Cool Is Her Middle Name: Anne Murray rides the 'chick bus' into Charleston
By Andrea Warner
Anne Murray is as Canadian as hockey, maple syrup, and beaver tails. She's rocked the same hairstyle since 1986. Her name may not be synonymous with cool, but evidence keeps mounting to the contrary: she was best friends with the late Dusty Springfield, she hung out with the Beatles, and her latest album, Anne Murray Duets: Friends and Legends, took Billboard's country and internet sales charts by storm.
Murray's voice, a powerful contralto, is as rich as her career is long. Her current cross-country tour boasts stops in over 50 cities, where she proudly rides on a "chick bus" with her daughter and the three other women in the band. (The guys get their own buses.) Though the pace can be exhausting, she's feeling well rested when we connect over the phone.
Speaking from her hotel in Florida, where the weather has turned unseasonably cold, Murray is ill equipped for the dip in temperature, but her laugh is like her reputation: warm and generous. The fans that crowd her shows know what to expect, but the uninitiated audience will likely be humbled by the family-like camaraderie. That, and the 40-plus years of performing experience she brings to the stage.
"A lot of people are surprised by the sense of humor and the fun that we have," she says. "This group has been together a long time. We're like a family, and we have fun on stage. And, I have nothing left to prove anymore. I go out and sing and have a good time, and I think people enjoy that."
Murray grew up inspired by musicians who also enjoyed having a good time with their craft. Her musical tastes are all over the map — a fact she attributes to her parents and the eras in which she grew up.
"I listened to every kind of music, Murray says. "My parents listened to Bing Crosby, Perry Como, the Mills Brothers. I loved Doris Day, Patty Page, and Rosemary Clooney. I went through the rock 'n' roll era, then the folk era. All of those things had an influence on me. And then The Beatles came. The Beatles were like the second coming to me. Then Dusty Springfield was in there. She was my favorite. She's always been one of my favorite female vocalists."
Duets is entirely devoted to women vocalists, and the contributors couldn't be more diverse: Shania Twain, Olivia Newton John, Carole King, and Celine Dion, to name a few. Murray's own sound has influenced artists like Nelly Furtado, Jann Arden, and Sarah MacLachlan, and she readily admits that some of the contributors to Duets were more than a little apprehensive to meet her.
"Some of these girls, like k.d. lang, Shania, Nelly Furtado, were weaned on my music," Murray says. "They were a little intimidated and nervous, but not for long."
Some might imagine that an album boasting hugely successful singers would mean massaging a lot of egos, but Murray speaks of the process with nothing but fondness.
"There wasn't a diva in the lot. Everyone came really well prepared. Everyone had a lot of fun doing it. It was just a great experience," Murray says. And there were some pleasant revelations along the way.
Murray initially had zero interest in making the album. Her record company spent a lot of time convincing her to give it a try. Lured by the idea of creating a collaborative album, she finally agreed.
"I wasn't interested at all," she remembers. "But, they kept pushing and they had a big meeting with my management people and their people and they twisted my arm. And, here we are: two Juno nominations [the Canadian equivalent of the Grammys] and double platinum. It's been a shocker. Goes to show you I don't always know what's best for me."