Last time he returned to the States from Australia, John Murry was so jetlagged that he fell asleep in his food. “My wife accused me of using heroin again,” he tells Samson McDougall.
John Murry’s sitting on a porch in Victoria’s Dandenong Ranges, where he’s currently holed up recording his second solo album. His Mississippi drawl borders on unintelligible at times, but he’s quick, often answering questions before they’re even half-asked. He’s bright and free with his opinions; you could say gregarious, even – surprising given his melancholy debut The Graceless Age. He’s a big Neil Finn fan, knows an awful lot about Bob Dylan and will psychoanalyse based on which Dylan albums you rank most highly (he likes the new stuff). And a chicken’s bothering him as we talk.
It’s Murry’s second visit Down Under in a year; he says Australia’s appealing for the integrity of industry people and the general appreciation of music. “The jetlag was fuckin’ horrible last time when I went home,” he adds. “I fell asleep in my food and my wife accused me of using heroin again.”
The plan this time is to leave the creative doors ajar and let spontaneity shine, where possible. He cites Wilco’s Ashes Of American Flags and Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone as the kinds of recordings where brilliant mistakes led to magic.
"In Australia, there are two extra songs that nobody else but Australians can get because I like you motherfuckers!"
“What I really want to do is play with a group of people who I emotionally trust and who emotionally trust me. [People] who will come and tell me, ‘You can do better,’ and I can [ask] them, ‘Am I doin’ it right?’ and they can come up with somethin’ that throws the song in a different direction. I want to hear the song played back in a way that I wasn’t expecting.”
Murry’s blunt about how positive critical responses and subsequent large shows in the UK didn’t translate to monetary success. He says that Uncut magazine’s inclusion of The Graceless Age in their 50 Greatest Singer/Songwriter Albums list has to be “bullshit” because Springsteen’s Nebraska didn’t get a look in. Australia, he says, is the only place he’s actually made money from performing.
During a recent Australian performance with John Grant, Murry describes how the audience, confronted with an unfamiliar version of Grant, were open-minded enough to stick around and dig a new approach.
“Why live in the United States? Why live in England? Why live in a place where art is valued in such a horrendous way?” he says. “They give away my EP in the United States. In Australia, there are two extra songs that nobody else but Australians can get because I like you motherfuckers! I really do. Y’all let me talk and I can play Don’t Dream It’s Over and Neil Finn’s gonna come sing Distant Sun with me... All you gotta do is ask!”
"For real! I’m doin’ the interview, chicken! Get away! I hate that chicken.”
The chicken starts crowing like crazy. “Shut the fuck up, chicken!” he yells. “For real! I’m doin’ the interview, chicken! Get away! I hate that chicken.”