Interview: Brian Murray of Dogs In A Pile - Backstage at The Tree
Updated: Mar 20, 2021
Brian discusses his style and gear
With a sound and style almost antithetical to Jimmy Law’s (The Dogs in a Pile’s other guitarist), Brian Murray, co-lead guitarist and vocalist brings a fusion of jazz, rock, bluegrass and rockabilly influences to an already multi-genre band; and whereas Jimmy Law relies heavily on the driving power and tone of PRS humbuckers, Murray depends on the single coils of his MIJ Stratocaster to give the band a lighter, more sparkling sound, “You know, I bought it at this place called Russo Music in Asbury Park…I tried every Strat on the wall and then there was one more I didn’t try- on the bottom shelf- and it had like this…pink-like racing stripe…so weird…but I just loved it because it has these thin frets and one of the best necks I’ve ever felt…” Brian explains he’s left the guitar pretty much the way he bought it, “Yeah… it’s just a straight stock.” The sound he produces, however, is anything but stock and when citing the differences in style and timbre between the two lead guitars, he laughs, “Yeah, you get this straight, ripping’ blues, almost Trey Anastasio thing with Jimmy…and there’s more a Jerry Reed…chicken-pickin’ finger style from me.”
This partly makes sense since he admits to being more comfortable with an acoustic guitar. His “number one” axe is a six-year-old Martin OM 28 on which he puts heavy .13 gauge strings. Playing so much on the Martin, has him thinking .11 gauge strings on the Strat might not be ideal for his thumb-pick style, “I think I’m gonna upgrade to twelve gauge strings…I find when I play on an electric guitar and I’m using my fingers, I get a snappy, poppy sound…I feel like if I had thicker strings like I do on an acoustic, it gives you more support…” He also adds that he most often employs positions #2 and #4 on the pick-up switch (which engages the middle pickup with either the neck or the bridge) to get the full, classic Strat sound that melds well with a lot of the band’s more experimental repertoire.
He hooks his axe to a Fender Deluxe Reverb with a 12-inch JBL E120 speaker and for pedal enhancement engages about half the amount his co-lead uses, “…at the moment, I really just have four pedals on my board.” They are a Digitech Whammy II, an Ibanez TS92 Screamer, a Boss Turbo Overdrive OD2 and the Dunlop Rotovibe. It seems that the Dunlop is the favorite tool for many of the band’s songs, “I think it adds so much to our sound…and there are some points now where that pedal is absolutely necessary for certain songs…”
When discussing early influences, “The guys that got me into playing guitar were David Gilmore and Jimmy Page more than anybody else…then Alex Lifeson…and then I got into Trey Anastasio and Jerry Garcia and guys like that…and Tommy Emmanuel…and in the summer of 2014…I got to see the Jerry Reed/Chet Atkins ensemble and they played a show at the Berklee Performance Center and that blew my mind. The next day I bought a thumb pick…” From there, bluegrass virtuosos like Tony Rice, Norman Blake and Brian Sutton became objects of study for Murray until today his playing clearly reflects the dazzlingly eclectic mix of jazz, rock, bluegrass and country music that counter so nicely with Law’s guitar work.
Noting the rhythmic precision which his band exhibits and the assumed hours of individual and cooperative practice it takes to get music that tight, he muses, “I kind of go crazy when I’m playing by myself because I don’t have anybody to share it with…and it’s easy to get caught up and not make it musical…sometimes it’s just like technical and stuff…but when you play with the band you can really open up and let that stuff you’ve been practicing for so long, let it fall naturally…When you’re playing on stage you can take risks to come up with stuff, with new ideas you didn’t think were possible before…it’s really cool.”
Since joining the band, Murray has increasingly turned his attention to songwriting, and in discussing songwriting styles, the influences are as disparate as the styles of his guitar heroes. Off the top of his head he rattles names like Willie Nelson, Alison Krauss, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Robert Hunter, and Shane MacGowan of the Pogues. He adds that his fellow band members also write and collaborate together on new material; even picking up a new instrument can lead to writing something new, “I picked up my friend’s banjo and came up with the melody to ‘Charlie’,” and with a smile, he demonstrates a new melody he’s smithing on the tin whistle, “I love writing songs. It’s one of my favorite things in the world to do.”
Here's Brian playing "Bugle On The Shelf" on his Martin OM 28 and on his Stratocaster
Previously Published - Interview: Jimmy Law of Dogs In A Pile
Dogs In A Pile will be performing on Saturday April 3rd at the TOF Nightclub
Photos courtesy of Ron Adelberg Photography