Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. Wins "America's Got Talent"

By Jamie Ruby

Landau Eugene Murphy Jr.Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. was born in Logan, West Virginia. Landau has been singing and entertaining others since a very early age. After making a bet with his then girlfriend that he could win a talent show at a local fair, he won and was asked to return and sing every year. Landau's talent eventually brought him to America's Got Talent this season, of which he was the winner.

Landau sat down to talk to the media about the competition and what is next for him.

NBC Universal Conference Call
America's Got Talent
Landau Eugene Murphy Jr.

September 15, 2011
1:00 pm CT

Landau Eugene Murphy Jr.QUESTION: All the kids on the show from Anna Graceman to the Silhouettes seem to really love you. Can you talk a little bit about the connection you had with the kids?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: My connection is just like any other person. I mean you love kids. I've got kids same ages as them so it was kind of hard for me to be in a competition and see them go home. You know I want all of them to succeed so that was our connection. I just tried to tell them to keep their feet on the ground, not to let the fame go to their head. You know? And it's just been wonderful.

QUESTION: That's so great. And now what are you going to do with the money?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: I'm going to invest my kids' future. You know? I mean my kids are very talented also. I just want them to finish their school and hopefully go off to college and pursue their dreams. You know? So that's what I want to do with the money and get a big house for my family, spend some money on my wife, pamper her a lot. You know? That's just something that I love to do.

QUESTION: What was it like up on stage last night as they told who the winner was? That's got to be the scariest moment of your life.

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: Oh yes it was. It was a crazy rollercoaster ride that I've been on. You know? But most of all I was just basically thinking about everybody back home in Logan. You know?

My family was in the audience thanks to (Mike Ferrell) from Chapmanville. I'd like to thank the (Wooten) family, (Greg) and (Kim Wooten), (Lindsey), (Olivia), (Karina Williams) from the Logan Chamber of Commerce, Judge (O'Brien). I mean all of them have really just rallied behind me and really supported me and it was just an amazing moment. You know? And sitting there waiting to hear that announcement that I won was just everything I wanted for my home state. You know? And it's been a pleasure.

QUESTION: We've seen you perform at the Chamber of Commerce dinners and other events here in Logan County in front of big crowds. What was it like performing in front of the large audience in the audition and Las Vegas and Hollywood and knowing that you had the world's eyes on you?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: Oh that was great, I loved it. I mean I'm crowd performer. I mean the bigger the crowd the better I perform so I mean as far as Vegas goes there was no audience. That's why I was kind of disappointed in my performance in Vegas. I kind of like got through that and it was kind of tough for me at that stage because there was no audience. It was just three judges that acted like they didn't even acknowledge me in New York. You know what I'm saying? And then go to Vegas they're just sitting there staring at me so that was kind of tough.

But the bigger the audience the better I perform. I love a packed house.

QUESTION: In the moment when you were on the stage and you were waiting for Nick to say the winner, did you think it was going to be you?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: Really no I did not. I mean I thought America's going to have like sympathy for the kids just like I had throughout the whole show. You know? It's been hard for me to stand up there with them and see them go home. So I really thought that America was going to vote the other way but I guess they had sympathy for me too and compassion for my story.

So it's just been nice. I love it.

QUESTION: What's the thing you're looking forward to the most about getting on the stage at Caesar's Palace?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: Catering to all my elders. I mean our elders have nothing to do. You know? It's like no one's catering to them anymore. That's what I really want to do. I just want to cater them, give them a fantastic show and bring something new to the classic crooners genre and let the youth of America and the rest of the world see how big bands operate.

QUESTION: I've interviewed a lot people from the Logan area and they all say, "You've never heard, [but] he does so much more than this crooner stuff." When you're on stage in Vegas do you think you're going to branch out from the American songbook stuff?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: Yes I'll probably throw in a couple of songs like that here and there but mainly I want to stick to the crooner thing because it is for Vegas and that's what got me to Vegas. But I also want to give a lot of my fans what they want to here so yes.

