A Conversation with Sequoyah Murray: Wholeness, Creativity, and Joy

Sequoyah Murray is a vocalist, producer, and multi-instrumentalist from Atlanta, Georgia - and he’s only 22. Growing up with ties to the free jazz and experimental music scene, he ties many influences into his eagerly anticipated debut album Before You Begin. Though drawing comparisons to Arthur Russell’s and ANOHNI’s work, Murray is paving a path all his own. He offers up eclectic art-pop, blending his own acrobatic vocals with buzzing synthesizers, polyrhythms from East and West Africa, RnB, and Neo-Soul. Instead of fragmentation, there is wholeness as Murray presents listeners with his fullest, most open, and authentic self, just like he will do this Saturday, October 5th with Taylor Johnson and Temezgen at Moon Palace Books.

Photo of Sequoyah Murray, courtesy of Amber Felix.

Photo of Sequoyah Murray, courtesy of Amber Felix.

What inspires me? Every atom of our universe.
— Sequoyah Murray

Robert Lehmann, The Cedar’s Booking and Marketing coordinator, reached out to Sequoyah Murray in anticipation of his show this Saturday, October 5th. An artist of few words, Sequoyah shared about Before You Begin, as well as discussing his inspirations and other musical artists he’s currently vibing on.

Robert Lehmann: Would you tell us about how you got started in music?

Sequoyah: My parents are both musicians, so I grew up with their examples. Then, I got into producing music for myself in 2012.

Robert: How did you choose to name your debut Before You Begin, and what key factors influenced your vision for the album?

Sequoyah: I named it after one of the tracks on the album that I felt best stood as an album title. In terms of vision, I felt a need to journal the feelings I was having after getting out of a relationship and the need to create art. 

The cover of Sequoyah Murray’s debut album,  Before You Begin.

Robert: Would you tell us about the album artwork for your debut album Before You Begin?

Sequoyah: The artwork is a freeze-frame from the Penalties of Love music video, directed by Roxy Rezvany. The makeup look was designed by @gracemariaellington (link to Grace’s instagram account).

Robert: Could you tell us one of your favorite stories from your musical career?

Sequoyah: Once a friend was going through a hard breakup and she listened to Penalties of Love dozens of times to help her through it. I thought that was really sweet!

Sequoyah Murray performing “Penalties of Love” courtesy of 4:3’s YouTube channel.

Robert: A lot of the online content about you highlights the “joyful energy” found within your debut. In the context of a trend of sad pop music that’s coming out these days, where does that joyful energy come from for you?

Sequoyah: I appreciate joyful energy in the music I listen to. I want to feel uplifted and motivated to dance, so that makes its way into my own music.

Robert: The album’s press release mentions that there are some East, West, and North African influences. Could you tell us more about where those come from for you?

Sequoyah: They come from music that my father exposed me to: music from Mali, Senegal and Ethiopia (to name a few).

Robert: What do you aim for your music to communicate?

Sequoyah: My truth and my fantasies.

Robert: What inspires you?

Sequoyah: Every atom of our universe.

Robert: What are your interests outside of music?

Sequoyah: I’m very interested in infrastructure and etymology.

Robert: What artists or groups are you really excited about?

Sequoyah: K. Michelle, Tamaryn, Boy Harsher, Kelela, and Caroline Polacheck just to share a few.

Kelela’s video for “Frontline” courtesy of KelelaVEVO’s YouTube channel.

Caroline Polacheck performing "Ocean of Tears" courtesy of Caroline Polacheck’s YouTube channel.

Robert: Finally, what do you want audience members to know before your performance at Moon Palace? What do you want them to take away?

Sequoyah: I want them to take me exactly as I am, and I want them to take away their own meanings from my songs. Thank you!

Catch Sequoyah Murray with Taylor Johnson and Temezgen at Moon Palace Books on Saturday, October 5th. Tickets are still available here.