One nation under GOD!
(pictured Terrance Simien, Danny Williams, Bubba Murrell)
New Iberia Musician/Engineer/Producer in Grammy Win
When Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience won the first Best Zydeco or Cajun Album Grammy award, there were others from Louisiana who won as well. One was engineer/producer Joshua “Bubba” Murrell, a New Iberia native.
In spite of his long history of audio engineering work, Murrell, who is also an accomplished musician, composer, and arranger, laughingly describes himself as a “thirty year overnight success.”
“Most people I know in Louisiana aren’t aware of what I’ve done in the past,” he says. “So yes, they are surprised to hear that I was involved at this level on Terrance’s album.”
Murrell has a local reputation for being a computer wizard, “fix-it” guy, and keyboard player for the band Blue Merlot. But his past credits include engineering work with Grammy winning Gospel artist Phil Driscoll, and sound and lighting tech / road manager with various Gospel artists under the Sparrow, Benson, Zondervan and Word record labels. Murrell also has experience in instrument manufacturing, having worked with Composite Acoustics Guitars of Lafayette, La.
“I grew up learning to tune pipe organs,” says Joshua. His father, Joffre Murrell, was band director at New Iberia Senior High School for decades. The senior Murrell, often assisted by his son, also built and tuned pipe organs. Joshua’s career was put “on hold” when his father fell ill with cancer. Rather than return to work with Driscoll, he stayed close to home as his mother adjusted to widowhood.
Joshua studied Music Theory and Composition at USL, and completed manufacturer’s technical schools with Moog, Peavey, Korg, Roland, and Marshall. He also is a member of the Recording Academy’s (Grammy) prestigious Producers and Engineers wing. He is self-taught in advanced synthesizer programming and audio recording.
Self-taught he may be, but his knowledge caught the attention of mastering guru Roger Nichols at a 2006 NAMM show. Nichols is a multiple Grammy winning engineer, and has worked with artists such as Steely Dan, Cher, Bella Fleck, and Frank Sinatra. Murrell met Nichols and “started talking to Roger in that ‘techo-speak.’ They clicked right away” says Blue Merlot music partner Brenda Lowry. Later contact with Roger brought an offer to get involved in the final mastering phase of their album, Blue Merlot. Murrell had worked with engineer Steve Reynolds (who engineered Irma Thomas’ 2007 Grammy winner After the Rain) at Dockside Studio during the recording of Blue Merlot. “They were both very happy with the final mix,” says Blue Merlot drummer Louis “Buddy” Romero. “Bubba worked on the mastering, but wanted perfection. He’s like that.” So when Nichols offered to get involved, Murrell and Lowry jumped at his offer.
“Nichols’ final product was so close to what Bubba had done” says Lowry. “It was sort of an eye-opener for Bubba to realize the caliber of work he could do.”
When the new Best Zydeco or Cajun Album Grammy category was announced in the summer of 2007 by the Recording Academy, Murrell immediately started discussing a recording project with Simien and his keyboard player, Danny Williams. Williams says “I have known Bubba for a very long time; so when Terrance and I were looking for someone to mix and master our CD in the studio and someone we can trust we thought of Joshua Murrell (Bubba). He did a great job. Thanks again, Bubba, for a job well done!” Simien agrees. “I think Bubba did a great job mixing and co_producing this CD. We really appreciate all of his hard work.”
“Terrance and Cynthia (Simien’s wife and manage) made this category happen” says Murrell. “It was just right that Terrance and the guys should have an entry this year.” Simien had long since been considering a live album, and the time was right. The Simiens, Williams, and Murrell put together a plan that focused on live recordings on an upcoming tour.
Recording engineer and sound technician Richard Trahan and Murrell consulted about recording before the band departed. Trahan has worked with Simien and his band for years, and captured the raw live tracks.
“Richard made my job of mixing and mastering much easier,” says Murrell. As for being on hand for Simien’s Grammy pre-telecast live performance, Trahan joked that he was going “to keep an eye on the sound guys from Los Angeles - they don’t work with accordions often!”
The first Best Zydeco or Cajun Album Grammy comes home to Louisiana, and it’s great news for all Louisiana musicians. It’s also great news for all those involved in the album, most of whom are Louisianians as well. Reid Wick, Gulf Coast Membership Liason for the Recording Academy’s Memphis Chapter, commented about Louisiana music: “There’s a world of musical and recording talent right here. We’re delighted to have the input and support of so many Louisiana musicians.”
So what’s next for Murrell? He agrees with Wick about the talent here. "South Louisiana has the biggest collection of talent I have seen anywhere. We have the best that there is.” Murrell has many irons in the fire already: He continues to play with Blue Merlot, and B & B on the Rock - a Gospel duo he shares with Brenda Lowry. He also plays keyboards and bass with Ronnie Vice’s South Louisiana Blues Revue. He’s already been contacted by swamp pop meisters Willie “Tee” Trahan and Warren Storm about a live recording, and is working with Terry Dupuy’s recently restored Teche Theatre (performance venue and recording studio) in St. Martinville and Mark Miller’s Master Tracks studio in Crowley.
In summarizing his career (and juggling family matters with it), Murrell says, “It’s taken a while, but I’m back on track. I know I’m one of many, many Louisiana musicians and engineers when I say how much I appreciate the hard work Terrance and Cynthia and others, like Gerald Breaux (of the Lafayette Convention & Visitor’s Bureau), have put into making this category happen. It’s opened up doors for all of us.”
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