After Blue Sky Blue was released in 2011, Pete Murray decided that it was time to change. Change his sound, revolutionise the way he wrote music and even mix up the way he collaborated with producers. He’s been quietly working away at his next masterpiece, Camacho, an exciting foray into the previously untouched world of beats, electronica-inspired synth and hip-hop producers—whipping up something that will excite fans new and old. The first single off the album, ‘Take Me Down’ is just a taste of this, a hint of what’s to come on June 2, the release of his sixth album.
Murray is animated as he describes how Camacho was born, thanks to a dodgy looking café and some excellent collaboration with a whole range of talented producers. ‘I wanted to make a change and I wanted to work with loops and beats. It was different and I hadn’t done anything like this before.’
The initial inspiration came after he released his fifth studio album Blue Sky Blue, ‘I worked with producer Tom Rothrock, who had worked with Beck—they created that song ‘Loser’. It took Beck from being a folk artist, they added those loops and beats, and Tom wanted to try that with me on that album. I wasn’t quite ready for it, but I was inspired to do it on the next one,’ which is exactly what Murray has done.
To start with, Garage Band was the tool of choice for the songwriter, who would write songs and put basic beats to them. He took these to the expert—Trials of AB Original. ‘I wanted these big phat loops and beats on my songs and I no longer wanted to get into the studio and record with the band. I was always joking to him, ‘get some of your phat ass on there’, because these beats were so huge and sounded so cool.’
The album was a work in progress for almost 6 years, though part of it was done 5 and a half years ago. Murray said that it started to signal a shift in the way he was writing and what he was writing, with some songs ending up back at the beginning no matter how he tried to tweak them. ‘I didn’t realise they were finished at that stage. But I kept going back to the beginning because they were so good.’
‘Take Me Down’ as the first single off Camacho was an interesting and difficult decision for Murray to make. It’s got a big chorus, a taste of synth and a dash of hip-hop flavour. ‘It doesn’t have as much groove on it as the rest of the album and I wasn’t sure if we should go with a track that was a better representation. I think we made the right decision though, because it’s so anthemic.’ As the song begins, listeners will have no idea that Murray’s vocals are about to follow.
But where did the name Camacho come from? ‘I’d just written the song ‘Camacho’ and I was out at a restaurant looking for a title for it, when I came across this shitty looking café with a really cool name. There was a Spanish girl serving me, so I asked her ‘what does Camacho mean?’ She said ‘it means cool, it means brave’ and started listing off all these cool things. I googled the meaning and the one that stood out was ‘the act of cool’. It was cool without me even knowing the meaning.’
‘So the rest of the album had to have this ‘cool’ vibe from then on. Every time I worked on something, I would turn around and ask ‘does that sound Camacho enough?’ If it wasn’t total Camacho, then I’d scrap it and have another go’.
Camacho signals a whole new sound for Murray, shifting from his softer, more emotional side. He feels that things have finally changed for the better, ‘I feel like I’ve found my sound, after such a long time struggling over the years, singing songs that are really heartfelt and melancholy. I’m over that—this is really positive and upbeat. I’m happy to sing it, it’s fun to sing. This is what I do, this is what I want to do and this is what I want to be known for.’
With new music comes tours and Murray doesn’t hold back with his 33 date, national trip. ‘A lot of the regional shows are great fun to play because the people are such good fun in the country. I’m just really excited to get out and play this album to people. We’ve got a new lighting show with a psychedelic vibe and drum pads ready.’
Pete Murray starts the Camacho Tour in Lismore on July 12, finishing in Darwin on September 9, following the album release on June 2. ‘I set myself a goal to make this album the one that is going to be here for another 30-50 years, one that people can go back to and play over again, taking them back to a time and place while listening to it from start to finish.’
And does he still get nervous when he takes to the stage? ‘I’m pretty good these days, though the first few shows might make me nervous, because I’m really focusing on the new stuff. I’m interested to see what the reaction is from people.’
By Zoe Butler