Murphy 'still gets butterflies' performing at home
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- There's an old saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," and "America's Got Talent" winner and West Virginia native Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. isn't really changing anything -- well, mostly.
"Fans come up to me after shows and they tell me, 'Don't change anything,'" Murphy said.
And then they ask him to add another song from the 1960s "Rat Pack" milieu or maybe a little Motown music.
"People want to hear it," Murphy said, and shrugged.
And Murphy said he wants to give them what they want.
Murphy will be singing the music of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and many others April 6 at the Charleston Municipal Auditorium.
The show is a benefit for Charleston's Community Music Association and Junior Achievement of West Virginia, and will also feature a full slate of performers with deep West Virginia roots, including former "American Idol" contestant Chase Likens, Morgantown-based country group the Davisson Brothers, Taylor County's breakout country performers Taylor Made and Charleston-area bands Johnny Staats and the Delivery Boys and the Carpenter Ants.
For Murphy, it's another show in his home state, which he said is still a treat.
"I love playing in West Virginia," he said. "But I still get butterflies every time I go out on that stage."
The former carwash employee turned talent contest winner said he's still adjusting to it all: the crowds, the fans and some of the darker aspects of success.
Still, there's a lot to like. Winning on "America's Got Talent" has created many opportunities.
He's been able to travel to places he never thought he'd see and do things beyond his dreams.
"We were in Stuttgart and Frankfurt in Germany," he said. "We performed for veterans on Veterans Day. That was really fun."
He also got to sing the national anthem at a Miami Heat game, which was a big deal for Murphy, a huge basketball fan.
"I'd never been to an NBA game," Murphy said. "Growing up, I was, like, this huge Michael Jordan fan. I loved the Chicago Bulls."
With a brisk touring schedule, Murphy has done well financially. He's no longer scraping by. With his earnings, he was able to buy a five-bedroom house and install a small recording studio.
"It's a kind of country-city place," he said, smiling broadly. "That sort of fits me."
But fame and success have come at a price.
Murphy said, "I've lost friends, I've lost family. They just stopped coming around."
His wife, Jennifer, nodded her head and said the same thing had happened to her. "I've got girlfriends who just stopped coming by, stopped talking to me."
Neither of them are sure why. They don't feel any different than they've always been. They don't think they're really showing off that much, even though, yes, Murphy has had some success.
They're not sure what's scared people off.
Murphy said right after he won "America's Got Talent" in 2011, things got a little crazy. He started making money and, perhaps not surprisingly, people came asking for money.
A lot of them were people Murphy didn't even know.
"People came from out of state," he said. "I saw people from Texas, California, Ohio. It was really crazy."
Others closer to Murphy didn't ask for anything, but they didn't seem to want anything to do with him either.
"I don't know if they're sad or if they're mad," Murphy said. "So I guess being successful has been a blessing and a curse at the same time."
The worst of it has been Murphy's elder brother, Anthony Page. Originally, Murphy said his brother called their carwash Three Brothers Car Wash, which referred to Page, Murphy and their younger brother, Alfonzo.
"But I was never around," Murphy said. "I'd go out and tour and I was gone. When I'd get back, I didn't want to do anything."
Murphy said his brother eventually changed the name of the shop, but they haven't talked about that or anything else.
"He's been busy," the singer said. "He's been putting in some storage units."
He hasn't been in a lot of contact with his younger brother either, though he said Alfonzo was working at a wood products plant.
Murphy regrets what he's lost, though he's not sure what to do about it -- at least, not as sure as what he wants to do with his career.
Although people know him for performing standards, he'd like to show the world he can do more. He's working on his own original material.
In his home recording studio, he has a copy of Pro Tools 10. "It makes a $10,000 studio sound like it's worth $100,000."
Murphy hopes to record some new tracks, which might lead to another record, and maybe help a few others record songs as well.
There's a lot of talent around, he said.
The trick may be finding time to get it done. After the Saturday show, Murphy will be in and out of the state, with shows in Arizona, Michigan and back to Las Vegas.
At some point, he's supposed to go to China for a taping of "China's Got Talent."
"They had me record a promo for it," he said. "I had to speak -- what is it -- Mandarin? That was crazy."
He said he also has a book coming out and may appear in a movie.
"I can't talk too much about that," he said.
Want to go?
WHAT: Landau Eugene Murphy Jr.
WHERE: Charleston Municipal Auditorium
WHEN: 7 p.m. April 6
TICKETS: $25, $35, $40
Reach Bill Lynch at email@example.com or 304-348-5195.