Pete Murray is feeling the pressure. Not to see if his brand-new album, Camacho, can match the success of previous releases – four top 10 albums, three of them reaching number one – but simply to see if an album into which he has invested so much of his time and energy will find an audience.
And he doesn’t just want an audience for 2017, he is hoping Camacho will be still be being played and enjoyed in 50 years.
Murray, one of the most loved artists on the Australian music scene, says that he was happy to wait 18 months for Eric J. Dubowsky to be available to mix Camacho. It’s his first album in nearly six years; the gap came about because he wanted to capture the sound in his head, music that was unmistakably Pete Murray music but also music that might have a greater reach with the incorporation of loops and beats in the beds of the songs. “I listened to a lot of hip hop, electronica and even soul to try and get the flavours and inspiration for this album,” Murray explains while sitting at a table in a rooftop bar in the Perth CBD. “I knew he was the person who could make it sound amazing.” It is not a huge leap into the unknown, but there is enough shift to recognise change was afoot.
“I wanted time to make a great album and you can’t do that with time limits. You also need to reinvent yourself a little bit. I kind of knew what I was looking for but didn’t know how to do it. I have two boys and they are 13 and nearly 10 and making new albums does not fit with that. I also wanted some time to surf. As well as that there was the recording process and I was waiting for a couple of producers to be available.” (Ultimately there would be several producers involved in the completion of Camacho including Tony Buchen, One Above aka Andrew Burford, John Hume and Murray himself.) “It could have been out much earlier but the beauty of it is I was able to continue tweaking things right up to when we were mixing. I think it has been great to have that extra time.
“I just read an interview with Mumford & Sons and they had their album done but their producer didn’t think it was quite ready and they should take another 12-18 months and get it right.” Murray recalls many mornings waking before sunrise and just listening to the album’s tracks over and over to be sure of the perfect sequence.
There was an even more important reason, lurking within Murray. As he entered the back half of his 40s, it was time to reflect on his life as a whole: the past, present and future.
“I did not make music to become famous,” he states in a matter of fact manner. “I did it for a lifestyle choice. That’s a big thing for me. I’m alright with the fame that comes with it and it doesn’t bother me. I’m a normal person I don’t seem to attract any weirdos. In fact during this break a lot of people came up to and said, ‘Do you know, you look like Pete Murray?’ I love it. I don’t need photos to be taken with people all the time. I want my music to be successful, not fame.
“When I was 18 my dad died. He was 47 and he had just sold his business as a watchmaker/jeweller. He and mum bought a caravan and they were going to travel around Australia and semi retire. For 12 months he worked for this guy who bought the business off him. Two weeks after he completed that contract he had a heart attack and died. I was angry about that. I didn’t think it was fair but I learned a lesson and that was that I never wanted that to happen to me.
“I have worked really hard to get to this position, to find what I could do that would enable me to travel the world, earn some money and see things and do things I would not have the chance to do if I had a full-time job somewhere.”
This album is the first Murray has released where streaming is the main means of distribution. He is acutely aware that some people are likely to just stream a couple of songs. His way of tackling that situation was to make each song and recording as strong as possible so that whichever songs were streamed would stand up as being examples of his best work.
“I want this album to mean something to people. I want them to put it on from start to finish in the car or with headphones on or at a party. There’s some big songs there. I think there is strength in the album, not in the singles. I think there are some strong singles there but I didn’t sit there trying to write hit singles. I sat there trying to write a great album.”
Murray is happy to allow Sony Music, his label of more than a decade, to choose the singles. “I am no gauge of singles,” he laughs, “I don’t listen to radio.
“I would like this to be around in 30 or 50 years’ time. Trying to do that and make a song fit radio for the current time is a mistake too because, while you may have success at that time, it also dates it. This is probably the most important album I have ever done. Either I get bigger, stay here or I go down. Where that’s gonna take me I don’t know, that’s the thing. I put a lot of pressure on myself to make what I hope is a classic.
“I am a little nervous. I am confident of the album and I like it but how it will go in today’s world of music I don’t know. My fear is that people won’t hear it. I’m a big believer that if you make good music people will hear it somehow.”
Beginning in July, Murray and his new five-piece band will head out on a 32-date Australian tour to do his part to spread the word about Camacho. He is itching to get on the road and show off the new material.
“There hasn’t been another album I have been 100 per cent happy with from start to finish. There’s always a few songs I don’t play live but with this album I want to play every song live. It was one of the goals I wanted to set myself. You are going to be playing these songs for years so you want to have a batch of songs that you are going to enjoy.”
Pete Murray and band play the Fremantle Arts Centre on Saturday, September 2, and Dunsborough Tavern on Sunday, September 3, support by Ben Wright Smith. Tickets from www.oztix.com.au; full national dates at www.petemurray.com.