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Gurf Morlix in 12 questions

Gurf Morlix is a highly respected Austin, Texas producer, multi-instrumentalist, and singer-songwriter. Gurf is a member of the Austin Music Awards Hall of Fame (2004) and the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame (2005), and is the Americana Music Association Instrumentalist of the Year for 2009.

Prior to embarking on his own solo career, Gurf was best-known for his 11-year creative partnership with Lucinda Williams as her guitarist, band leader, backing vocalist and producer. His work with Williams led him to produce recordings for a ‘Who’s Who’ of Americana, including Slaid Cleaves, Mary Gauthier, Tom Russell, and Butch Hancock.

Before all of this, Gurf hung out, played and performed with the Austin-based songwriter Blaze Foley, a legendary figure who was tragically murdered in in 1989 at the age of 39. Gurf’s latest release is a 15-song collection of Blaze’s songs, called ‘Blaze Foley’s 113th Wet Dream‘. This cd is released in conjunction with the documentary film, ‘Blaze Foley: Duct Tape Messiah‘, which has been 12 years in the making.

The following is an edited version of a Facebook interview with Gurf Morlix, presented by Roch Parisien’s Rocon Communications.

Roch Parisien
What was your first single and/or album that you bought as a youth with your own money?

Gurf Morlix
The first album I ever bought was Marty Robbins, Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs …maybe 1960. I remember it cost $2.37. My mother didn’t want me to spend all that money and advised me to just get the single of “El Paso”. I said “no, I need ALL the songs. That album is a classic…recorded live.  A masterpiece.

Roch
And what was the first concert you attended?

Gurf
The first concert I saw, I’m a bit ashamed to admit, was Peter, Paul and Mary. However, the second was Jimi Hendrix. That makes up for the first!

Roch
What song did you first hear on the radio that made you go: “wow, I want to do this?”

Gurf
My sister had a small radio in her bedroom, and I used to fake being sick so I wouldn’t have to go to school. My mother would go out shopping, and I’d go find the radio and start twisting the dial until I found a song I liked. Suddenly I heard “Cathy’s Clown” by the Everly Brothers. It knocked me down! I knew right then that’s what I wanted to do.

Roch
Gurf, you and the artists you work with are generally grouped into a (admittedly pretty large, amorphous) box called ‘Americana’ music. I’m curious what your feelings and relationship are with this descriptive term?

Gurf
I’ve got my own definition of Americana. I do understand what most people think of when they use that term, and I understand why a lot of the music I am involved with is put in that category… Let’s just say that I think ZZ Top is Americana. But Aerosmith is not.

Roch
Tell us about the concept of “the muddy”, that you’ve used in the past to describe the ‘sweet spot’, if you like, of American roots music…

Gurf Morlix
It’s where I think all the types of music that I love come together. It’s blues, and country and folk…and maybe a few other strays as well.

Roch
Your latest album is called Blaze Foley’s 113th Wet Dream. For the benefit of those who don’t know, give us the scoop: who is this Blaze Foley guy and why should people care and pay attention?

Gurf Morlix
Blaze Foley was a songwriter I met in about ’76 or ‘77. He was in Austin, drivin’ down the Drag, in a borrowed car, when he saw the marquee on the Hole In the Wall. My band was playing. We were called The Goats of Arabia. He drove to where he was staying, woke up the guy whose car it was, and said “we gotta go see what this band is.”

He introduced himself to me. I guess he liked our music. I wondered who the big weirdo was. We talked on a break. He told me he had a gig coming up in a few days, and would I come? It was a happy hour gig, in a disco! I went, with some friends. He shouldn’t have been booked in there, but he was great, nonetheless.

I LOVED his songs. I loved his persona. He was like no one I’d ever seen before. He passed around pictures of the people in his songs. It was kind of like ‘show & tell’. He had a bunch of really great songs. Funny songs. Tender love songs. Sad songs that would just make me weep.

Roch
What is it specifically that made/makes Blaze more than just another Texas Townes Van Zandt-inspired singer-songwriter?

Gurf
Just about every Texas folksinger was influenced by Townes Van Zandt. He’s the benchmark. But Blaze’s songs resonated with people. They are poetic, but they are so real!! It’s not easy to write songs that good.

Roch
You also wrote and recorded a song about Blaze (“Music You Mighta Made” on ‘Last Exit To Happyland’), and you’ve also been instrumental in releasing a couple of archival Blaze albums. Why did you decide to do a full album of Blaze’s songs?

Gurf
Ever since Blaze was murdered, in 1989, I wanted to do something to try to get his songs a bit wider recognition. As I saw that the documentary film (‘Blaze Foley: Duct Tape Messiah’) was nearing completion, I decided it was time to record an album of his songs.

Roch
What would you consider the most important thing you absorbed from Blaze’s songwriting, and from working with him?

Gurf
I consider Blaze’s life to be a life well lived, amazingly. It’s an odd thing to say about a raging alcoholic poet/songwriter with major demons, who ends up getting murdered. But Blaze was a unique individual…one of a kind, for all time. There has never been anyone like him, and there never will be. I’ve learned to celebrate his individuality.

Roch
Over the course of your five solo albums prior to this “Blaze” album, released between 2000 and 2009…how would you describe your evolution as a singer-songwriter over this period?

Gurf
I’ve been writing songs for about 45 years, I guess, and I think I was writing for about 40 years before I ever wrote a good one. One that people responded to. It’s not easy.

Roch
Say you would be remembered by future generations for only one thing, but you got to pick what that was: an ace guitarist/instrumentalist, an ace producer, or a singer-songwriter of your own songs, which would you choose?

Gurf
Tough question.  I guess I’d like to think that some of my songs might last a little while. I’ve spent a lot of time in the last five years trying to make them as good as I can.

Roch
If you had to “book the space” right now, what would you like the inscription on your tombstone to read? Then, imagine that tombstones contained a digital music file rather than an inscription, what song would you choose as your audio epitaph?

Gurf
Ain’t gonna be no tombstone. I’ll just be in the wind. They can play “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground”, by Blind Willie Johnson.

For recordings, tour date, and more information about the new album, visit gurfmorlix.com

Click here for the full Gurf Morlix Facebook interview.

Follow Roch Parisien’s Rocon Communications on Facebook for access to exclusive Facebook interviews.

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1 comment

  1. avatar
    fhaedra 6 June, 2011 at 14:47

    I’ve had the very good fortune to hear Gurf Morlix on two or three or four occasions. Each time, it was in a small setting so that he could speak to those in attendance and we could listen to what he had to say about the stories behind the songs. The people, places, and circumstances he sings about are familiar and human and happy and sad and real.

    If you get the chance to attend a show, go. Just go.

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