I'm a multi-instrumentalist based in Cork, Ireland best known for playing pedal steel and dobro. I've been playing pedal steel for over 12 years and in this time have built up a lot of experience performing live as well as contributing to over 30 records by a range of international artists.
I offer professional online overdub of steel guitar for your songs(s) recorded with top quality instruments, condenser and ribbon microphones and a mix of analog and digital equipment. Whilst associated mainly with Country music, the beauty of pedal steel is that it can offer a richly textural, evocative and tasteful element to music of ANY genre and I love to apply it in such ways - avoiding the cliches and attempting to place the instrument only in the context of the music. As always, serving the song is my only aim and I will always strive to do so in a tasteful manner.
As a session musician, I have shared stage and studio with artists such as Richmond Fontaine, The Delines, The Lost Brothers, Willy Vlautin, John Blek & The Rats, Anna Mitchell, Malojian, Gemma Hayes and many more.
As well as featuring on records from some of Ireland's finest folk and roots acts, I have completed multiple tours of Ireland, UK, Europe and U.S.A. as well as performing on live national radio and television.
"David Murphy’s pedal steel guitar is played not in a traditional country way but mournfully and atmospherically in the background supporting the songs and their intriguing lyrics."
— americanaUK (UK)
"The unmistakable sounds of David Murphy’s pedal steel guitar gently weep throughout much of the album and elevates the music above the ordinary."
— CeolCollective (IRL)
Click the 'Contact' above to get in touch. Looking forward to hearing from you.
2 ReviewsEndorse David Murphy
A beautiful sound and a tasteful style. David gave the song exactly what it needed. Good communication and turnaround time. I would be happy to work together again. Thank you!
Very fast turnaround, excellent playing, exactly what we needed on our recording. Well done David. Highly recommended.
Interview with David Murphy
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: It's a simple but effective home-studio. I run my pedal steel through a mix of external and digital equipment, depending on the project. I play a Jackson Blackjack S10 E9 pedal steel which was hand-built by David Jackson for me in 2009. This runs through two Fender amps for stereo imaging along with Strymon El Capistan (delay) and BlueSky (reverb) and mic'd with a mix of condenser and ribbon microphones before going through a Golden Age 73 Mic Pre and Focusrite interface to a SONAR X3 DAW. Simultaneously, I record the dry DI signal which is then later mixed using virtual amps and plugins to provide the client with the option of tweaks, adding effects or radical changes in tone, if desired.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: At the moment, I'm working on recordings for forthcoming albums by The Lost Brothers, The Southern Fold and The Remedy Club. I am beginning to think about making my own music again after a long break too - experimenting with incorporating pedal steel into a more minimal and modern classical context along with piano and strings.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: That I only play country music - as pedal steel is synonymous with classic country, a lot of people don't see that it can work in any style of music and actually often fail to hear it already in many classic pop and rock records over the decades.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: I approach each project differently depending upon the artist's wishes. However, usually upon receiving a new track, I will request any particular notes or specific ideas the artist wants me to adhere to regarding the tone, the sound, the placement and arrangement of the instrument in the track. If not, then it's generally up to me to get the ball rolling and have a go at what I think is an appropriate place for the pedal steel in the track. From here, I will complete 2-3 separate takes or arrangements (e.g. may include harmony lines, pads or just a simple phrase) and send the tracks back to the artist with notes and a reference mix of what I think is the best take. At this point, the client often may wish to revise something or maybe work more on a particular part. I'm open to multiple revisions (within reason!) until we are happy that we've achieved meeting the artist's vision and expectations.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: In my mind, I don't distinguish between different styles of music or put them in any particular boxes as such - if it moves me, then it's good, regardless of the genre. I love old-time folk music, modern classical, trip-hop and ambient music, blues, classic country, jazz, rock, Tex-Mex, Cajun, Indie-rock, North African, Latin, Traditional Irish... literally all over the map! As a result, some of the most inspiring musical artists to me are from any time over the past 70-80 years and from any genre... Calexico, T-Bone Burnett, Daniel Lanois, Willie Nelson, M.Ward, Bill Frisell, Robert Plant, Jack White, Ry Cooder, Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, Buddy Emmons, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, Tinariwen, Greg Leisz, The Gloaming, Neil Young, Olafur Arnalds, Peter Broderick... I could go on and on!! If the music is is executed well, is tasteful, is capable of creating a positive connection and can move people, then it inspires me. My ears are always open!
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: I love to play and collaborate with different musicians, singers and artists all the time, knowing that we are creating something new in the world.
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: Go for it!
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: I would love to work with Calexico - their music stretches to being cinematic, experimental, evocative, upbeat, downbeat... they encompass a lot about what I love about music from all over the world with the right amount of air and space. They demonstrate how different instruments and forms of folk music can all evolve and sit beside one another seamlessly, melding easily with no borders or constrictions. It's a unique atlas of music and is very inspiring to me.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: Always share your thoughts or plans for more overdubs yet to be completed with other instruments so that appropriate space can be provided to the other later performers.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: I like to add that final bit of spice and flavor to a song to take it to a different place or cast it in a different light. Most often, the pedal steel is really effective when used sparingly, like a good sauce! As a result, I try to just add the right amount of ingredients to enhance the song and elevate it just that little bit more. As a client remarked to me recently, I put the sprinkles on the ice-cream!
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: I was approached by The Remedy Club - a husband and wife Americana duo in Ireland who I had never met - to contribute 1 or 2 pedal steel tracks to their debut album. As soon as they heard the tracks I'd recorded they wanted me to feature on more songs and the pedal steel ended up becoming a bigger part of the overall sound across the album than was initially envisaged. As the songs were amazing, the singing and guitar playing was top quality and they were sympathetic to the role of the pedal steel, I was really able to allow the instrument to shine on the record, which went on to get a lot of critical acclaim and very positive reviews across the music press.
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: Digital is the most cost and time effective and allows for a lot of experimentation.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: What other instrumentation do you plan to overdub? Is there a particular artist or song that has pedal steel that you want me to aim for?
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: Just two will do... an old Hawaiian lap steel and a vintage amp - what more would you need on a tropical desert island!
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: I played piano as well as trumpet in a brass band as a youngster in the early 90's, getting into guitar in my teens and then slide guitar. In my early 20's I gravitated towards pedal steel and the more I experimented, the more I fell in love with the sound and the boundless opportunities the instrument holds. From here, I focused solely on pedal steel and over the past 10 years have toured all over Ireland, UK, Europe and US. In 2018, I was awarded a bursary from Cork City Arts Council to study pedal steel in Nashville with some of the finest teachers there. That proved to me that there is no end to learning and continuing to develop my skills and styles on the instrument.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: My style is always sympathetic to the music or performance as a whole. I like to listen to the other musicians and performers, listen to the song and sentiment and enhance all of that if I can.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: Generally, it is for singer-songwriters who wish for accompaniment to an acoustic-based song or want some ambient-sounding steel backing. Other times it's for bands who wish to add a full-on Country-style pedal steel flavor to their production or even just a subtle hint of the sound of a pedal steel to enhance a phrase or a particular part in a song.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: Knowing instinctively when NOT to play in a song is something that others have continually said is a strong skill of mine. Having performed and recorded with so many artists over the past 15 years, I've learned that this cannot be overestimated. I never try to over-play or over-complicate a part that isn't necessary for the vibe of the song.
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: My speciality is pedal steel overdubs and occasionally dobro.