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Interview: Pete Murray

Pete Murray is just about to embark on his Summer Sessions tour of Australia’s east coast, playing all of his award winning hits. Our Queensland correspondent, Kelly Koolstra-Aplin,  was fortunate to have a chat to Pete about his past, present and future in the music industry. Read on to find out more about his thoughts on the ARIAs, his ultimate festival line up and why Sia breaks all the rules on age in the industry.

KKA: Congratulations on the huge success of Sugar City Sounds music festival. Can you tell me Pete, what is was like playing along with the Living End and Birds of Tokyo?
PM:  Great! I think both those guys are fantastic. I’ve known the Living End guys for years, so I’ve really rated them as one of the best guys in the country. I’ve followed their journey and their rockabilly style and  Chris is such a musician. Chris is a phenomenal guitarist as we all know, also Scotty on bass and Andy on drums; the guys are just really great to watch. I’ve always done a lot of shows together and I’ve always got on well with those guys.

KKA: At what age did you first start playing guitar and when did you realise that you had an amazing voice?
PM: I was 21 or 22 when I first picked up a guitar and singing I think…. I just don’t know … when I was young actually, I remember my sister and a couple of friends would do this game where we would put headphones on and we would have to sing a song, you know you can’t hear yourself when your singing with headphones on and people pick the song and you all have a chuckle cause they are all so bad, and then I had a go and a few of the guys were going hey you can sing . I think back then, I kind of remember that (not that I took to much notice of that)  but I think I knew I could hold the note ok, but as far as being professional, when I first started playing it was just something that I really enjoyed so much that I would just be singing, I think it was too long before you had some people heard you and what you were doing and be saying you should definitely being trying to do more of this.

KKA: You have had a string of hits and number one albums over your career. Do you find that with the more rewards you receive the harder it is to produce your next award-winning album?
PM: Can I be honest about awards? I really don’t care about them.  I think it’s a really odd thing for music to have awards. I remember talking to Rob Hurst from Midnight Oil and we were having this conversation, (I can’t remember where it was, maybe about the ARIAS or something) and I was like, I’m really not a fan of the ARIAs.  I remember talking like I came from a sporting background. I remember going to my first ARIAs and the first question was what do the ARIAs mean to you? And I was sort of thinking umm well umm well I honestly didn’t have an answer because it didn’t mean anything to me to win an award, so I’ve never placed any importance in that because to me I’ve seen a lot of acts come in win ARIAs and disappear, so I’ve always said I’d rather not have an award and just have a career. So for me, career has been the focus in that doesn’t matter what you win,  doesn’t mean you’re going to hang around.

KKA:  So it’s way more rewarding for you just doing what you do and everyone loving what you do?
PM: Well that’s the thing, I think that’s the award in itself! That’s the award you get for it people coming to your shows and singing along with songs and how much better is that, then having a ‘hey ten years ago I won this award whatever, for the best hair in the business’ you know and  it’s kind of one of those things that I really don’t place any importance in. Its kind of funny, cause this person won that, cause its just judged on popularity at the time;  who’s been promoting what and all sorts of things so it’s kind of like whatever,  don’t care.

KKA: You are just about to commence your coastal tour across Australia in January, why just a coastal tour?  Why aren’t you headlining a full main city tour this time?
PM:  Well, we wanted to just focus on these areas.  This was more of a like a summer tour. We wanted to hit areas that are kind of coastal areas,  that’s the whole idea of this summer tour.  It’s got a surf vibe.  It’s where my music all started in the surf scene you know, so  the idea was a run of shows with that surf summer vibe going.  We didn’t want to go hit big cities you know . We will do that again on another run.

KKA: You have managed to stay modern and true to yourself in an industry that reinvents itself. You still have the same feel and sound as you did on Feeler. How have you maintained your identity whist still being a popular Australian figure in the music industry?
PM: I think the main thing comes down to my voice and the way I write songs on the acoustic guitar. I’m going to always have that flavour whatever I do,  whatever I sing. It’s always going to sound like me. I think on the last album, I made things a little more contemporary with some loops and beats and some electric sounds.  I am focusing more of that on the new album like more of a groove and to have a certain beat that’s happening underneath. Im still focusing on that, but I think for me to have real organic sounds in there and not so pop.  As soon as you become pop,  you start to follow trends and you get in trouble cause you’re following what someone has already done successfully. So to me, I try to listen to what has been working out there and try to use pieces of that in my music but ultimately, you want to keep yourself interested in music by not doing the same thing all the time, but you don’t want to step too far away.  So like if I went and did a hip hop album or something like that, so I think the way I song write,  choice of lyrics, melodies,  it always does itself to be around for a long time.

