James McMurtry’s father, novelist Larry McMurtry gave him his first guitar when he was seven and his mother taught him how to play. While a student at the University of Arizona and in the following years while working as a bartender in Texas, McMurtry performed and recorded his first demo.

This demo came to the attention of John Mellencamp when he was working on a movie written by the elder McMurtry, and he was impressed – choosing to produce James McMurtry’s first album.


James McMurtry says that he became interested in songwriting when he first saw Kris Kristofferson perform. As a nine-year-old he was in the audience at the Mosque in Richmond for a show with Rita Coolidge and Kris Kristofferson. Kristofferson inspired him and coincidentally introduced him to Stephen Bruton. Bruton was playing in the band that night and later he played on McMurtry’s’ first tour and early albums.

McMurtry released The Horses and the Hounds, his first album in six years in 2021. It was written prior to the pandemic and before his father passed away. McMurtry says that he is simply continuing the family business. That business is storytelling, adding that “I don’t want to write about me. I’d rather make stuff up. I’m not interested in me.”