Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. Embraces His Fans and Cares for Kids This Holiday Season
Singer Landau Eugene Murphy Jr., recently completed his “Home For the Holidays” Tour of West Virginia with special guest Holly Forbes from NBC’s “The Voice.”
Murphy broke onto the global stage in 2011, winning season six of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.” Since then, he has used his fame to raise millions of dollars for charities that help children and the homeless, and he serves on the board of directors for the Children’s Home Society of West Virginia.
He spoke with David Adkins to discuss his second annual “Kid’s Joy Toy Drive,” and to chat about touring again.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
David Adkins: What is it like being able to come back and be on tour, post-pandemic?
Landau: It's like a dream come true all over again. I wasn't able to actually tour or even be on stage and perform in front of my fans. I'm a people person. You go from singing to a sold-out crowd of real faces, to just now a camera. It’s like you can't interact with the people like I normally would do. I love to tell my stories while I'm singing the songs or after I sing a song, I'll tell a story about my life. I like to let people know what it's like to be me or know what it's like to follow your dreams. So I always give my testimony. When they scream out, “I love you Landau!” I'll say “I love you” back. “What's your name?” And I'll make them a part of the show. That’s just how I stay quick-witted.
You get on stage, that's actually your time to vent. That’s actually your time to have a conversation with some people. I live alone with my four-year-old son. So me and him, we play video games or play with his wrestling man and things like that, but I really don't have people to talk to about what's going on. When I'm on stage, that is my comfy couch. [Laughs] Ya know I get up there and I can release all the jokes that I've had in my head before the show. [Laughs] You know what I’m saying? Once you get on stage, man, that audience is your bloodline, it feeds you everything, and it comes back to you so wonderful that it puts a smile on your face and it releases all of that stuff that you really wanted to actually get out.
David Adkins: Do you find a difference in the reception you received from fans within West Virginia versus outside of West Virginia?
Landau: The reception is good everywhere. Everybody approaches me and says, “Man, we voted for you on the show a million times, we are so glad you won. We knew you were gonna win the first time you sang a song.” It's different out of state, to in-state, because when you're at home you're in front of your friends, your relatives, the people who know you, they see you everyday. It's hard to perform in front of those people. But that's your learning ground. When you're on stage in front of your family and friends, they're actually there and they're screaming out stuff.
They're like, “Man, when next time you get back to the Piggly Wiggly” –they all got a different thing, man, and you, you have to be very witty, you have to be very fast. The audience that's out of state, they're gonna scream out, “Oh, we love you,” “God bless you,” and things like that. And then it's just easy to deal with.
David Adkins: You mentioned the genre is unifying for different generations, different people from walks of life and being. Leaving the state, being able to connect with people from everywhere. What has that been like?
Landau: That's been amazing because you learn so much, you can always learn something every day from different people. Certain people will see you as a fan, a lot of fans that come at you as a mentor. I mean, they’re fans at the same time and are telling you how to stay grounded, how to keep focused, they're actually telling you how to invest, telling you things that you need to keep going. Then you have fans that just keep you motivated, that receive you as somebody that they really, really look up to. So that's another part of it that keeps you motivated and keeps you grounded, because now you have a responsibility. Different people from different walks of life and you just embrace every bit of it, every moment of it.
You know, I've been in a place where I was singing, there was a guy sitting over at the bar. I was in a casino, I was doing a show, and I was doing my soundcheck. And while I'm sitting, there was a guy sitting at the bar in the casino. And he’s upset that someone was sounding like Frank Sinatra, he was really really upset. But he was happy that he was hearing Frank Sinatra, but when he saw who I was, he was upset. He thought there was a track and I was lip-synching. And so he starts cursing at the bartender. Like there's no way this guy's up this thing and it sounded like Frank Sinatra. “You mean to tell me this colored guy is up there right now. And he sounds like Frank Sinatra. That's BS.” I mean, he was just really mad.
