Six years after the release of 2011’s Blue Sky Blue album, Pete Murray is back bolder, stronger and more self-aware with his masterfully composed sixth record Camacho. Murray spared some time to chat to us about reinvention, relevance and what he hopes to achieve with this latest release.
After listening to Camacho over the course of the past week it became clear that this latest effort departs from Murray’s previous style – a style that predicated his musical success and garnered him fame both nationally and abroad. Subsequently, the past month has seen Murray drip-feed his audience a number of singles to test the waters. “I was incredibly nervous, [I] spent six years on it,” he admits. “I wanted to create something great. These days bands release a lot of singles because that’s what people want to hear. I put more effort into making this album than I ever had before because I still believe in albums and it felt like I was making my masterpiece.
“With [Camacho] I feel like I’ve found a new sound – found my sound, because it’s really getting away from what I’ve done before.”
After unprecedented success with Feeler and See The Sun, and over a million sales to his name, there is no doubt that Murray took a gamble when deciding on a reinvented musical framework for Camacho.
“Over previous albums I’ve tried to make songs that have great groove and though I believe I have, this albums grooves it arse off in comparison. Core to this was the use of a lot of loops, beats and synths; things that I’ve never really played with in the past. I did use a lot of real sounds too though, like actual pianos – a Wurly [Wurlitzer] and a Rhodes – because when I was writing I was listening to a lot of Motown and some hip hop too. I wanted big, swooping grooves, but they’re much harder to get perfect when you’ve got a live band. Going take after take is far more tedious, so ultimately we went with what worked best and what I was happiest with.”
For Murray the release of Camacho is only the beginning of a return to spotlight. In July he embarks on a huge three month tour around Australia. Consequently, he’ll need a live band with him. In explaining how he and his team translated this newer, more production-heavy groove of his into a live show, he explains that “the drummer is very integral. He is using a combination of pads and real drums. The kick and snare, for example, are pads because I think it adds a more programmed sound and helps make the live set sound more like the album, whereas having real drums as part of the kit helps add that live feel which is always instrumental in the success of a good show.”
Moving further through Camacho, it becomes apparent that there is far less of the sound that pulled him into the spotlight all those years ago. This isn’t a bad thing; in a world where trends change with the tides, musical relevance is not to be taken lightly. In his own words Murray recalls: “One thing that many people don’t appreciate is that studio bands are old school. Camacho, the song, was done in one take – that is something that could never have been achieved with a full studio band. It was a difficult decision to record differently in the studio but in this case they [studio bands] couldn’t afford me the speed or polish I wanted.”
After listening to Camacho all week, then speaking to Murray the following morning, I perhaps foolishly let slip that my favourite album of his is still See The Sun. He laughs offhandedly and replies “I’m thrilled that you even have a favourite album of mine! It’s refreshing to know that people still listen to music you made 12 years ago! My only hope is that after spending six years putting together this album, people like you will appreciate it for what it is, and see how much work has gone into making something different, yet still familiar.”
Certainly it seems that though Murray may have ditched a bit of the ‘acoustic rock’ vibe from See The Sun, he hasn’t lost any soul in writing the lyrics. “I think my music is so impactful because I tend to write about life experiences. I find it hard to make things up and write about nothing. This time around I’ve tried to write with more emotion because in venturing away from my older sound, I still wanted to reinforce that it was the same guy behind the guitar.
“Musically, however, I was less hesitant because I knew that whatever I came up with, it would be so different and distinctive that no one would think I was replicating or remaking my old sound; with any hope it’ll grow on people – and yourself for that matter too!”
Having a music career that has stretched longer than many Millennial’s lifetimes means that Murray has had more than enough time to reflect on not only his own career, but also his life. Nostalgic motifs play a large thematic role throughout Camacho; specifically on songs like Take Me Down, wherein Murray battles with the loss of love and what it means to not be a part of someone’s life any more.
