If you watched the CBS3 Philly morning show, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard Kicking Sunrise. CBS adopted their song, “Here’s to the Sunrise,” for their theme, creating a magnificent opportunity for this band-turned-pop duo from Williamstown, New Jersey. In the wake of COVID-19, the group dissolved into an expressive twosome now consisting of vocalist Joe Murphy and drummer Mark Altamaro.
Kicking Sunrise recently dropped their new single, “Rest of My Life” just in time for Valentine’s Day (and I’m not ashamed to admit that it made me tear up once or twice). It was written for Murphy’s girlfriend-now-financée, and the accompanying music video ends with a surprise proposal. (Spoiler alert, she said yes!). “Rest of My Life” is a song for people not only in love, but who have experienced true love. And true love is like seeing a ghost— it doesn’t exist until you experience it, and when you do, you know. Murphy certainly knows, and that’s what “Rest of My Life” is all about. Fresh from a haircut, Murphy met me for a virtual Q&A on music, love, and living in the moment.
In 2020, you went from a full band to a pop-duo. How has that transition been for you?
JM: I think it’s been crazy! We had been a band since 2014/2015 when we really started to form and released our first album. But we all got older and realized that everyone had their own skills and desires. I’m sure the pandemic escalated a lot of it too. Our former bassist and stage programmer Ryan Hornibrook (“RYZE”) still does a lot of co-writing with me and some of our production work.
The traveling, performing—that’s really where my heart lies. It’s where I get the most out of my music career, being on stage. [But] that’s not for everybody. It really just got to a point where they no longer wanted to be touring members of the band, so it’s just Mark and me now. We’ve always gotten along and seen eye-to-eye on a lot of things, so we just came to a point where we’re like, “Okay, that’s what works best.” We’ve been friends since we were about three or four years old in Williamstown, New Jersey. And we’re still there, playing music.
You guys have had a lot of media exposure, from The Pavelina Show to being featured in Major League Baseball, the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, and now CBS Philadelphia. Tell us more about the experience of being the CBS3 Philly house band.
JM: Yes! I mean, I don’t watch the news but people [say] “Hey! I heard you on the news this morning!” So that’s a cool thing, just to have that exposure because that’s [the tri-state area] where we do a lot of our gigs. It was a cool experience!
Let’s turn our attention to your new single, “Rest of My Life.” Joe, you say that the song is “based on the realization of loving everything about someone…” Could you elaborate on that a little more?
JM: This idea started because we had been dating for a while, and my fiancée has been through the ups and downs of this band, the traveling, the long-distance when we went to California [to live and write the album “Here’s to the Sunrise.” I always knew I wanted to be with her and what influenced it partially was the pandemic stripping music from me. Music has always been the biggest part of my life, no matter what. And I used to get caught up in it. She was always there to support me through all of that. When the whole entertainment industry was shut down, I went through a bit of a lull—it was just gone. “What do I have left?” Well, my fiancée was still there at the end of the day. It didn’t matter if I was a singer on stage or not, she was there just for me! Through 2020, I realized that “I need to marry this girl!”
I brought it up to Ryan, and he had an idea [musically] and he played it for me and I loved it! I had a video idea, and it was going to be totally candid. My fiancée is used to me asking for her to be in a music video. She kept asking me “Why are you so excited to shoot this video?” I told her I had a new camera that I wanted to try.
Part of what makes it so sweet is that not only is it etched into time forever, but you can see the connection, the genuine love you have for each other. It makes the song come to life!
JM: That’s great feedback, thank you! She was thrilled with it. I thought she’d be fine with doing this as a music video for the single too. She was just happy to have a ring!
Is “Rest of My Life” going to be followed by an EP or full-length album?
JM: We haven’t decided yet, but we’re kinda trying this new thing, seeing what works, what doesn’t work. We want to pick up some more momentum because we haven’t released music in a long time. Our goal is to release singles, one song per month. After that, we’re going to see if we can gain some momentum and reach more listeners for the music.
This might be me reading into everything, but is there something about sunsets/sunrises that resonates with you guys? There’s the band name, proposing at Sunset Beach in Cape May, or is that just me?
JM: Wow, I don’t know! Maybe we’re coming full circle and we don’t even realize it. The words in my songs are meant to bring feelings of positivity, I gravitate towards music that makes me feel better. With the name [Kicking Sunrise] we were just all about good vibes from the start. So yeah, maybe you’re on to something there!
You guys are certainly living up to the positivity vibe. Even if the song isn’t about sunshine, you’re channeling it and that’s refreshing!
JM: I don’t like to listen to music to be sad, because if I’m sad, I want to feel better. Everyone wants music to be relatable, [and] I try to make music that resonates with people. But I also want to make music that makes me feel good.
What musical influences come into play for Kicking Sunrise?
JM: I’ve always been a huge fan of Andy Grammer because of what he stands for. I listen to a lot of pop, [but] I like a bit of everything. Growing up, I listened to classic rock, rock-n-roll, and then [was part of] the pop-punk scene in high school. When I met the other guys [Kicking Sunrise members] I started getting more into R&B, funk, and hip-hop. That’s where I’ve been for the last few years. I spent so much time listening to rock, [and] I like to be as well-rounded as possible. Mark was raised on rock too, and [came] out of the punk scene. He likes a lot of Blink-182, Travis Barker stuff. Mark’s into a lot of hardcore music, so he’s a very heavy-hitting drummer, which is awesome! Mark is very quiet, but when we play shows, if you’re there, you’re going to listen to him. His style demands attention.
I don’t think people realize how connected music genres are. They come from the same emotions, they cross paths. Rap, punk, pop, even country and goth; it’s all intertwined.
JM: Yes! I agree 100 percent.
What’s on the horizon for Kicking Sunrise?
JM: When you’re running your own business [or in a creative field, you’re] always needing more and you’re never satisfied, [you] never feel like you’ve reached success. I’ve gotten to a point where—again this comes with this past year—I had to learn to just be, to look back and just go, “Okay, I’m content with where I am right now and what I’m doing. [I’m] not trying to force anything.”
So, I guess what’s next for me…just accepting the fact that I can play music. I’m still on stage, that’s when I feel the most alive, the most like myself. The fact that I can do that, [you know] because not everybody can. Especially now. That, to me, is successful. I’m not going to look for what’s next anymore or have these crazy expectations like I used to. [I’m] just going to be in the moment, just appreciate the little things like my fiancée and building a family.
*Cover photo provided by Right Coast Music, by Gabriel DeSanti .