years for Willy and The Mink DeVille Band!
~ Shawn Murray ~
Shawn, thank you very much for answering these questions and we hope to see you soon on stage somewhere somehow.
[images © All rights reserved to the photographers]