Chet Faker is returning in October for his first Australian shows since 2015 under his original stage name, including at Yours & Owls Festival.
The rise of Chet Faker’s AKA Nick Murphy’s soulful indie electronica has been a pleasure to watch over the last decade. He first rose to attention when his cover of Blackstreet’s 1996 R&B anthem “No Diggity” became a viral hit in 2011, but his own compositions would soon gain him acclaim and eventual longevity.
A year later he would issue his debut EP, Thinking in Textures, a release which dominated that year’s Jägermeister Australian Independent Music Awards, taking out the Best Independent Single/EP and seeing Faker named as Breakthrough Independent Artist.
In 2013, he released a collaborative EP with Flume called Lockjaw (which featured the single “Drop The Game”), which went double platinum.
It was the following year, however, that was the real game changer thanks to the release of his debut album, Built on Glass. By the time the album was released in April, its lead single, “Talk Is Cheap”, had already chalked up over a million hits on YouTube (nine years later it’s at 61 million), and it also topped the Australian charts.
Faker took home five ARIA Awards, won Best Independent Release at the Rolling Stone Awards and the subsequent national tour was awarded Best Australian Contemporary Concert at the Helpmann Awards. “Talk Is Cheap” ended up coming in at number one on the triple j Hottest 100.
Then the rest of the world came calling. Built on Glass cracked the US and European markets and Faker felt that change was in the air. Shortly after the release of the album, he moved from Melbourne to live in Brooklyn, New York, ostensibly because he was too comfortable and worried that he wasn’t challenging himself.
“Where I was in Melbourne (was) five minutes from downtown, right next to this beautiful park,” he told The Guardian in 2015. “I had everything, and things were going really well. I was 25 and I was like, ‘this doesn’t feel like what I should be doing in my 20s.’ I felt like I needed to be taking risks. I didn’t have any responsibilities and I wanted a challenge. And that’s why I chose the east coast. It’s cold. People are living on top of each other. And not everyone’s got time to be nice.”
Having gained overseas success, especially in the US where he was selling out shows in Los Angeles and New York and performing in front of huge audiences at the Coachella and Boston Calling festivals, he made the decision to put the Chet Faker moniker on the bench and release music under his own name, Nick Murphy.
Having established such an impressive track record as Chet Faker, it was certainly an unusual step, but Faker’s music career wasn’t based on aspirations of fame. He clearly had his own definition of success.
“I hate fame,” he told The Guardian. “There’s this assumption that everyone wants it – that by being a musician I’ve signed up for it at some point. But personally, what I signed up for is sharing my music. I’ve always said I’d rather have four number 10 songs than one number one hit.
“For me, it’s more about sustainability. Ultimately, I love making music more than anything. And I want to do that forever. I don’t want be on the top. I just want to keep doing what I’m doing.”
“It’s easy to say it’s all about the music when you’re underground, when you’re not famous,” he later told The Line Of Best Fit. “It’s the easiest shit to say. I wanted to prove to myself and to others, but to myself mostly, that I wasn’t afraid to lose this.”
Faker released his first Nick Murphy album, Run Fast Sleep Naked, in 2019 and followed it up with Music for Silence the following year. They were darker, more introspective releases than the previous Chet Faker material, the latter being his first instrumental album. It was recorded in an abandoned church following a period of inner turmoil.
“These recordings healed me and I wanted to share them in the hope some of that healing might pass on to a listener,” he stated in an Instagram post at the time. “Everything is so dense these days. It’s important to take some spiritual rest when you can.”
As with all internationally touring musicians, he was confined to quarters during the pandemic and eventually suffered from Long COVID in late 2020. His father also passed away during this time, which made him embrace the lighter, more uplifting music he’d since been working on even more.
Upon the release of that album, Hotel Surrender, in 2021, the name ‘Chet Faker’ was back in the business.
“There’s no way I would’ve done Music for Silence as Chet Faker,” he told Clash Magazine. “Improvised piano. People would be like, ‘what the fuck?’
“There’s no way Hotel Surrender would’ve existed if I hadn’t been able to go through it, you know? It’s hard to see but they’re all really interrelated. It’s like one journey. This kind of shadow and light.”
Keeping to his word, Faker released another album, Take in the Roses, in December of that year as Nick Murphy & The Program. It was written and recorded mostly live at the Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas.
Featuring a band comprised of Nick Kinsey (Waxahatchee, Kevin Morby), Jake Falby (Chet Faker, Julie Byrne), Tim Lappin, Tim Mislock, and produced by longtime collaborator Dave Harrington (Darkside), Take in the Roses surprised many with its Americana and folk influences.
It seems that whether it’s Chet Faker or Nick Murphy stepping up to the plate, he’s always going to follow his muse.
“It’s more like a Jungian shadow type thing,” he once explained to The Line Of Best Fit. “The Nick Murphy shit for me, it’s like shadow work, it’s earthy, it’s raw. There’s no soft edges. It’s not Disney, it’s not the positive outcome, it’s the negative process. It’s European cinema versus American cinema. If I wanted to really lean into some uncomfortable energies or themes, that’s usually when I’m like, ‘this is a Nick Murphy release.’
‘When I might need to do a 10-minute improvised instrumental piano piece that’s just pure catharsis, that’s the Nick Murphy shit.
“Nick Murphy’s earth and Chet Faker is sky.”
Yours & Owls Festival heads to the University of Wollongong on October 14th-15th. Full details at yoursandowlsfestival.com.au