"Especially at festivals, most people are just drunk and on drugs so they don't even know what good music is."
He's in LA "in the middle of a US tour" at the time of our chat and Chet Faker (Nick Murphy to his mates) has to check what day it is. "I think — is it Saturday or Sunday? Saturday. So I've been here for about two days now." Since Built On Glass came out on April 11, 2014, Murphy has been touring the globe. When asked whether there are any particular tracks that have morphed into completely different beasts live, he shares, "Talk Is Cheap has totally taken on a whole new life. I just play it solo mostly now, which is my favourite part of the set because I just kinda get to ad lib, you know?" As well as feeding off "the vibe in the room", Murphy tends to tweak his performance of this song according to how he's "feeling on the night". "I might be feeling a little tired so it might be something a little more moody, it'll flow out," he explains. "I might be energetic, so it's funky but, yeah! Those are the key moments to a good live show."
This recent Stateside touring stint saw Chet Faker warming up D'Angelo's stage on one occasion. "To watch him from side of stage; it's one of the best live shows I've ever seen," he gushes.
We discuss observing the crowd from the stage and Murphy confesses, "I don't really worry about the crowd too much. You know, if they don't like the music that's their problem [chuckles]. That sounds ridiculous but, especially at festivals, most people are just drunk and on drugs so they don't even know what good music is." And, let's face it, most of the time punters are too busy trying to take the perfect selfie. "Well, it's interesting because I think everyone over the age of I guess, like, 25 — those are the last generation ever that knows what it's like to go to a gig without phones."
"At festivals, most people are just drunk and on drugs so they don't even know what good music is."
One thing you may not know about Murphy is that he was an excellent runner. When asked whether this is something he still does, Murphy laments, "I actually can't anymore. I miss running so much. I broke my foot about three years ago in a skateboarding accident and I've got metal plates in my foot. But I've got surgery at the end of this year, after the Australian tour, to get the plates taken out, which is sort of like why that's the final tour for this album. So I'm kind of hoping once I get the plates out I might be able to run a bit more again. My foot's just completely shot; it's not aligned properly so it's putting out my legs and then I get back problems... I'm not using my body properly because my foot's out, you know? And your foot's where it all begins.
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"The tour before this one, I had to cancel two shows because I had a bulged disc and it was because of my foot, which is funny: you don't think you have a bad back 'cause your foot's sore." Post-surgery, Murphy needs to schedule in "six weeks recovery". "I haven't had six weeks off since 2013. So I've kind of just been waiting to get these plates taken out." There will be no catching up on DVD box sets for Murphy, however. "I'm not very good at sort of sitting still so much," he admits. "I kinda always need a little project. I was thinking about maybe going for a drive with my dad or something."
When Murphy was 18 he actually "ran in the nationals for Victoria". "I did have a running coach who wanted me to train full-time and commit fully to doing that, but, like, I just always liked running as a personal thing, not as competitive."
And this was around the same time Murphy realised he "couldn't live without" music, "after [he'd] been making it for about three or four years". "I got into music when I was 15. I think it was," Murphy estimates. "I mean, there was a teacher at school who rang up my mum and said that I should start singing, 'cause he thought I had a good voice or whatever. I've since worked out he was just calling a bunch of people anyway, but I was like, 'Oh, yeah, maybe I can.'"
Although we're rewinding about 12 years, Murphy still remembers he "started singing in the shower". In terms of performing outside of his own bathroom, he reveals, "Weirdly enough, I didn't mind singing in public straight away, which is funny; I must have thought I was better than I was 'cause I know I wasn't very good back then. I was just a kid trying stuff out, you know?
"If I just spoke to someone about some things that I was thinking about they didn't necessarily give a shit, but if I wrote a song about it, people seemed to pay more attention."
"I remember one of the first things that sort of struck me about music, was it being socially okay to talk about really big things via music. And I remember having a lot of things that I wanted to talk about that I didn't necessarily know how to talk about. Especially, you know, in your teens when you sort of first start to realise that the world isn't fair and that's, like, it's a bit of an emotional time for most. And I just remember kind of noticing that if I just spoke to someone about some things that I was thinking about they didn't necessarily give a shit, but if I wrote a song about it — for whatever reason — people seemed to pay more attention. And it felt more — it was more expressive, I guess. It just seemed like a better way of expressing big things. That's why the arts exist."
Songwriting's obviously a very personal exercise for Murphy. "I like writing music for me and as long as I play the game a little bit I get to do that more," he says. On whether he thinks it's possible to approach songwriting purely to make money, Murphy opines, "I think it does work. I think there's heaps of people in the industry who make music just to make money, but, I don't think it's good for the soul." So does he also think one can achieve a career with longevity this way? "If you're backed by enough money, sure, 'cause you don't have to do the work; you can get someone else to produce the music, and someone else to pick your clothes, someone to pay for the best director in the world, someone to pay for the best choreographer, you know? Then you can be around forever. That's [with] major labels, but at a normal level? No, I don't think so."
But it would be fair to say Chet Faker has a supportive team and is left to his own devices, yes? "Um, it's fair to say that I don't have any of the things that I just listed," he allows. "But, yeah, I mean I'm just doing it the way I want it done and I'm lucky to have got this far."