‘It had to happen’: Why Chet Faker is no more
As Chet Faker, singer/songwriter Nick Murphy rose to the top of the charts with his 2014 debut album Built on Glass and toured the world as one of his generation of artists exploring the new genre-free frontier.
Murphy's fusion of emotionally-charged lyrics with acoustic instrumentation and electronica, a sexy kind of digital R&B, arrived as streaming exploded.
As his music spread virally out of Australia to the US and Europe, the young Australian artist found himself thrust onto festival main stages and playing sold-out shows from Sydney to New York.
But like so many before him, the rigours of the road and ephemeral demands of stoking success played havoc on his sensitive soul.
"You get a little bit of success in the beginning and everything is possible. You are a new artist, a blank canvas and everyone is excited for you," he says.
"But then it comes time for the second album, and everyone wants you to paint quickly. And some want you to keep painting the same thing."
Ah, the second album syndrome, the curse of debut success. Murphy was determined not to go down the road where artists are "encouraged" by the industry gatekeepers to repeat the formula that got them to the top of the charts.
Chet Faker, his artist name since his first musical offering, the Thinking In Textures EP in 2012, had originally been adopted because there was another Nick Murphy musician.
For his second album Run Fast Sleep Naked, Murphy decided to be himself.
The pseudonym switch was suggested by the artist-whisperer, aka American producer guru Rick Rubin, the man who also encouraged Angus and Julia Stone to write together on their last album.
Murphy was shocked by the reaction of some fans to the name change.
"I was surprised by how aggressive some people got about it," he says.
"People were talking to him like I had killed some guy called Chet Faker, demanding I bring him back. It was crazy; it might be funny to you and I but for a lot of people, it might have been confusing
"But it had to happen to set me free."
If they were confused by the reversion to his birth name, no doubt they may be having issues with the sound of Nick Murphy on his new record.
Certainly the voice remains the same but the songwriter has somewhat dispensed with the sound of his alter ego.
Murphy took a year off touring to travel, find new creative inspiration and try to answer the existential questions which beset most humans in their late twenties.
He shot the album's cover by himself in the north Sahara desert, recorded and wrote ideas everywhere from an old church in upstate New York owned by two witches to his grandmother's home in New Zealand.
"I needed to cut the umbilical cord and travel on my own, my version of backpacking but a lot more relaxed," he says.
"The trip to the desert was madness, driving for nine hours out of Marrakech to stay three days in 46 degree heat at night with a Hasselblad camera and 80 rolls of film.
"That's an example of the sort of experience I was looking for, finding the extremities of myself through isolation both of geography and personally."
And throughout his quest, he kept running, which explains the first half of the record's title.
"Running always helps a lot, exercise in general," he says.
"I don't know if it is because I played a lot of sports but for me, I need to pump that blood through my body."
His new ritual marries closer to his day job. Unlike the rest of us, Murphy dances in the morning.
"I've taken up dancing in the morning a lot more recently. I put headphones on, pick a few songs and just dance. It's so powerful because you get to engage with whatever emotions you have waking up. I promise you will end up crying or laughing. It's such a good start to the day."
Nick Murphy performs at the Tivoli, Brisbane on May 8, Groovin' The Moo, Bunbury on May 11, Enmore Theatre, Sydney on May 14, and Bass in the Grass, Darwin on May 18.