Murphey, Lone Tree orchestra join forces

Singer-songwriter appearing in two shows at arts center


Though Michael Martin Murphey’s musical repertoire extends well beyond the hit single “Wildfire,” he never tires of singing his signature song.

“I’m not exaggerating or making this up; I enjoy singing it more and more every day,” he said. “Every time I sing it, people light up. Thank the Lord it wasn’t a song about drinking, depression and divorce (but) a song about a horse and the wide open plains.”

Murphey will perform “Wildfire” and other pieces with the Lone Tree Symphony Orchestra May 3 and 4 at the Lone Tree Arts Center. Gov. John Hickenlooper will introduce Murphey during his May 4 performance.

The show is a unique blend of cowboy and orchestra music, one Murphey finds natural and appropriate.

“You need a big, sweeping, grand sound to capture the majesty of the Rocky Mountains and the great, wide open plains of our country,” he said. “No one is more excited than me. I love doing this show. I really enjoy my other shows, but when you get to work with anywhere from 48 to 100 musicians and collaborate with them, you walk away humbled and inspired.”

Off stage, the 68-year-old rancher divides his time among three homes in Wisconsin, Texas and southern Colorado. He and his wife own 35 brood mares and two studs. One of his daughters is a trainer in Colorado, who prepares Murphey’s horses for competition.

He’s devoted to promoting and protecting the ranching and farming lifestyle, and uses proceeds from his musical performances to buy agricultural land.

“I support what I love and I believe you’re giving back when you do that,” he said. “You’re adding to America and the world’s food supply and you’re taking care of the land, keeping it open space, not giving it over to some developer. I’m deeply committed to making sure that doesn’t disappear.”

Murphey also wrote the theme song and provided some material for a public broadcasting program called “America’s Heartland,” that focuses on farmers’ and ranchers’ experiences.

Strong as his love of the land is, music remains his first life, and “Wildfire” his most ethereal song.

“I dreamed every scene in that song,” he said. “It was so arresting I woke up and wrote it down on a yellow pad. I had this vision of a ghostly, mysterious woman … riding across a dark, flat prairie landscape with the Badlands and the Black Hills in the background.

“I really can’t fully tell you what the song means. It’s very symbolic of freedom and escape. But other than that, it’s a mystery to me. I’ve spent the rest of my life trying to figure out what it means.”

As Murphey’s dream helped transform his life, he encourages others to pay attention to theirs.

“We’re so weighed down by the business of life,” he said. “All that fills up space in your brain that should be used for dreaming. If I could say anything to people, I would say, ‘Don’t live by your goals. Don’t live by your appointments. Live by your dreams.’”

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