I can see it from a distance, but I couldn't hear what was going on. So the lady comes up to me after my soundcheck, she's got tears running down her face. And she's like, “Mr. Murphy, I'm so sorry you had to hear what that man was saying. I'm so sorry. We asked him to leave.” And I was like, “What was going on?” She said “He was just mad, because he thought that you were lip-synching, and there's no way that a colored man could sound like Frank Sinatra. And you sounded just as good or better to Frank Sinatra. He was so upset.” And I was just like wow. It was flattering to me that I could upset this man that much.
It’s flattering to me to have people who come to the show. They'll show me pictures of when they dressed up on Halloween as me, and these are white males. [Laughs] You know? They put dreadlocks in their hair, brown on their face. And I embrace those moments, I’m like “I’m flattered that you’d dress up like me for Halloween,” but then there are some people that can see me laughing at that or liking that moment and being like “oh my God, you’re making black-face cool.” I’m like, “No I’m flattered because this guy dressed up like me for halloween. He dressed up like me.” I don’t see the negative in that. So many people want to point out the negative in certain things, and I just don’t. I see the happiness in every bit of it. It's not like he was out there making fun of me and mocking me. He was actually proud to dress up like Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. You have different people from different walks of life all coming together under one roof. Enjoying the music. Enjoying the stories. Enjoying me or what my journey was like to get to that place. And that’s what I give when I do my concerts.
David Adkins: Holly Forbes is a guest on your tour. As both incredible singers from Appalachia, do you find a lot in common?
Landau: She's very humble and I love that about her. She's not arrogant. She's not a diva. She's just like me and you — very down to earth. She's approachable. She thanks her fans for all the support from her run on the television show and now people have come out to actually see her. I mean, when we go across the state doing promos across the state of West Virginia, t's not overwhelming for her. I think she's handling it very well. It is like a head-turner, though, to her, she's like, “Wow, I can't believe it's happening.” Like ya they’re gonna love you, just take pictures with people, hug them, you know, or keep your distance, whichever one you prefer. But make sure you just show them that you respect and love the fact that they support you.” You know, once she hits the studio, and it's her own CDs, they're gonna fly off the shelves because everybody loves her. a lot of people that come off those shows, they have a shelf life of maybe two to six months. And then you don't hear anything else about them. We’re trying to make sure that doesn't happen to Holly. Same way we made sure it didn't happen to me.
David Adkins: You have to keep that longevity going.
Landau: Yes, you hit the ground running, like Fred Flintstone. [Laughs]
David Adkins: Last year during the pandemic, you started Landau Kid’s Joy Toy Drive. This year it returned. What’s the best part of being able to do this for children who are struggling?
Landau: Just to put smiles on the kids' faces that are in the hospital at this time of year. Give some joy to some kids who feel left out or can't be around their family at this time of the year because they're, you know, in the hospital. So what I did was, I started Landhaus Kids Joy Toy Drive. And what I did was set up a whole website. You can actually click on the website and it takes you straight to Amazon, you can buy a toy from $1, or up to $20 bucks, for kids age zero up to like 12/13 years old. I get all the toys, then we take all the toys and wrap them ourselves. And then I deliver him to the hospital. As far as COVID is, you know, going around, it's hard to get into these hospitals. And sometimes I just drop off a big box of toys. The nurses pass the toys out to the kids. We try to find out how many kids are in there. So we can drop off the right amount because we want to spread them out to all the kids, we don't want any kids to miss out. As far as it started last year, it was kind of small, but now this year it got a whole lot bigger, so I’ve been wrapping a whole lot of toys. And it's still some toys coming in now that we still have to wrap. I want this thing to actually expand beyond the hospitals and actually start rewarding some kids for getting good grades in school, staying in school, listening to your parents – things like that just reward the kids to make them feel appreciated when they're doing great.
David Adkins: Well, I guess there’s just one last thing to ask and that’s: how are you planning on spending your holidays.
Landau: Before Christmas, I'm packing up all of these toys that I have wrapped right now, and I'm taking them around to the hospitals, passing them out to the kids, and then after that, it's coming home, spending Christmas, and then flying my four year old out to Disney World. His birthday is Dec. 30. This is actually his second time I took him during the pandemic. So now I'm taking him for his birthday and he has no clue. He has no idea.