QUESTION: We heard on Tuesday night's show that you had been homeless at one point in your life, do you mind talking a little bit about that, and how you got past that?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: At that stage in my life I was living in Detroit, Michigan. My mother and my father separated in Logan, West Virginia but she moved near my brothers and sisters to Detroit. But by the time I was 21 to about 25 their relationship started breaking apart between her and her boyfriend so when she moved back to West Virginia I was basically all alone because my sisters was already gone and married off. You know? And my little brother came back to living with my mom.

And I was just up there like basically all alone so I mean I had like nowhere to go so I started sleeping in my car or under bridges. And then my sisters kind of like sort of figured out that I didn't have nowhere to go and they told me, "Hey we love you. You'd better get in the house and you can come stay in the basement or we've got an extra room."

But my pride wouldn't let me ask them to stay with them. You know? And they were just now in their new marriages and things like that so I didn't want to intrude on anybody. But you know I just had to swallow my pride and get off the street.

QUESTION: Well you've certainly come a long way. Congratulations again.

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: Thank you and thanks to my beautiful sisters for taking responsibility to getting me out of there.

QUESTION: How soon do you come home? I mean, you are going to Vegas and you have that, but a lot of people are dying to see you.

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: I should be home by Saturday evening. Right after I finish all this press. I've got press today and some more press tomorrow and I keep pressing on.

QUESTION: Is there anyone that you're looking forward to seeing when you get back?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: All of West Virginia. I don't want to just see one particular person. I would like to hug my grandmother. You know? I want to see my mother-in-law because she's been amazing support in my life - me and my wife's life right now. Yes definitely.

QUESTION: You turned yourself into, by accident maybe or just the way it worked out; you're kind of a role model. You've pulled yourself up. How does that feel?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: That feels great. You know, I don't want brag about that or try to throw it into anybody's face. I mean they gave me the Hometown Hero award, they gave me Ambassador of Fine Arts of West Virginia award. I mean I love all of that. You know, I never set out to do those things but God works in mysterious ways.

QUESTION: If you're schedule permitted -- I know it's going to be really crazy for you now -- but would you ever consider singing the national anthem by the WDU football game?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: Oh that would be like another dream come true right there. I can't wait for that opportunity really.

Landau Eugene Murphy Jr.QUESTION: Has anybody talked to you, has any producers talked to you about going into the studio and recording?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: Yes there's been a lot of producers and people in the entertainment business calling me so I'm just taking everything one step at a time and walking by faith not by sight.

QUESTION: Now that you've won, how do you feel you've grown from the guy you were in the first audition?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: I feel like I really haven't grown. I'm just being me that's it. Every time I step up on that stage and you see that audience, it's 100% me. You know? And I take a lot - I guess I can say I have grown a little bit because I worked with a lot of people that's been in the business and they gave me pointers here and there but I take everything that they tell me and just mold it into what I normally would do anyway. So it's just been wonderful.

QUESTION: Can you talk about singing with Patti LaBelle and how that felt to be up there with a legend?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: Wow that was mind blowing right there because before I even signed up for this contest my mother-in-law and I were sitting in the kitchen and she asked me if I ever got big and famous and got a chance to sing with somebody who would it be? And I told her Miss Patti LaBelle. And then once they announced I was singing with her I was just blowed away and then to meet her and to get on stage, share a stage with Patti LaBelle, introduce Patti LaBelle, I mean it was just phenomenal.

QUESTION: The season didn't seem to show a lot about what type of singing background and performing experience you had before going on the show. I know one of the reporters touched on you performing in Logan a little bit and such, can you elaborate on that?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: Yes I have a great friend back home by the name of (Rick Lowe). He owns the Town and Country Shopping Center in Chapmanville. And once he settled down or whatever he needed a blues singer for his blues (unintelligible) he was thinking about putting together because he heard about me a lot. And I went to his house. I sung "My Girl" for him. I sung "My Way" and some "Mustang Sally" and we sit down and came up with a name called Top Shelf because I felt like we should be the best of the best.

And we started touring like West Virginia and even at some point parts of Ohio. We was doing anything from R&B to R&B and blues, Wet Willie, southern rock, Eric Clapton, Rolling Stones. I mean just about anything you can think of besides the crooner stuff and I did that on my own when I wasn't with my band so. But yes we do it all.

