CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — Landau Eugene Murphy Jr., America’s Got Talent Season 6 winner and Logan, West Virginia native, will be returning yet again to his home state for his “Home for the Holidays” Christmas tour.
In September, 12 News met with Murphy in Clarksburg while he was between shows to talk about his inspirations, how his life has changed since he won America’s Got Talent, and what he’s been up to in the 11 years since he won.
Q: What have you been up to in these last 10 years since you won America’s Got Talent?
A: Oh, it’s been a whirlwind. I just wrote a book. I’ve been in a movie, also been to Dubai, you know, overseas, doing things and selling out shows all across the United States.
Q: How good has your year been so far?
A: It’s been great since the pandemic. During the pandemic, I actually went back to high school and got my high school equivalency. I went back to high school after being out of high school for 30 years and never graduated. So that was one of the accolades that was always in the back of my mind that I always wanted, besides all the fame and everything else. So during the pandemic, I did that, and then once the pandemic lifted the shows started coming back, so now it’s Florida, Boca Raton, you go to California, Vegas, Texas, Dubai, everywhere man, you just go around the world doing what you love to do.
Q: You mentioned Dubai, what it was like to go over there and perform?
A: Oh, wow… it was Las Vegas on steroids. I mean, it’s like 50 times Las Vegas if you asked me, and it was very safe, very clean, I mean, you can actually leave your phone on the sidewalk, come back two days later, and it’ll still be there because they’re really strict over there. So I didn’t see any arguments, I didn’t see any riffraff or anything like that, and it’s just a wonderful experience. Because a lot of people you know, here at home, they’ll tell you, ‘I don’t know if you want to go there.’ Yes, I want to go there. I want to see the world. That’s why I’ve been blessed with this talent, and also to pay it forward. So I was performing for the USA Pavilion Expo 2020, which got pushed back to 2021, and it was just a phenomenal experience. They made paradise out in the middle of desert sand, like really, it’s paradise in the middle of nowhere. And I got to perform on the USA Pavilion stage, which is the Elon Musk stage, they had a replica of Elon Musk’s rocket ship on my stage, and all the chairs and everybody’s tables were under the legs of the rocket and it was just amazing. I picked up a whole lot of following over there and I think I’m gonna get another gig because of that gig, in Japan in 2023 for the expo over there, so it worked out great, and I took my rhythm section with me, some hometown guys, and we just had a great time.
Q: So to bring it back domestically, you like to do a lot of shows in West Virginia, so what’s your favorite part about performing in West Virginia, and what keeps you coming back?
A: I think the best part about it is bringing that showmanship and that part of my fame home so my people can actually see it. Because most of the time we have to go to Las Vegas, we have to go to LA, to see these types of shows. And I think there’s a lot of talent here that can be showcased along with my talent, and they get to see the big show, they get to see the journey. They’re part of the journey, they’re actually the people who voted for me, so why would I take it somewhere else and give it away, when I could just bring it back to the Robinson Grand and let our people see what they actually helped make? Without my fans, I’m still singing in the carwash, I’m still singing in the shower. So I think it’s a great blessing to be able to pay it forward and bring it back home and let our people see it, and that’s what keeps me coming back.
It’s just being in my home state and being able to give back because we do a lot of things for charity around here also tied into these shows. Maybe sometimes we go to nursing homes and sing 15-16 songs without them even knowing I’m there, without you guys even knowing I’m there. Nobody in the news knows I’m there when I go to this nursing home, I sing 15 songs for the residents, and then walk out and come in here, do the soundcheck and do the show. So it’s just my way of paying it forward. I’ve been blessed and I know it, and I can’t hold that to myself because that’d be selfish, and I just feel like God will take it away if I actually did that. So that’s my way of giving back.
Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. will be performing three shows in West Virginia as part of his Home For the Holidays Tour.
- Dec. 3 in Clarksburg at the Robinson Grand Performing Arts Center
- Dec. 4 in Keyser at the WVU Potomac State College McKee Arts Center
- Dec. 15 in Point Pleasant at the Point Pleasant High School Auditorium
Tickets can be found on Murphy’s website here.
Q: You’re doing your holiday tour this winter, so what’s your favorite part about doing shows during the holiday season?
A: Well, holidays always give us all that wonderful kid feeling in our gut. You know, you can’t sleep, you wake up, you try not to see Santa Claus come down the chimney! Those things. So it takes me back to my childhood, and then it just spreads love to everybody, you know? You’re doing a lot for charity, giving out toys for tots and things like that, and coats for kids that can’t afford these things, so Christmas is the season of giving. And that’s what I based my whole career around; it’s just paying it forward and giving back. So the holidays is perfect for me.
Q: How did you settle on your particular style of music and what can you tell me about the musical influences and what drew you to them?
