Aussie singer-songwriter Pete Murray has been keeping busy in the six years since his 2011 record Blue Sky Blue, with last week seeing the release of his sixth studio album, Camacho. The ten-track release marks Murray’s departure from acoustic ballads into uncharted musical territory: soul grooves, fat drums, and the sounds of cool.
Having teamed up with producers including Trials (A.B. Original, Funkoars), Tony Buchen (Tim Finn, Montaigne, John Butler), One Above (Allday, Hilltop Hoods) and Jon Hume (Evermore, Matt Corby), Murray is confident that the album’s quality is comparable to his 2003 sensation Feeler, which features old favourites like So Beautiful and Bail Me Out.
Murray will be kicking off a massive 33-date national tour in mid-July including a stopover at Her Majesty’s Theatre on August 4. In the meantime, have a read of our chat with him to get an insight into what inspired the Aussie crooner to take on a fresh musical direction.
What made you decide to get back into writing and recording music?
It took six years to do this album. I was taking my time, having a little bit of a break. I have two boys who are 13 and nearly 10 now, so having the time off to be a dad to them was pretty good. I guess the main thing was trying to take time to reinvent myself and come back with something that has a different flavour and a different sound. I also wanted to make a really great album from start to finish, something that doesn’t have any weaknesses, so that was my goal. That’s why it took so long.
What inspired this album?
I started listening to a lot of electronica and a bit of hip hop and soul and started to work on some beats rather than having a real band come into the studio the old way I’ve done in the past, [where] you’ve got your verse, your chorus, your bridges. Everything has a different feel and even the sounds alone, I wanted the drums to have a bigger vibe, much punchier. You can hear on Take Me Down there’s a bit of programmed stuff on there, so it’s a bit out of the ordinary [to] old-school drum recording.
Do you have any particular favourite tracks you enjoyed creating for the album?
It’s all pretty good fun, but Only One, Sold and Camacho were the first songs written about six years ago and I actually recorded those songs [then] — Only One and Camacho are pretty much exactly the same when they were [first] recorded. I worked with a producer called Trials on the drum sounds for that, recorded the songs last year and set the beats down with him, and he fattened them up so that was kind of exciting, hearing one of my songs [with a] a big, fat punchy sound on it. It really changed my style.
You worked with a few different producers and writers for this album. What were some of the highlights of that?
I wanted to work with Aussie guys. I didn’t feel the need to go seeking any producer overseas — I wanted to do a lot of it myself and find the right guys that could help me achieve that. So Trials was one, Tony Buchen is another producer and Jon Hume from Evermore — I think they’re both in L.A. now, Tony and Jon. They’re both really talented producers. I actually co-wrote Heartbeats and Home with Jon one weekend, and Jon also helped me produce Connected. It was really good working with those guys, and One Above was another hip-hop producer down in Melbourne who came on towards the end and added his flavour on about three tracks.
How do you feel about your older repertoire now that you’re further down the track in your career?
It sounds different to this one [laughs]. I’m liking the new flavours. But you know, some of that stuff still holds up. Feeler, that album is a bit of a classic now I guess. A lot of people I bump into, fans, still love that album. That’s a really big one for them. Certain songs off old albums are standing up as well. I think this is a nice change and I kind of feel like I’m just starting to find my sound now. Trying to make that change and change people’s perspective to go, you know, those songs are quite old but this album’s got a lot of groove.
What are your feelings about your upcoming tour?
It’s big [laughs]. I’m actually looking forward to playing the album, for me that’s going to be the fun thing. I’m really enjoying it start to finish. I feel like it’s the first album where there’s not one song I don’t want to play live. So this one, I’m looking forward to getting it out there and letting people hear it the old-fashioned way. I kind of feel this album’s going to be word of mouth. Like Feeler, it’s really strong and a solid album with a lot of solid songs on it.
How long did it take to write Feeler?
There’s a lot of similarities between [Camacho] and Feeler. Feeler was an independent album, so I had a few years to write that. Then I got signed to Sony and I had Feeler so I re-recorded five songs off that. So I probably had five or six years to do Feeler, same as what I did for Camacho. I think when you give yourself time to do something, you can really do some good things.
I read that you also have a side venture in a recording studio.
Yeah, I’ve got my own studio. Other people can use it now but I’ve kept it pretty quiet — only a few people are starting to find out about it now. It’s a great spot in Byron in a big old warehouse. It’s got high ceilings, the drum sounds in there are pretty big. It’s nice having your own space.
Is that where your album was recorded?
Majority of it was, yeah, and a bit in the other guys’ studios as well. All the early stuff was all done there. It’s funny, when I recorded [the album], you always think someone else will do a better job than you. I went and tried some of those producers I talked about before and the songs didn’t come back any better. In the end I kept those because they just had a certain quality to them. They were pretty much all done in one take and sometimes it’s hard to get that again and replicate that.
And I guess that captures the initial authenticity rather than making it feel a bit forced.
The title Camacho means “the act of cool” in Spanish. So for me this album had to sound cool, and some of those earlier recordings had that coolness about it. It’s really important that this album had a cool feeling all the way through, cool sounds, cool lyrics. It had to have what the early versions had and it set the benchmark for the rest of the album. So it’s good to have those early ones to go back to.
Camacho is out now and can be purchased here.
Grab your tickets to Pete Murray’s August 4 Adelaide show here.