John Galway and Aeschylus Poulos: The Graceless Age: The Ballad of John Murry

The Graceless Age: The Ballad of John Murry is a documentary about the troubled singer/songwriter John Murry and the release of his highly-acclaimed album The Graceless Age. The film premiered at the Whistler Film Festival in December 2023 and is slated for release in April 2024 via Vortex Media. 


We subsequently had a chance to sit down with producers John Galway and Aeschylus Poulos at the Whistler Film Festival (WFF).


Aeschylus Poulos                                                                                                                                                                                 John Galway


HNMAG: Did you both grow up in Toronto?

John Galway: No, I grew up in Hamilton. 

Aeschylus Poulos: I grew up in Toronto, and I have worked in Toronto. I’m a Toronto-based producer. We started our own company, Hawkeye Films, about eight years ago. I started working with John and came to know him through a colleague in the industry. This industry is about relationships. We were looking for a project to collaborate on. John, you were overseas, right?

John Galway: Yeah I run the Toronto Irish Film Festival. Each year I go to a film festival in Galway. I was looking for material and I met with the Irish producer Nuala Cunningham in the summer of 2019. They had a preliminary trailer of John Murry, including the scene on the cliffs. She said part of his journey was working with Toronto-based Mike Timmins from the Cowboy Junkies. It seemed natural to be a good fit to have a co-production with Canada. 


HNMAG: Nuala is an Irish producer. 

John Galway: She is. The director is also an Irish woman, Sarah Share. 

Aeschylus Poulos: Sarah made a documentary about the late Shane MacGowan of the Pogues, If I Should Fall From Grace. She had a history of making documentaries about complicated people. She has an eye and ear for gaining their trust. 

John Galway: She had seen John Murry playing in clubs around Ireland and slowly got to know him. 


HNMAG: Was this the first project that you worked together on?

John Galway: Officially yes, but when I was at the Greenberg Fund I got to know the team at Hawkeye.

Aeschylus Poulos: They funded a bunch of our development. 


HNMAG: Are you strictly documentary?

Aeschylus Poulos: Absolutely not strictly documentary.  We do narrative features and try to do Television. We had two narrative features at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). John and I have been working on docs but also looking for narratives, and you’re looking for narratives as well. We also produced Mr. Dress Up: The Magic of Make-believe.  


HNMAG: What drew you to this project when you were in Galway?

John Galway: I hadn’t heard of John Murry, which is part of this story because we probably should have heard of him more. It was partially the visuals that Sarah shot. One example is the opening shot of John on the cliffs. 

“As well as his journey back to the US South and his compelling story. We are both fascinated with that area and its connection to the early roots of Rock N’ Roll.” -John Galway


HNMAG: Have you been to Memphis or the Mississippi Delta before that?

John Galway: No but we think that’s what the doc is really about. The fact that John grew up a little different as an artist in that challenging environment.


HNMAG: How was that opening shot on the cliff achieved?

Aeschylus Poulos: It was a drone but I can’t say for sure what else was involved. It sure was beautiful to watch it. 

John Galway: I’m sure Sarah wouldn’t say, but John probably wasn’t allowed to be on that cliff. 


HNMAG: His music reminds me of John Prine. He did have records that were released. Why did they not get much play? 

John Galway: The first album got attention from the music press and insiders. John’s hope for this film is that it helps bring recognition and more awareness. The music is available on Spotify and Apple Music. 


HNMAG: His live performance makes the music seem like a completely different artist. 

John Galway: John is also a bit of a character when he plays live. 

Aeschylus Poulos: I worked at the Horseshoe when I was in my early 20’s. It is a music bar in Toronto, I would see these road lifers who are on the road they were often John Murry types. I love talking to the lifers. This is part of what drew me to this movie. It’s nice to bring the voice forward of the anti-hero. 


HNMAG: Searching for Sugar Man comes up when watching The Graceless Age. A documentary about a great artist who we don’t know and why.

Aeschylus Poulos: The timing was very challenging when John was coming up. CDs were going out, Napster was big, radio was going out… it’s interesting how music now finds audiences. 

John Galway: He tours a lot. He plays in small clubs all through Europe. Part of it is relentless performance. 


HNMAG: Mike Timmins is also from Toronto.

John Galway: He is. He also scored the film. Obviously, most of the songs are by John Murry but the score was by Mike Timmins. 


HNMAG: How did John Murry meet Mike Timmins?

John Galway: They were playing at a gig in Glasgow where John opened for the Cowboy Junkies.

Aeschylus Poulos: They were blown away and then went to see him later. It was a fluke of promoters. That’s part of this music world of these lifers. 


HNMAG: There are so many factors that make up his story from being adopted, abused, being undiagnosed on the spectrum, and not getting any support. All this feeds into this struggle which not surprisingly results in drug abuse. 

Aeschylus Poulos: One thing the film does is point out struggles that so many people suffer from. You see creative outlets in a real positive outcome. If not for the music and writing as a way for him to express himself. 

John Galway: He’s a voracious reader. When you talk with him, he knows everything about everything. 


HNMAG: His songs are very much stories about what is happening in the world. 

Aeschylus Poulos: He’s super observationally astute with a high IQ and EQ about what is going on with people in the room. 


HNMAG: Did he ever discover what happened with his birth parents? 

John Galway: He knows who they are but he was never really close with them. 

Aeschylus Poulos: I don’t even want to try and speak to the psychology of being put up for adoption. I have enough issues with my birth parents and where I came from. 


HNMAG: Is the film at other festivals?

John Galway: This is its Canadian premiere. The Irish and world premiere was in the summer where it won Best Irish Documentary. It also played at The Irish Film Institute’s Doc Week, where it won an audience award. 

Aeschylus Poulos: It just played Newport Beach and then it just played Memphis. Vortex Media is the distributor. It took four years to put everything in place and the entire time John Murry was anxious to start to speak about it. Vortex was able to come on and help us close the Canadian financing. 

John Galway: Ultimately, it will end up on Super Channel. 

Aeschylus Poulos: Ultimately, Super Channel came on early with their support. 


HNMAG: Are you planning on doing another project together?

Aeschylus Poulos: We are in the middle of production of another project right now. It’s called Give Me Some Truth. It’s an international documentary. ARTE is the broadcaster in Europe.

John Galway: It’s a co-production with Germany. 


The Graceless Age: The Ballad of John Murry is a documentary about John Murry. At the onset, it might seem like this is another documentary about an unknown musician who somehow has fallen through the cracks. It turns out to be a lot more. It’s about a beautiful soul who has been beaten and discarded and struggled but is still fighting to creatively be heard and make a difference in this world. In the end, isn’t really what we all want?


The Graceless Age: The Ballad of John Murry is slated for release in April 2024. 

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