INTERVIEW: Pete Murray

With a career spanning over 20 years, Pete Murray has honestly and deservingly made himself one of Australia’s leading folk pop-rock artists. With 3 Number 1 albums on the ARIA charts, 17 ARIA award nominations, and countless sold out Australian tours, he has the impressive figures to back him up. 

It’s been four years since the Byron Bay based singer-songwriter has released his seventh studio album ‘Camacho’, and he’s finally ready to back it up with a poignant and punchy collection of sun-soaked tracks. ‘The Night EP’ hears him vulnerably opening up about family, love, heartbreak and all of the in-between moments of life. With his guitar led sonic leading the way, these tracks interpolate influences from the likes of Coldplay and U2, as well as softer string arrangements to contrast those reflective moments.  But at the fore-front of everything he does there is still that connection to nature and the sun that shines through. (Yes, that pun was intended)

I recently chatted to Pete Murray about the emotions that overcome him when he listens back to ‘The Night’, as well as explore the creative process and stories behind each track on the EP. Check it out BELOW; 

THOMAS BLEACH: ‘The Night’ EP is a collection of six tracks that hears you delivering some very strong and personal lyrical explorations. When you listen back to this body of work, what emotions and feelings overcome you from the creative process? 

PM: I think I’ve probably done a lot of reflecting on family. I tend to do a lot of writing about life events, and I think through the process of doing some co-writing overseas and being away from family has helped with writing some of the lyrics on the EP, especially ‘Found My Place’ which is a song about passing on wisdom to my kids. So it’s a nice feeling listening back to this EP as it’s very warm and inviting. 

TB: ’Found My Place’ was the first taste listeners got to have from this EP, and it also doubles as the opening track. The lyrics that really stand out from this song is “your heart is where I found my place”. SO ROMANTIC! What’s the story behind this lyric? 

PM: The first lyrics I wrote for the song was the opening line; “Life is a long winding road. There’ll be many road blocks ahead”. When I started writing this song I was using my life in the music industry as the inspiration to write the lyrics but it turned into passing this story onto my kids. The music industry is a really tough industry to try have success in and to try maintain success, and to be honest it’s one of the toughest industries in the world in general. 

You have a lot of roadblocks along the way like people saying “no, I don’t like you, you’re not good enough”, and it’s up to you to trust your gut instinct and believe in yourself even when other people may not. And that’s an important mantra for all aspects of life. Everyone has failure as you have to have failure to get to success, and it makes you stronger. So that song and that particular lyric is all about believing in yourself. 

TB: The accompanying music video for ‘If We Never Dance Again’ is a saturated and cinematic piece that perfectly shares this emotional story. What was that filming experience like, were you actually on set that day? 

PM: Yeah, so I’m actually driving the car in the video! So the original idea when I spoke to Glenn from Mos & Co who filmed this video was that I want it to be really cinematic with beautiful shots that show a couple in an abstract way. We aren’t really telling a story as it’s all about the beauty this couple has together, and not really knowing the outcome. The actors in the video are an actual couple, and they got married in between shooting this clip which is another really beautiful and romantic thing about this song. 

We shot it in one day but we didn’t have the sun so that’s why we had to reschedule, and they got married in between the shoots. So all of the silhouette shots you see are all filmed on a different day because we just couldn’t get them on the first day. And those shots really helped bring the clip come together so beautiful. 

My major role in the video was to be their driver. We had one show of me where Mos shot from the back of the car in the rearview mirror so you see half of my face. That’s all I really wanted in there. But when we looked back at the footage, the whole video seemed so beautiful and that shot of me just seemed out of place so we took it out. But yes, if you look closely in the opening shot you will see me driving the car. 

TB: The sun has always been a big sense of imagery for you within lyrics, videos, and artwork. What sort of connection do you have with the sun artistically?

