John Murry is hoping his CD release show Sunday at the Make-Out Room is unlike a lot of concerts these days.
“It seems like musicians aren’t giving emotionally to the audience. I want to do that, I want to get it right — to get it rightly wrong, perfectly ragged and real,” says the Oakland-based singer-songwriter, who was born in Tupelo, Miss., and has a sweet tinge of a Southern accent.
He is describing “The Graceless Age,” which he recorded at a studio at Howard and Seventh streets in The City over a period of years, with many Bay Area musicians including the late Tim Mooney (of American Music Club), as well as Sean Coleman, Joe Goldring and Michael Mullen, who will join him onstage.
Even though he has played material from the CD live to positive response in Europe, he is nervous, hoping the record’s “wall-of-sound elements” come across at the upcoming local show.
Acclaimed in the music press, the dark, poetic, melancholic, often beautiful record tells his deeply personal stories: about overdosing on heroin in the Mission district, losing his house in a fire, trying to win his wife back.
“I did something most people don’t do — I told the truth. Most people lie,” says Murry, who has realized that, “Even if someone hasn’t been an ex-junkie, they still know how these emotions feel. The record is basically about loss, and life is mostly about loss.”
Uncomfortable being in the spotlight and doing things like publicity and promotion, Murry says he always has been odd: His parents thought something was wrong with him, teachers called him apathetic, he liked to read and be alone.
But singing came naturally. From age 5 on he sang in church, in several choirs. At 12, he learned “Free Fallin.’”
At the mercy of his subconscious, Murry finds the songwriting process “strange,” and doesn’t understand when other songwriters talk about their approaches. Quoting Tom Waits, he says: “I leave the window open, the songs just come in.”
He adds: “I write songs really about nothing. I think rock is fraudulent and I am trying to see if I can beat a fraudulent game. I think I can do a lot better. I’m sober now.”
Having begun his professional music life in Memphis, Tenn., he’s also optimistic about being in the Bay Area, a place where his 8-year-old daughter blessedly doesn’t understand racial divisions, a place “where people like me are allowed to be.”
“I’m very much a Californian, he says. “I’ll argue baseball with anybody. I’m always pulling for the Bay Area.”