KKA: So many artists collaborate with fellow musicians, if you could collaborate with anyone who would it be and why?
PM: Great question isn’t it.?
KKA: Can be anyone alive or dead
PM: I’ve already been thinking about dead people (laughs)– Elvis would be great to sing with-  Elvis, Doors, Simon and Garfunkel I would like to harmonise with.    Modern day singers; a female voice that would be interesting to work with is someone like Kat Power, She  has a really nice voice. 

You write a good song and people are going to hear and people are going to talk about it. That’s just common sense. 

KKA:  You are the poster boy for every musician over 27 that has had a dream of still making it in the music industry. What advice would you give those that are still trying to make it but are being told they are too old?
PM: Well whoever is telling you that is bullshit.  I got asked that question years ago. The question got asked just when I released my first album,  I think I was 30 and the guy wasn’t rude,  he just asked the question what do you think about what they say if you haven’t made it by the time you’re 24, you’re  never going to make it? See all that’s bullshit! You write a good song and people are going to hear and people are going to talk about it. That’s just common sense.  So if you write a good song its going to get out there.  I think my advice would really be,  try to write that song, write that music, have that connection with people.  Lots of music has that connection with people on a emotional level.  It’s really hard for that song to go away, Ive had a few like that now.  Songs like ‘So Beautiful’,  that’s struck a chord with people.  The songs still here, people still want to hear it, people still have that connection with it. If you can write that song, then that’s the first thing you do, get that song out. These days its way easier to get your music out there then what it was years ago.  You’ve got all the social media,  you’ve got playlists on Spotify, you can get one of those things,  then your music can just go. It (age) only matters if you’re in pop.  I think if you’re a pop artist you will struggle cause pop music is really listened to by these younger folks and the younger artists do that, but if your getting older then  pop’s probably not where you should be.  Look, I need to be careful what I say here, look at Sia, she’s not young, but she’s killing it. What she did was write songs for other people, there’s my point again, write good songs, she wrote goods songs and they’ve obviously been played by big artists and she has started her own career. She’s pop too, so there go there’s goes my theory.  Just gone!  Sia has blown my theory away (laughs).  The beauty of music is anything can happen there are no rules.

The beauty of music is anything can happen there are no rules.

KKA: If you had choice of your very own music festival, what would be the line-up be like?
PM: You know I have thought of doing a festival and having it as well.  My concept, I would do a soloist festival, you know an artist like  myself,  Ben Harper, John Butler, Xavier Rudd, Dave Matthews,  whoever it might be,  these guys come and play on their own, so what you do is have a band at the festival who play (like the house band) and the acts come together and do their own solo show, but they also join each other at different times and play songs with the house band. Maybe you should put that in your article in case it ever happens someday. Let’s just say guys like Ben Harper John Butler, Nash Gardner that kind of roots music.  Dave Matthews, Ben Howard that kind of roots singer song writer vibe. 

KKA: You have had an amazing career what has been your greatest achievement and why?
PM:  Musically?
KKA:  Musically and also personally
PM: Personally, I’d have to say just children. Becoming a dad three times now (eldest 14 Charlie, second- Pedro 11 and little girl Saachi 9 months) That should be your biggest achievement in your life becoming parent, easily they are so much more important then you,  so firstly, that personally,  that’s my biggest achievement. Musically,  you know I think recording the independent album “The Gain’ and then getting signed from that. That album had some great songs on it.  That really set up my career.  I just got the rights back for that to sell it.  I own it again after 17 years or something like that. I think the biggest achievement is probably where it all began, recording that album and making that work, so it set up my career for where it is today, we re-recorded five songs off that album to put onto Feeler and then Feeler went gangbusters. That really is responsible for the success,  just as much as the album Feeler is,  its just no one has really heard this,  it still got released.  I still haven’t put it  up anywhere.  I’ve been selling it on the last tour as a CD but I still haven’t put it up on like Spotify or anything yet so probably have to do that soon.  It’s very raw versions of the songs.  For me, when you do that,  it’s the big thing that first album you do.

KKA: What’s next for Pete Murray? And what’s on the horizon after the tour?
PM:  So looking at some new music. I’ve finished my deal with Sony, so I’m weighing up my options now, so its kinda nice to be at this stage,  independent,  so I’m not sure which way to go though,  how I will do that at the moment, but its a really interesting time for me at the moment . Having a strong fan base here in Australia,  knowing your independent now and do these things and its easier to get your music out there and all this stuff its changed. Its all pretty new for me,  so that’s a good thing. I dabbled in a little bit of acting a couple of years ago,  so I’d really like to do some more of that because it was just fun. That’s something else Id like to focus on too,  just getting the time with three kids. It’s pretty hard to keep music happening.

The Rocker Rag would like to thank you so much for this interview.



Pete is travelling the East Coat of Australia on his Summer Session Tour beginning early next year. Details for tickets and shows can be found below.



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