A lot of the press would have you believe that John Murry is a miserable bastard, but it’s just not true. Absolutely, he’s a pragmatist and he’s not about to pull any punches, but he’s no dark prince either. In fact, the Mississippi man is as funny as hell and has a ready laugh.

He eschews the title, but Murry is most often described as a folk rock singer-songwriter. He’s wildly talented and reminiscent of Springsteen at his best. Murry’s songs are made of powerfully moving stuff, so personal that at times it hurts to listen to them. It’s no surprise, then, that at the moment he’s listed as one of the world’s finest – Uncut naming his 2013 debut record The Graceless Age one of the 50 best singer-songwriter albums of all time. Murry himself is understated about the honour.

“Look, it’s good print, but [Springsteen’s] Nebraska’s not on there – I mean, really?” he says. “I’d take me off and put that on there. It’s all so subjective, isn’t it? There’s really no magic in creating songs, but there’s a whole lot of bleeding, bloodletting that goes on. It takes a lot of emotional energy to create anything of value. Anyway, I don’t give a fuck what most critics think. Most of them are just failed songwriters anyway. Not in Australia, though…”

He’s not trying to dig himself out of a hole there, either. Murry has spent a lot of time in Australia – among other things, he’s recorded here and plans to do so again this month. He’s a keen observer of what goes on and he’s developed a real affection for us, even though he’s previously called Australians an “interesting and strange breed”.

“Well, you are,” he laughs. “Australia’s a weird and amazing place in all of the good ways and the bad ones. Australians are very generous people, but there’s a real division in Australia and a lot goes unspoken. For instance, racism is very real there, but Australia’s just so huge that you don’t see it all the time. There’s also something kind of Southern about your hospitality, but in the South they’re guarded and it’s kind of manipulative, whereas in Australia, you really do get a chance.”

There’s at least one thing he really wants to do now he’s back. “I never even saw the beach last time. Mark Stanley [the Aussie producer who worked on Murry’s Califorlornia EP] sucks. I was here for a whole month and I never even got close to a beach! I want to surf, but I’m real bad. I don’t want to embarrass myself. I don’t want to be like the pale, pasty guy falling off. Someone’s gonna need to teach me – I grew up in Mississippi!”

The image of Murry’s grumpiness is undoubtedly fuelled by him saying things that make him seem a bit dark out of anger. Now, it sounds like time has softened him a tad, and he offers some advice for us all. “I don’t feel angry now. I was angry for a while. Now, I just feel indignant. I feel that if anyone is to engage by writing songs or creating rock’n’roll, there’s only one way and that’s the honest way. For a long time there I felt like the world was going to hell in a handbasket. Maybe it still is, in which case maybe it’s my turn to run after it with the fire extinguisher. Trying to explain that sounds kinda odd, but if the world is so screwed up, we all have responsibilities. At the very least, be nice to your next-door neighbour and get to know their names.”

Califorlornia out now through Warner. Catch him atThe Basement onWednesday August 20, tickets online.

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