Life On The Road with Chet Faker
Peer behind the curtain of life on the road in the wake of one of 2014's best LPs.
CRAZY FOR THE FAMILIAR
by Troy Mutton
“I’m in L-AAAAA,” Chet Faker – Nick Murphy to his mum/mates – drawls down the line with a rye chuckle, in a pretty relaxed tone, mid-North American tour. It’s a lay day for Murphy (although one spent doing interviews), something that’s been bit of a rarity for the past couple of years, especially since the release of his debut album, Built On Glass, earlier this year.
He’s been on the road for “like seven months” at the time of our chat – how’s it going? “The shows have been good. I’ve played everywhere pretty much. Half the world in the last year. All sold out except one show… so I hate Luxembourg right now,” he laughs wryly, but sounding like a guy who’s pretty happy with his lot at the moment.
Constantly on the road since Built On Glass lived up to Murphy’s huge – and ever-expanding – fanbase’s expectations (and then some), I wonder if Murphy has had any chance to take stock of releasing what has been one of 2014’s most critically-adored LPs. “It’s been go go go. Sometimes I’ll email my manager and just be like, ‘Hey, tell me good things’. Because I’m so far away from it I’m on the ground, I’m getting up at 7 to get a shuttle to the airport to then fly somewhere and meet a promoter and play a show, so I’m not on the internet looking myself up and I don’t listen to the radio ‘cause I’m always on aeroplanes and shit.”
When I first spoke to Murphy a couple of years ago around the release of his breakout EP Thinking In Textures, he was fairly quietly spoken, and had plenty of the self-doubt that plagues any young artist dealing with a new-found and fast-rising success; his early live sets often found him sitting down, huddled behind the safety of a keyboard and a healthy amount of facial hair. 2014 finds not a different Nick Murphy (the beard rages on), but one that is perhaps a little more comfortable in the situation he finds himself in.
“It depends on what mood you’re in, or mood I’m in really. I dunno man, a lot of people said to me recently, ‘Oh you’re so quietly spoken’. But you could ask my friends anything about me and if there’s one thing they’d say I was never, it’d be quietly spoken. I’ve always been a loud mouth, my whole life.
“The hardest part initially has been dealing with people just saying nasty shit. Usually I don’t care, because it’s really clear to me, once you reach a certain level of fanbase that means, no matter what you put out, you could put anything out, and someone’s gonna hate it. Focusing on that is completely irrelevant, because it’s just a fact of life.”
"I've always been a loud mouth, my whole life."
While there will always be the Tall Poppy syndrome to deal with, Murphy has found some respite in the Twitter-verse, often seeking comfort in the voices of fans from all over the world, mixed as their responses may be. “It’s a weird one, because sometimes I really wanna interact with my fans, some of them are awesome, I feel like they actually get what I’m about. Not only do they like my music, but they get what I’m trying to express. And it seems funny but when you’re touring this much and none of my friends are around me, you start feeling like your fans are your friends. Which sounds really weird but if you’ve got something on your mind you’ll just go to Twitter and see who’s listening there and interacting.
“It’s really weird, I deleted my Facebook so as a result I spend a lot of time on Twitter. There is like a core group of people on Twitter. I could even name some of their user names, who are just always there, and they’re never inappropriate but always interacting, and joking with me as you would with a friend. Like I’ll be taking the piss with a comment, and they’ll get that I’m taking the piss, and write something back. Whereas other people just totally miss the mark and are like, ‘Oh my god Chet you’re so weird’.
If you thought all this touring and travelling has meant any new Chet Faker tunes have been put on the backburner…well, you’d be right. Murphy is working on it though. “It’s killing me… Now is the longest period in my life ever since I first started making music that I haven’t had time to make music. It’s been six months, and it’s like, I said the other day: ‘Touring and not recording music is like sitting on the beach in denim jeans and a sweater.’ You’re surrounded by inspiration non-stop but you can’t do anything. So I’ve started doing things, like today I went to a rehearsal space to just play with a piano, and tomorrow I’ve booked a studio to play around in. So I’ve gotta book in studio time these days, which is so LA,” he jests, thick American accent and all.
"Touring and not recording music is like sitting on the beach in denim jeans and a sweater."
Adding to the problem is this: going from writing your debut EP out of your mum’s shed to being on the road is the sonic equivalent of a fat kid walking into the proverbial cake store; there’s inspiration absolutely everywhere. “There’s nothing like touring, because it’s just non-stop, every single hour of every single day, you’re somewhere you’ve never been before. Every day you’ve met someone you’ve never met, you’ve been to a place you’ve never been, you’ve eaten at a restaurant you’ve never eaten, you know… you play on a stage you’ve never been on, you meet a crowd you’ve never met before,” he tells, almost sounding like his writing a song in his head as he talks.
“It’s just non-stop new information coming in… It’s actually funny I was just talking with a friend yesterday – I had a date with this chick who flaked on me. And I kinda realised she really liked the attention more than anything, she didn’t actually wanna hang out, and she’s trying to message me even now and I’m like ‘Whatever, I don’t have any time for these crappy games’,” he laughs. “And my friend pointed out: all day every day you don’t meet anything or anyone familiar, so when you meet someone or something that reminds you of something familiar, you’re crazy for it. I’m like insane for familiar things. Does that make sense?"
Being on tour probably doesn’t help the situation: “Yeah. You know, you never meet… There’s no normal girls backstage, they’re all crazy.”
Laughs all round, and with that, we’re done. Nick Murphy is just a dude who happens to have a lot of travel as part of his job, isn’t into playing games with girls, and misses hanging with his friends.