QUESTION: I know you talked a little bit about how you've been talking to producers. So does that mean you are expecting to announce a deal in the near future?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: Oh yes I'm really expecting for that happen. So I'm just trying to take it easy right now, spend this little time that I'm going to have to rest with my family and friends then it's back to hard work.

QUESTION: During the show you also mentioned you never had a voice lesson in your life. Why was that? Was that just due to financial reasons or did you not realize how talented you were? What was the reasoning behind that?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: It was solely on financial reasons. I mean we weren't very fortunate growing up. You know? We were on welfare and things like that. So I mean there's a lot of opportunities that I could have had and my family could have, you know what I'm saying, done something about but, I mean people have their own issues. They have their own way of living. You know? Some want Cadillacs; some invest in people's futures. You know? And I had to just invest in my own at this point in my life.

QUESTION: I think that these people that have been asking the questions are probably the nicest I've ever heard. It's just so interesting to see what a good effect you've had on so many people. Do you feel a lot of responsibility now to keep up? I mean, they want you to sing at a college game, and you can probably sing at my college game too. I would love it. Do you have a big burden now, not in a bad way burden but...?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: No I don't feel any burden at all. I mean this is what I signed up for. I knew what would come from this if I was to win that show or just being air in front of 14 million plus fans on the show I mean. And I give 100% of myself so it's really not tough for me to do that. It's just me being me just like me standing here talk - sitting here talking to you on this, same thing you get on TV when I hit the stage.

QUESTION: Now with your background and now that you have so much money, do you have plans to - I would think you have enough money to maybe start a foundation or do a lot of charity work? What are you going to do to really make an impact?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: I'm just going to cater to all my elder, put on the best performance I possibly can. I'd like to give a little, you know what I'm saying, start my own charities, because I've done charities for probably about a good 10, 12 years and for the weekend program back in Logan of Children's Home Society. So I'm very charitable. You know? And I just want to do a while lot of wonderful things for all the people I heard that can't do things for themselves. You know?

QUESTION: You are living the American dream and I wanted to ask you, when we talked to Piers last night he said that he would love to read a book by you. Have you had any thoughts about telling your story by writing a book?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: Yes I mean I would love to sit down and do that with somebody and get a publisher and all those nice, wonderful things. It would be a very good, exciting, sad book. You know? I think a lot of people would really, you know, relate to my story. I mean it's not just me going through this, it's a whole lot of people in this world going through the same thing that I've been through. So I think a lot of people would relate to it if I did get the opportunity to sit down and write a book.

QUESTION: Your Vegas show, like what is the biggest show that you can imagine? I mean because you have that whole style, that Rat Pack style, are you thinking of maybe adding any other singers to your show? What do you envision for it?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: My vision is just to please everybody so it's going to be based on what my fans what to see and most of them love to hear me do everything so I want to kind of mix it up. But I also want to bring that Rat Pat in there so heavy that they're really, really going to love that part of it. You know? I want them to really fall in love with that music because I fell in love with it and it changed my whole life.

QUESTION: Now that you have won and you have said you're going back to school, is it school first or music and why?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: It's school first because everybody needs some more knowledge. You know? I'm just trying to do things in the right way. I've got to school myself as far as how this business works because I mean I am still a rookie in this as far the paperwork goes. So I want to educate myself on that and then it's music always and till the end.

QUESTION: So when do you think that we'll be able to expect the album or a song release from you?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: I'm not sure on that right now. Everything's in the works so keep me in your prayers and stay tuned.

Landau Eugene Murphy Jr.QUESTION: On your journey, I researched that you once were a car washer, like do you think you'd ever go back to washing cars?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: No I'll probably open up a nice detail shop that treats everybody like a VIP. I think everybody should get red carpet treatment wherever they go when they're spending their money. I mean that's the hardest thing to find like when you pull up and someone's washing your car you expect them to do it the same way that you would do your own. So that's the type of place I would want to open up for all the regular 9 to 5 people out there, just make them all feel important.