A: Oh, you can blame that on Bugs Bunny. Bugs Bunny Merrie Melodies is the reason I started doing Sinatra’s and Bing Crosby’s and things like that, and a lot at Christmas time. You know around Christmas time you see the infomercials on TV when they start singing “Let It Snow” and all those songs — and it was Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole. And so that was part of my childhood, and being in the environment that I was brought up in after my parent’s divorce, I was moved from West Virginia to Detroit, so it was a lot.
It was a different environment. A lot of gangs and violence. These songs kept me in a child state of mind, so I didn’t have to grow up too fast, and it kept me away from a whole lot of violence. So even on the basketball courts, instead of trash-talking when I dunked on you, I would sing Fly Me to the Moon. And it kept the bullies from beating me up, you know? Or trying to jump on me, or possibly getting a gun and shooting up the playground. So it was just part of it.
And going back to the Bugs Bunny thing, the singing rooster, he would come out and sing, then all those chickens we go ‘Oh, Frankie!’ and lay all the eggs to the ceiling. You remember that’s why you’re laughing! That was part of our childhood, I wanted to make fun of those things, and I would sing those songs not realizing God was basically grooming me. He was getting me ready for where I am today. And then once I grew up and actually was able to see the big picture, I started using it to raise money for less fortunate kids, abused women, abused children, veterans and people in retirement homes because that’s their era of music. So I just wanted to bring something back to our grandparents who paved the way for us.
Q: What do you think is one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned since winning America’s Got Talent and getting to where you are now?
A: The biggest lesson is stay humble. Stay humble and never forget where you come from, and that’s why I come to my home state to do my Christmas tours or just any shows around the state. There’s always going to be California, there’s always going to be Las Vegas, there’s always gonna be Florida or overseas, but there’s no place like home. And the biggest problem that we have here in our state is, most people, they grow up and then they move to New York, and they forget all about how they were brought up or where they come from. I just never want to do that. So the biggest lesson that I learned is just to stay humble, and never forget where you come from. There’s no place like home.
Everywhere I go around the world, there’s always West Virginians. I’ve been all the way to Shanghai, China, and guess where the man who brought me to Shanghai was from? Parkersburg. His name was Michael Craig Enoch, he ran the Mercedes Benz Arena in Shanghai, China. He has what? 51,000 employees? And it’s just amazing. That shows you how far we’ve branched out. And then when I go to California, it’s like the first three rows of my fans are all people in West Virginia from Boone County. I go to Florida, and all the people from Logan are in Florida. The McCormick’s and the Veers and the Queens, all those people have summer homes down in Florida so they come to my shows in Cocoa Beach, or Jupiter, or Orlando, or anywhere I’m at, so I always feel like I’m surrounded by my hometown people, and that’s great. I really appreciate that, but there’s no place like home, so I love to come home and always pay it forward and give back.
Q: What’s something you have to deal with on a daily basis that a lot of people might not expect?
A: Talking to a lot of fans, talking to a lot of people, and I enjoy it because I’m a people person, so I feel like if I was to meet Michael Jordan or Michael Jackson I would want the same. I want to come up to Michael Jordan like, ‘look, man, I’m your biggest fan, I bought all your shoes, and watched all your videotapes in slow motion just to learn how to play the game of basketball. You touched my life in such a tremendous way.’ But I never got that opportunity to tell Michael Jordan, Michael Jackson, or Mike Tyson that.
When my fans come up to me, I give them that moment to share their experience, and they come up to me and they say all kinds of things. ‘I was sitting with my mother-in-law, she never smiles but the moment you hit television, my mom’s face lit up.’ Or, ‘My mom was in a nursing home and she hadn’t moved in four years, but the moment you started singing that song, she started tapping her feet.’
I mean there’s so many stories that I could stand here and tell you, but I always want to give them that moment. And that’s some of the things that I have to deal with. And it’s not really ‘having to deal with it,’ it’s what I want to deal with, I put myself in this position to deal with it. And I feel like I’m a way for them to vent those stories and those personal experiences, and to get them out through me. Then I can get on stage and talk about it until everybody else has spread it out. It’s basically like planting a seed, a tree grows, and then the seeds drop to the ground and do more. Same thing with my career; I’m trying to do the same exact thing.
But yeah, a lot of fans. You sit in a restaurant, you’re trying to eat your meal, and they come up to you. ‘I don’t mean to bother you, but I watched you on America’s Got Talent,’ and you just treat them with decency and common courtesy. Treat people the way you want to be treated. You don’t want to be rude. You don’t want to shun those people away, like ‘get away from me,’ that’s why I don’t have bodyguards. I don’t have any security. I just don’t feel like I need it. I’m very approachable, and I’ll take the time to sit and talk to you. I missed a lot of flights, talking to people and signing autographs and taking pictures at the airport, but that’s what it’s all about, you know? Spreading that music and giving back.
Q: Last question for you, if there’s one thing you could tell the community about your career, America’s Got Talent, performing, or anything like that, what would you want the people to know?
A: Never give up on your dream, and always listen to the universe. Follow your heart, stay true to who you are, and everything will be fine.