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Chet Faker

Chet Faker

Interviewed by
Martyn Pepperell
Tuesday 11th February, 2014 10:32AM

Originally hailing from suburban Melbourne, Chet Faker (real name: Nicholas Murphy) developed as a musician within two distinctive lanes. On one side he was making electronic music. On the other side soulful singer-songwriter material. Bringing the two together in 2011, he slowed the tempo on his electronica, added an R&B twist to his singing, fused the two together through a cover of 'No Diggity' by Blackstreet, and his Chet Faker alias was born. Building a swift buzz online, the following year he made some acclaimed performances at SWSX in Austin, released his debut EP Thinking In Textures and went on to tour the UK and Europe. Over the months that followed he picked up substantial media support, multiple music awards, and recently collaborated with Flume on 'Left Alone'.

On the 22nd of February, for one night only, Chet Faker will headline alongside Australian hip-hop act Hermitude at The Powerstation in Auckland. On the last day of January I talked to him about his background, touring, how his Chet Faker sound came into existence; and the downside of being a famous singer endowed with a massive ginger beard. Friendly and open, I quickly got the sense he genuinely loves and appreciates being able to do what he does.

You're a Melbourne boy right? What part of Melbourne are you from originally?

Pretty much. I grew up, well... Here is the thing, I had about twelve houses when I was a kid. We kept moving around. It was mostly in East Melbourne, but I live in Abbotsford now.

Twelve houses. That is interesting. So you had this nomadic childhood, and now as an adult you have this nomad life as a touring musician right?

I never thought about that. That is a very good point. Very nice journalistic segue-way.

It's weird huh. I often find that musicians who manage to really make a go of touring had quite unsettled childhoods.

It's true. It's been funny touring, you know? Obviously I have only been doing it for two years. It took me the first year to get used to it. Now I love it. It takes awhile to be able to look at your suitcase and accept that is your life. But once you get your head around that, it becomes pretty nice.

What you are doing is interesting. You go all these different places and meet all these different people for a short period of time. You might never see some of these people again, but often because of who you are as a musician, they may want to attempt to build a real connection with you.

Oh yeah! Look, it's both amazing and kind of weird in a way. The whole thing can be seen as really lonely, which took me awhile to get used to. What it really comes down to though is you have to be your own rock. If you are relying on other people, the same people are never really around enough. I think I am lucky though, because through music I get to go to these venues and meet these people for a short period of time, but they are very ready to connect.

If I was a travelling taxicab driver or something, all the people I met might not be as willing to open up to me, or as willing to hear what I have to say. You know though, it's weird man. The world is a lot smaller than people think. At first you are like, I am never going to see this person again, and I don't know if it is fate, or the universe being weird, but you always end up seeing them again if there is a real connection. The music industry is tiny man! It's weird. People think there is so much music in the world, but in terms of touring musicians, obviously there is a lot, but it isn't huge. If you meet someone, you're probably going to meet them again.

Something else that I think is very cool about what you're doing is getting to be introduced to the vibe and atmosphere of a lot of new places on a very raw and countercultural level. What has it been like doing that as opposed to travelling as a tourist and posing for photographs with landmarks?

I love it. When I go a place I either want to live there for a long time and really get a feel for it, or I want to really get a feel for the people. People always define places for me, not the things in the places. That is for now. I am only twenty five. I might have an underdeveloped appreciation for architecture or historical points in a city. When I went to Paris I didn't go see the Eiffel Tower. It doesn't interest me. I want to walk the laneways and talk to the people. I love that I get to get these crash courses on these places. There is often someone who will take me to a bar that I wouldn't find if I lived there for six years. It's really cool.

From what I understand, prior to Chet Faker you had one foot in electronic music production and one foot in the singer/songwriter game. How did these two impulses end up coming together and forming into what you do now?

I had always separated these impulses because in my mind they had never existed together. Electronic music, I didn't know of much electronic singer/songwriter music. It wasn't until I started to hear James Blake, Jai Paul or Jamie Woon that I realised, oh, you can do this. I think I always knew that was where I was going, but sometimes you need a sign. I was twenty two, and I had never released anything. My 'No Diggity' cover was the first time I ever did something like that. I made a beat and then I sang on it. It was very organic. It wasn't as conscious as I'd like to pretend it was. It was trial and error.

This is going to sound extremely silly, but I feel like between people like you and Mara TK from Electric Wire Hustle, we've really seen the rise of the ginger bearded electronic soul singer over the last few years.

People kind of treat my beard like I bought it in a shop. I think people forget this is what I actually biologically look like. I just haven't shaved in a long time.

Beards have been co-opted quite heavily over the last few years haven't they?

They have. Much to my dismay. It was never a fashion move on my half. It became this thing. I'm ready to chop it off to be honest, but we'll see. People try to grab it. I have to remind people that it is actually my face. I don't know if you have ever had a stranger grab your face, but it is pretty hard to not punch them in the face when they do that. I don't mind a photo if someone asks, but grabbing someone's face is a bit much. Whatever, it comes with the territory. I'm happy. I'm having a good time.