Prose and verses

At 17 Michael Murray was homeless and sleeping rough. Six years, one son, and one pivotal YouTube video later, he is on the cusp of a UK tour and releasing an EP with his band, Prose. He tells his story. Interview: Zoe Johnson

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When I was young my dad was heavily on drugs and a bad alcoholic. My mum split up with him when I was really young, and married my stepdad – who was a bad alcoholic as well. 

When I was 17 my mum and my stepdad split up, and my mum moved to Canada with my younger sister. Me and my older brother ended up staying. We’d not really experienced living on our own, so we weren’t prepared for what was coming. The house ended up getting taken off us – we lived there right up until the point where they boarded up the windows – and then we both ended up just couch surfing, not even together. I had a few friends so I was dotting about on different couches before sleeping rough. That went on for a long time.

Music was always a big thing for me – even before I was homeless. I would always draw from, and write about, my personal experiences so music became the only thing to focus on.

“It sounds like a cliché but I knew that I was supposed to do something with music”

I did some stupid things, but I never really let it get out of hand and knocked it on the head quite quickly while a few of my friends around me didn’t. I didn’t want to carry on heading down that path and wanted to focus on my music. Music gave me a purpose, a reason to keep pushing on and not just completely give up, because I could have easily gone down a completely different path.

I was always writing lyrics and I used to do solo rapping around Manchester. My cousin Dave used to make me some beats and produce my music. But he also used to make music with his mate Lee, who was in a rock band.

We met up with Lee, made one song, and then just didn’t stop. We never really sat down and said, “this is a band”, but we just never stopped making music. It happened really naturally, and felt right.

David and Lee helped me a lot as well when I was homeless. They would get me to the studio every week, and that helped me get out of that scene of just hanging around on the streets. I had something meaningful to focus on. I felt like people needed me and wanted to be involved with me.

One of my friends who had a video channel on YouTube asked if he could film us. We went round and he filmed us with a little digital camera and put a song up. We got a call saying that Naughty Boy, the producer from London, had seen it and he asked us down to London to make some songs with him. We knew it was going to change our lives.

We recorded two songs that sounded pretty good. Naughty Boy fell in love with the music and asked us to come down the following week. Before we knew it we’d signed a publishing deal and had some of the world’s biggest record labels saying what they could do for us.

It might sound like a cliché but I always knew that I was supposed to do something with music, but because of the situation that I was in I could never see how the transition was going to happen.

I think – I hope – that emotion comes through the music. But I also hope that it’s not all doom and gloom and ‘poor me’. I hope that it is hopeful as well. If someone can achieve something that they have wanted ever since they were a child, despite all the other stuff, then there is a positive thing to be taken from it as well.

I write the music from personal experience, but the best compliment I could ever get is when people tell me they relate and it means a lot to them. When I was young and listening to rappers like Eminem, and relating to what they said, I thought if I could give someone the feeling they gave me then that would mean the world to me.

Prose ( EP What If? is out now on Virgin Records

Photo: Ben Parks

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