In truth, I hadn’t really heard much about Pete Murray over the last few years. Difficult though it was to escape the hits he dropped at the start of his career – bangers such as ‘So Beautiful’ and ‘Better Days’ – his radio presence began to slow down around ten years ago. As it turns out, this was somewhat deliberate.
“You know, when Feeler came out and just got so much airplay, and then See The Sun came out with ‘Better Days’, by the time I came to write the third album, I didn’t really have a single in mind,” Murray recalls. “I wanted to just write an album, and I was kind of inspired by Neil Young. I mean, I have been for years, he and Bob Dylan. But by [Summer At Eureka] I’d had all this airplay and I didn’t really care – that wasn’t the point of writing songs for me anymore. I kind of wanted to get away from that.
“So when I didn’t get as much airplay, it sounds strange but I was kind of happy about that. I think everything I’ve put out is different, and all I’m trying to do is find different flavours; to go from something folky to something more electric. And for this one, I’m trying to … I guess go back to those [songwriters] who influenced me a lot but who I haven’t really listened to for years. The last few years I’ve listened to a lot of electronica, a lot of hip hop; not really any one band in particular, but just a lot of styles so I can find ways to be inspired to change my own sound.”
In that respect, the Byron Bay local has very much succeeded. Camacho still sounds like vintage Murray – after more than 20 years in the business the man knows how to write a song and enlist the best talent to help him along the way. But he’s clearly trying to reach for new directions heights, as the latest energetic single ‘Take Me Down’ attests. Although, tempting as it is to imagine that the coastal chill of Byron is serving as his inspiration, Murray says porcelain tiles are much more his muse.
“I’ve been [in Byron] for twelve years now. It’s this feel-good place with a great lifestyle, but a lot has changed. Everyone comes here to take it easy. You chill out and surf all day. But when there’s a lot of people… Well it’s different. At first I thought maybe I’d move to Byron and go down and write songs by the beach, but really you go there and look at the surf and just think, ‘Well, I’d rather just be out there!’
“So I sit in the bathroom. That’s where I write. There are nice acoustics, and that’s where I’ve always done my writing. It works.. Sometimes I’ve thought maybe I should get out and try something different. Maybe go and write songs in somebody else’s bathroom for a change,” he laughs. “But you know, sometimes when I’m overseas I’ll find I get inspired to write things maybe a little differently. But when you’re on tour it’s hard to find the time to write songs anyway.”
Murray is 47, and despite the sad vein of mourning that runs through many of his lyrics, you get the sense talking to him that he is quite content at where he has found himself. The reluctant performer entertaining his audiences with Crowded House covers has evolved into a thoughtful bloke with a quick sense of self-deprecating wit. Murray hasn’t exactly followed your standard road to success, but that may be exactly what keeps him from resting on his laurels. When Murray says he’s still searching for the next sound, you believe he means it.
“I was pretty shy back at the start. I think I’ve come out of my shell a bit. I think the fame thing kind of took me by surprise, because it was such a quick take-off. I still try and keep a low profile, but looking back at my early days, and those videos, I think you can see how shy I am about being on camera. You know, [these days] I’m probably more of an extrovert than I think, especially live. Though the biggest thing I remember about being onstage in the early days was not talking much. I’d just stand there and try almost take the back seat.
“Now I’ll step up and have fun with the crowd,” Murray continues. “There’s still a bit of a melancholic feel to some of those songs, and I feel like I just want to get right away from that. I think every album I’ve got further and further from that melancholy. So I try to make things more uplifting and punchy. I put in some anthemic choruses. I think with the earlier albums people would listen to them in the car or in the bedroom, whereas this one you can turn it up and get a lot of energy from it that way.
“I think the older you get, the more you think about these things. When you’re younger and you find success, you just think that it’s going to always be there, easy. But when you’re not the new kid on the block any more, with every album you’re more conscious of wanting to say something that’s still relevant.”
Pete Murray’s latest album Camacho is available now through Sony.Write a Letter to the Editor