PM: I love the sun! I love sunsets, I love sunrises, I love surfing, I love sun photography, and I even have an album called ‘See The Sun’. I think because I surf I really appreciate the sun as you’re out there and sometimes you are the first person who sees the sun, and it’s such a magical moment in the day. So yeah, I think shots that have sun flares and silhouette stuff is a little bit mysterious which is something I love instead of straight up photos. 

TB: ’Because Of You’ sounds like a classic Pete Murray song in the way that it’s structured. So can you explain the creative process behind this track?

PM: This was a co-write I did in Los Angeles with Collin Munroe. He had checked out my discography before I got into the session so when I went in he was like “I’ve got these chords that I think are really up your alley with what you do”. And he played them to me and I was like “I love them, they are really nice open chords”. So we started playing around with them to figure out what the verses and chorus would be. Once we got that, I just went crazy on the lyrics and we had the whole thing written within 20 minutes. So the music was something he already had there, and the lyrics we wrote on the spot, so there was just something natural about it. 

I remember saying to him that I think people will really love this song because it’s just so catchy, beautiful and happy. It’s obviously about someone that is great for you and brings out the best in you. But I also mention my dad in that song because he passed away at 47, and I was 18 at the time. I was really just remembering the time when I was younger with him, so that was something for me to go back and share. 

TB: ’We’ll Be The Fire’ sonically builds throughout its duration and actually feels and sounds like a Coldplay track. What was sonically inspiring you with this track? 

PM: It definitely was a Coldplay vibe that inspired me on that track! Some of their songs are really epic and large, and this song just seemed to go that way. I really love epic songs, ones that can start pretty minimalist like ‘Feeler’ off my first record that begins with an acoustic groove and builds up to a big epic rock outro. So I do love those type of songs, and this one does have a bit of a crossover to a U2 flavour especially with the drums. I’m so excited to play that one live!

TB: The guitar riff in ‘The Fall Apart’ really stands out. For that song what came first; the lyrics or the guitar riff?

PM: That was another co-write, and I did that one in Nashville with two other guys; Joe Patten and Lalo Guzman. Nashville is such a machine, you just jump in a room and start writing, there is no mucking around. The three of us just met each other when we sat down, and I explained to them that I had this idea for a song and had a few beginning chords. They liked it but when we went around nothing was coming for a good solid 2 hours. It got to the point where the other guys were like “maybe we should just forget this and go home”, as it was just going nowhere. I had just started writing the chorus so I asked them to leave the room for 15 minutes and let me just try one last thing. This melody just sounded so great to me, and in 15 minutes I had the lyrics for the chorus and they came back in and I played it to them and it wasn’t long until we had all the verses written. 

Lalo is a guitarist as well so he put down this guitar part on the original demo which is very inspired by John Mayer, and I love John, so it was really cool. When I got back into my studio I got my guitarist to lay down that riff with a bit more of a edgy tone so it wasn’t as clean. But yeah, it’s such a beautiful guitar line, it really makes the song. 

TB: The word that I associate with ‘Waiting For This Love’ is “calm”. Do you think calmness also reflects a specific level of vulnerability? What would you say is the most vulnerable moment on the EP?

PM: That one is definitely very vulnerable. “Calm” isn’t really the word I’d associate with it when I was writing it as it came to me as an image of someone with a big coat in a little shack that was really torn apart and not sure of what was happening as they were thinking of leaving and having this desperation of not knowing what to do.

It’s a really beautiful song. I tried to record with acoustics and vocals later as that’s what I always do but I just wasn’t get the vibe, so I decided to record it together and it worked really well. We then added strings and haunting backing vocals which brought it into that calm space.

‘The Night’ is out now! 

Upcoming Pete Murray Festival Dates

Sunday 14 March – By The C, St Kilda VIC

Saturday 20 March – Crowd Surf, Sandstone Point QLD

Saturday 27 March – By The C, Perth WA

Monday 5 April – Bluesfest, Byron Bay NSW