SCIFI VISION: After your initial audition, do you decide everything on your own, like what you're going to sing, what you're going to wear, or do they have people there coaching you?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: No that's why I picked AGT, America's Got Talent, because they let you do exactly what you know how to do and be yourself and show that in 90 seconds. You know? So even the wardrobe they give me a lot of options. They show you clothes, you like them or you can pick whatever else you want at least that's what happened to me. I picked exactly what I wanted to wear, how I wanted it to look, how I wanted it to fit me, down to the shoes and the socks. You know? And every song pick was something that I felt like was going to get to get me to the next song so it was just like I planned the whole thing all the way down to "My Way."

SCIFI VISION: What was your favorite moment being on the show aside from the finale, because obviously I know that's going to be full of the best moments, but during the rest of the season?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: The best moment for me was going to New York and singing Frank Sinatra for the first time in front of New Yorkers and sticking the gum in my pocket. You know? That was like the highlight of my whole journey.

QUESTION: You came on the show and you did a genre that technically the show is very into, sort of this explosive grandiose stuff, which is so much of what the judges said they were looking for so often. But you came on and you just went out there and you sang and you sang in a music type that wasn't particularly current, but it really worked. Did you think that you might face a little bit of struggle and you might not get as far as you would because of the type of music that you sang?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: Oh no I felt like I would get at least to the top 10 with the genre that I picked because this is a show for Vegas. You know? The winner headlines a show in Vegas and obviously gets a million dollars but the only thing that's missing in Vegas is the Frank Sinatra or Rat Pack. You know? So I brought all of that back and all the young generation that's watching this show, it's the number one show in America so I mean it's letting the young generation see that. You see a lot of little kids around running around singing Frank Sinatra songs.

QUESTION: Would you consider this to be your sort of favorite genre of music and how did that become such an important part of who you are?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: I don't have like a favorite genre of music. I love music. The only thing I haven't really touched on is bluegrass I mean but I'm pretty sure I could accomplish that. And I just love it. It just makes me feel good. That genre, that crooner classic genre it's just blue skies and puffy cloud music. It doesn't discriminate. You know? It doesn't brag. It's just happy fun music. It keeps chivalry alive. You know?

QUESTION: Everybody's been talking about the fact you did the Sinatra stuff, but the judges were really surprised when you performed that. How did you get involved in that kind of music? I mean I guess everybody expected you to do R&B.

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: Yes I got into that by just commercials, hearing Frank Sinatra on commercials back in the 80s and things like that and then Married with Children came out and the theme song was Love and Marriage so I kind of like tuned into that every night.

And then on the basketball court when I would play basketball, I wasn't like the biggest guy so when I would dunk on somebody I would sing, "I've got you under my skin" or I'd shoot a jumper in their face I'd go, "Fly me to the moon." It was just something that I did instead of just trash talking to people I would sing to them on the course.

And it went from that to my friends making me bets, telling me that I can't sing that in a public bar. And then I made my wife a bet -- well then she was my girlfriend at the time -- that I could win a local arts and crafts festival talent show and I won that so it just snowballed from there.

QUESTION: Have you talked to anybody yet about what it's like to perform in Las Vegas, because there's things like Vegas throat because of the weather there and the audiences are a little different. Has anybody given you any advice?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: No. We went down there on the show as you can see. They took us on a red-eye flight down there real quick and they showed us around. You know? I just expect it to be like any other place. I'm not going like start shaking in my boots or anything. It's just going to be a fantastic show..

QUESTION: I know you just touched it lightly on the last couple of questions, but when I first saw you and you surprised everyone by singing the Rat Pack genre, how did you feel about the first impressions that the judges gave you in their critique?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: It was kind of harsh, you know what I'm saying, because a lot of people try to judge you as soon as they see you and they don't even know what you're about. You know? But I think I opened up America's eyes that you can't do that. You know? Everybody deserves a chance. I mean even with the gum in my mouth I think I still nailed the song with no problem because I do it anyway. I do that in bars. I do that anywhere I'm at with gum in my mouth and hit every note. So it was just the way that they wanted to, you know what I'm saying, make me do what they wanted me to do. So that's why I just stuck it in my pocket and kept it moving.

