License Plate Blues

by | Feb 4, 2020 | MUSIC

On the latest album by his longtime solo project, Sincerely Iris, Todd Murray has found a new, heavier sound and learned the wonders of having a backing band.

It’s a new move for Todd Murray in a lot of ways. It’s a location change, it’s adding a band, it’s a new sound, and it’s brand new creative challenges. In his creation of the strong yet free flowing spirit of his musical project, Sincerely, Iris, Murray has allowed his music to shift with him across state lines. Along with that, he’s also brought his passion, and his license plate guitar. 

“I wasn’t sure exactly where the next album would go, but I just had a sense things had to change,” said Murray. “At the time, I almost thought my sound would get more light-hearted with more humor, but surprisingly it got heavier.”

This heavier sound carries through Sincerely Iris’s most recent album, I’m Not The Same, which was released in October of last year. It features both gritty blues and folky, acoustic songs. Songs like “Take Your Soul” and “Run Baby Run” entrance you with low picking and hypnotic percussion; these are the perfect songs for the death scene of the Southern outlaw lying in the woods, mortally wounded, with a bottle of whiskey in hand. Meanwhile, songs like “Revenge Blues” and “Running Through My Mind” break up this tone with energy that sheds light on the rest of this outlaw tale. 

In the creation of I’m Not The Same, Murray stuck to his reliable love, the four-string guitar made from a vintage license plate and given to him by his cousin years earlier. Using this unique instrument, he tried to push its limits and adapt its sound to his evolving style. 

“I had used it in the past on recordings, and it definitely took things in a bluesy direction, but on this album I was almost trying to see how far I could push that guitar’s limits,” said Murray. “Like, how heavy can I make this homemade box sound?”

Previously, Murray both recorded and performed live solo with his guitar. However, this time around, he has a band. This upcoming Wednesday at the Dark Room, he will be performing his songs alongside local friends Chip Hale (Tyler Meacham, Moosetrap) and Jon Chadwick (Jouwala Collective). 

“In rehearsals, it was really surprising for me to just not have to play during certain parts. Like, ‘So you mean I can just stand here and sing? I don’t know what to do with my hands!’” said Murray. “Chip Hale and Jon Chadwick are both really great musicians and are easy to get along with. I’m just excited to get to play the songs in their full form.”

These songs are close to Murray’s heart; he’s been working on them for seven years, since his last big album, 2013’s Best Left Free. A lot has changed along the way. With changes of scenery and relationships, his music has been heavily shaped by his travels with a steady heart.

“My fiancé and I lived in Charlotte, NC before this and we were looking for a change. I think we both get kind of restless. I’ve lived in Colorado, Ohio, Kentucky, Chicago, Savannah, GA, and North Carolina,” said Murray. “It’s the one thing that’s constant for me. No matter where I live, the music is always there. The culture of each city that I’ve moved to has really molded my music, I think. On the song, ‘Not Goodbye, Goodnight,’ I talk about all of the cities that I’ve lived in and how each one has changed me as a person.”

As Murray continues on into the new decade as a resident of Richmond, VA, he knows his songs will continue to sustain him.

“I’m a lifer. I’ll always be making music,” he said. “It helps me make sense of the world.”

To catch Sincerely, Iris’s first show with a full band in over 10 years, make sure to come out to The Dark Room this Wednesday, Feb. 5th. Tickets are $5, and more information can be found on the Sincerely, Iris website: It’ll be a spirit shifting experience you won’t want to miss.

“Music pretty much saved my life,” said Murray. “My hope is to maybe affect people in the same way that my heroes did for me.”

Alicen Hackney

Alicen Hackney

Alicen Hackney is a music journalism student at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg. Her passion is sharing and exploring music and it's cultural ties, and she is always looking for new artists and styles.

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