Giving advice to his young self, Murray says “Musically, I would say to relax and have a bit more fun with it – if you can’t have fun when you’re playing it live or recording, it’s just gonna be trash and it won’t turn out well. And though I know it’s a cliché, I used to get really hung up criticism. These days I’m much better with it and it doesn’t affect me too much; you can’t please everyone – everyone has different tastes.
“Personally, perhaps I’d say something similar: relax and live day by day. Not everything is bound to last forever, and though sometimes in music failure is clear, in relationships sometimes it isn’t. Take Me Down was, as you can probably gather, was written about a relationship that wasn’t going to last. It’s about living in the moment. Far too many live in the future, thinking about what will be, and planning their lives around relationships they hope will always be there. Ultimately living in your own naively optimistic fiction can be much worse than facing reality.”
Yet, despite these counsels in hindsight, Murray insists Camacho is no cautionary tale; though there are intermissions of a melancholic ilk, the greater mood of the album is both confident and empowering, with both of the first two songs Only One and Sold being bright, beat-laden tunes that evoke a far more kinetic response from their audiences.
Carefully constructed over the past six years, Murray says the narrative structure of the album and the order of songs is deliberate beyond belief. “I sat with the tracklist for about 12 months; I would get up at three in the morning, sweating, asking myself if this was the order I wanted. The layout of the album was scrutinised so heavily; in a way it almost has sections, with each being separated by a more downbeat heartfelt track – Heartbeats, Take Me Down and Connected all serve as intermediary breaks in what is otherwise quite a high-energy, bright album. I couldn’t really picture the song order being any different – I think it works perfectly.”
Before we ended the call, I had to know if there was a song from the album that was a clear favourite, another Better Days, perhaps – one that he would never get tired of hearing or performing. “Well I’ve been listening to these songs for six years now more or less; so if there were any that I was tired of you’d think I’d know by now! Truly though, I do love each one in a different way and each one means something different for me. However a song like Connected is very intimate for me; lyrically I think it’s my favourite on the album. It was written when I was able to realise and accept the love I have for my current wife, so it will always be very special for me.”
And with that final omission I was interrupted by the operator, informing me that my time with Murray had come to a close. We said our goodbyes and I wished him luck on the tour. But before he disconnected he quips – “Keep listening to the album mate, I know it’ll become your favourite.”
12 July, Lismore City Hall, Lismore
13 July, Villa Noosa, Noosaville
14 July, The Tivoli Theatre, Brisbane
20 July, Great Western Hotel, Rockhampton
21 July, Racehorse Hotel, Ipswich
22 July, The Star, Gold Coast
23 July, Redland Bay Hotel, Redland Bay
26 July, Cex, Coffs Harbour
27 July, The Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle
28 July, The Entrance Leagues Club, Bateau Bay
29 July, Enmore Theatre, Sydney
3 August, Nautilus Theatre, Port Lincoln
4 August, Her Majesty’s Theatre, Adelaide
5 August, Lighthouse Theatre, Warrnambool
9 August, Eastbank Theatre, Shepparton
10 August, Chelsea Heights Hotel, Chelsea Heights
11 August, Wrest Point Showroom, Hobart
12 August, Launceston Country Club, Launceston
17 August, Batemans Bay Soldiers Club, Batemans Bay
18 August, Waves, Wollongong
19 August, Canberra Theatre, Canberra
20 August, Beer Deluxe, Albury
23 August, Ulumbarra Theatre, Bendigo
24 August, Regent Multiplex Theatre, Ballarat
25 August, Forum Theatre, Melbourne
26 August, Wool Exchange, Geelong
1 September, Wintersun Hotel, Geraldton
2 September, Fremantle Arts Centre, Freemantle
3 September, Dunsborough Tavern, Dunsborough
6 September, Empire Theatre, Toowoomba
7 September, The Ville, Townsville
8 September, Tanks Arts Centre, Cairns
9 September, Darwin Ski Club, Darwin