After a busy tour schedule and some health concerns, musician Bri Murphy was “in a really low place” in 2015.
“I was touring with Mustang Sally,” said Murphy, an Eau Claire native now living in Nashville, Tenn. “They did over 250 dates a year. It was a pretty grueling tour, and I was really sick by the end of it. I actually had to have a tonsillectomy.”
Complications from the surgical procedure (which removes the tonsils at the back of the throat) took her off the road, she said. She couldn’t sing and didn’t have the energy to perform.
In an effort to clear her mind and start over, Murphy, 26, returned to her home state of Wisconsin — a decision that ultimately lead her on a path to healing and the next step in her music career.
“I went up there, rented a cabin, took my dog and wrote a lot of songs,” she said. “And after I wrote it was like, ‘Yeah, this is something I still need to do and I’d regret it if I didn’t.’ ”
One of the songs she wrote ended up as the title track on Murphy’s first solo EP, “Throw Down My Heart,” which was officially released in October. Murphy, who graduated from Memorial High School in 2007, is set to return to Eau Claire for a local EP release show Saturday, Feb. 4, at The Local Store, 205 N. Dewey St.
Murphy, a multi-instrumentalist, said the road was “the loneliest place I’ve ever been,” and much of “Throw Down My Heart” came from that experience.
“A lot of those songs just came out of my touring experience ... and the feelings of loneliness, and also the pressure that it puts on relationships and people back home,” she said.
“As a professional touring musician, it’s not as glamorous as people think it is,” she added. “It’s easy to make it look fabulous on social media, but the reality is you’re sleeping three to four hours a night, and you’re constantly on the road.”
While she couldn’t pick a favorite on the six-song EP, Murphy said the title track is one that stands out for her.
“I think if I hadn’t written that song, this album probably would not exist,” she said. “Writing it was a huge moment of healing for me not just personally but also as an artist.”
She hopes listeners take away that same healing and inspirational aspect of the album as well.
“The album is just about finding a way to get through everything and come out the other end a more wholehearted person,” she said.
She began recording the album last March in a Nashville studio with producer Eli Beaird.
“Briana has the type of voice that makes you stop what you are doing and listen,” Beaird said in a news release about the album. “Her unique perspective really spoke to me through her lyrics. She was a total pro in the recording process and arranged all the string and horn parts on the project. Her talent goes way beyond her years, and I’m excited to see her develop into the amazing artist she clearly is.”
Murphy said the process was “pretty quick in terms of how records can go” and that the team was great to work with.
“The team I had was just incredible and also very supportive, so I feel very lucky in that sense,” she said.
It has been about eight years since Murphy performed in the Chippewa Valley, and she said she’s looking forward to returning next month, noting she has lots of old friends in the area.
“I’m really excited to come back home,” she said of the Eau Claire show. “Even though I don’t have family there, it's still very much home to me.”
She also gave a nod to Eau Claire’s public schools’ “phenomenal” music education program, noting “I would not be the musician that I am without that background.”
While she moved to Nashville in 2011 to pursue music, such a career hasn’t always been the dream for Murphy.
“My undergraduate degree was in political science,” she said, noting she studied at Wellesley College near Boston. “I had every intention of going into law, actually.”
However, her plans changed her senior year of college, she said.
“I decided that law school would always be there if I wanted to go,” she said. “I decided I wanted to spend more time with music.”
Both of her parents are pianists, she said, so she grew up listening to a variety of music, including jazz, classical and the Beatles. Since moving to Nashville, she’s been heavily influenced by artists like Jason Isbell and Kacey Musgraves.
While she’s currently promoting “Throw Down My Heart” and working other jobs on the side in Nashville, Murphy said she’s excited to get back to the recording studio.
“I’m going back into the studio in February to start working on what will hopefully be a full length (album),” she said, noting she learned a lot from her first recording experience. “I’m excited to get back in there.”
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