Mothers In Jazz (38): Tamara Murphy

Mothers In Jazz” is a new series, started by vocalist Nicky Schrire. The initiative aims to create an online resource for working jazz musicians with children, those contemplating parenthood, and jazz industry figures who work with and hire musicians who are parents. The insight of the musicians interviewed for this series provides valuable emotional, philosophical and logistical information and support that is easily accessible to all. “Mothers In Jazz” shines a light on the very specific role of being both a mother and a performing jazz musician.

Tamara Murphy. Photo credit: Hans-Jørgen Jahr

Tamara Murphy is an Australian double and electric bassist. She’s toured internationally, performing in Japan, China, Europe, the UK and New York as well as her native Australia.

Currently, Tamara performs with Kate Miller-Heidke, Andrea Keller, Nat Bartsch, and Stephen Magnusson in addition to her own band, “Spirograph Studies”. She was awarded the inaugural PBS Young Elder of Jazz Commission in 2011 and, in the last few years, has worked as a musical director and arranger for the Brunswick Music Festival and Monash University’s MLIVE Progress Festival. In 2019, she was shortlisted for the National Live Music Awards (Best Jazz Act)..

In the lockdown of 2020, Tamara started an interview series entitled ‘Flipped Interviews’. This series of interviews features male musicians being asked questions previously given to female musicians. It’s a cheeky, yet inclusive way to highlight the different ways men and women are treated in our industry. Interviewees include Paul Grabowsky, Sam Anning and Scott Tinker.

Tamara lives in Melbourne with her 9 year-old daughter.

LondonJazz News: What is the best advice you received about balancing/juggling motherhood and career?

Tamara Murphy: I don’t think I ever received any particularly memorable advice, although I have been watching the incredible way Andrea Keller has managed her career and parenthood and taking cues from her (and others like her). I think I’ve been lucky to be in close proximity to such a great role model.

LJN: What information or advice do you wish you’d received but didn’t (and had to learn through trial and error or on the go)?

TM: Get your ducks in a row if you’re casually employed and about to take time off. (I actually lost a significant amount of tertiary teaching work when I had a baby, because I was a casual employee. I thought I had made it clear that I would be back, but my teaching work was essentially given away at 2 different institutions. I had to have some awkward and confrontational conversations, and fortunately was able to regain a lot of my work, but it was not without lost income for a while there.) I think it is better these days, but even if you don’t know whether (or when) you’ll be coming back, make it clear to your employers that you will be.

LJN: Your top tip(s) for other mothers in jazz:

TM: Build a routine which works for you and stick to it.

LJN: Baby/child gear tips for travel/touring/gigging:

TM: Get a good carrier – when we travelled (pre-covid), the Ergobaby was awesome as you could wear it in a variety of ways and our little one could sleep while we roamed around. Also, you can usually bring car seats/strollers/portacots for free when flying.

LJN: Best general travel/gigging/tour-with-child advice:

TM: Touring with a child is so fun! Kids are really adaptable, and it’s so great when we can all be together and also be doing what we love. The first time I toured with my baby she was 3.5 months old and I was surprised how much I loved having her with us on the tour. She is now a very well-travelled human who has had lots of amazing experiences in different places.

LJN: What has surprised you about becoming a parent and remaining engaged with your professional activities and ambitions?

TM: I feel like my practice is better and more focused. I’m tackling things in my playing which I thought I’d get to later, but now that I’m a parent I realise that this magical ‘later’ doesn’t exist – it’s really now. What was I waiting for?

LJN: What boundaries have you set for yourself as a mother in jazz (could be related to travel/touring, riders, personal parameters, child care decisions, etc.)?

TM: I am making more careful musical choices. I can’t do every gig which comes my way (my partner is also a musician) so I’m being mindful about what I’m saying yes to, to make sure that I’m working on projects which I care about, with people I want to work with. This has also made my connection with music more meaningful as I really try to commit and put effort into whatever project I am a part of.

Tamara’s most recent album “TMT”, features her trio and was released in November 2022.

LINKS: Artist website

“Flipped interviews”
Tamara Murphy on Bandcamp

The complete LJN Mothers in Jazz Series

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