QUESTION: When you decided to start with that genre, when you did your auditions and you were back at home singing that type of genre, you were talking about some of your friends making bets with you. What was there first reaction when they knew that you wanted to sing that kind of music?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: My friend that was back home that made a bet with me he told me, "Yeah do it." But a lot of people like that's close to my family that like really told me I was stupid like, "Man are you crazy? Nobody wants to hear that. You better go out there and do what you do." I was like, "This is what I do." I love this music. This music is the only music that's out there that's missed. You know?

Everybody's doing this and that and the other but you don't' hear nobody doing like big band Rat Pack stuff no more besides Michael Buble and Harry Connick Jr. You know? Dean - what's his name - Tony Bennett is still around. You know? I would love to like work with him or Queen Latifah, she does a nice jazz set. So I mean it's just bringing back that good, that good music man. I'm sick of all the technology that's going on. I like people who play instruments. You know? I want to feel the cello and all those things.

QUESTION: A lot of people hold stereotypes against black men and I think when you sang you blew a lot of people away and you put a lot of those generalizations to shame. So do you ever have to deal with stereotyping or racial barriers within your career?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: No I'm colorblind myself. I mean I've been to a doctor and they like labeled me as a colorblind person so I don't even see that. And you know, I sing music from my heart. It's got nothing to do with my color, it's got nothing to do with the way I walk or the clothes I wear. It's all about--

QUESTION: I also think while coming this far obviously is a big success in and of itself but have you ever had any other career aspirations besides singing?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: Basketball. I mean Michael Jordan taught me so much without saying a word to me. You know? I never met the man in my life and I feel like he's been in my back pocket forever. You know? I really should have went to the NBA. But you know life happens. You know? Things occur so I didn't get that.

QUESTION: I was curious on whether you met Tony Bennett last night and if so what type of advice he gave you?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: No I didn't get a chance to meet Tony Bennett. I met Queen Latifah, Patti LaBelle and Jerry Springer and Jackie Evancho's choir and orchestra. I mean they were all brilliant. So I mean no I would love to meet Tony Bennett. You know?

I also got a chance to meet Frank Sinatra's band that played on his first album. You know? And they gave me a lot of advice, told me some wonderful stories about the whole Rat Pack and Frank Sinatra. I mean they all signed a piece of paper for me with all their signatures and all their little special notes and things like that. So it's something to cherish.

QUESTION: Based on how you felt last night, what type of advice would you give people who have been struggling to make it for so long like you?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: Never stop. I mean just keep doing it. I mean you got do other things to pay your bills but just however you can, whenever you get any time to just always focus on your dream even if it's for five or ten minutes, try to do something to make that dream happen because soon as you stop, you've give up. You know? And I just try to keep going. Even when your feet are stuck in the mud, tell somebody to throw you a rope or something. And if they don't do that, try to make you a rope. Someway you just got to keep going.

Landau Eugene Murphy Jr.SCIFI VISION: Now that it's after the show, if you had to choose to perform with one of the other groups that were on America's Got Talent, who would you like to perform something with on stage?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: It would be PopLyfe and Anna Graceman. I love both of them. I mean Anna with her powerful voice and then Pop with their just all around fun. I mean it would be phenomenal. And all of them are just so talented. Me and Anna Graceman on stage would be something good for the old and the young. And even with PopLyfe it would be the same thing. With PopLyfe they are a band so we wouldn't have to hire a band. Me and Anna we would have to hire a whole bunch of people to play for us. So I would put all three of us on the stage together because you've got the band PopLyfe and ?Anna Graceman.

SCIFI VISION: What's your next big goal now that you've broken into the industry?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: My big goal is to go and show my kids, you know what I'm saying, a good life. You know? Get me some health insurance, you know, pamper my wife, get a big house, but most of all my son has a big event coming up in September and they want me to do a duet with him so I'm going to try make it to that. And that's going to be fun.

QUESTION: I was wondering, if you didn't win, who would you root for? I know you mentioned PopLyfe, was there anyone else in the finals you would have wanted to win?

LANDAU EUGENE MURPHY JR.: The Silhouettes. I loved their performance every single time. They were like so good and even through their adversity they were just so brilliant and so graceful through this whole competition. Those little girls and those little boys were like so graceful and so humbling and so nice to all their elders. I mean they show so much, I mean so much grace and of course PopLyfe is my homies. You know? That's basically it yes.

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