In 2014, the world officially met Australian singer-songwriter Nick Murphy via Built on Glass, his debut artist album released under his now-retired Chet Faker alias. As Chet Faker, he was set on taking over the music world: Built on Glass received wide critical acclaim via its popular singles “Talk Is Cheap,” “1998,” and “Gold,” the latter of which counts nearly 100 million YouTube views for its official music video.
Walk us through the evolution from Chet Faker to Nick Murphy. What got you to a point where you wanted to become, essentially, yourself?
I think it was always coming. I don’t think it was like something unexpected happened. If you go back to 2012 or 2013 to some of the first interviews I did talking about Chet Faker, it was always meant to be a temporary thing. But obviously life had different plans and it did its own thing, and five years later it was still happening.
I was 22, which is young. I just got sober, so I was already adjusting to just actually being in reality. And then I’m traveling around the world touring, getting recognized, doing interviews, so I was getting used to that for a couple of years. Then I moved to New York. I think, for the first time in my life, I actually was able to get used to myself rather than major life changes. I think that’s when I started to notice the difference between all this stuff. I think I just finally realized what I want to make, what I want to do. That’s an ongoing lesson.
When you were performing onstage or doing interviews as Chet Faker, did you feel like you were putting on a persona?
It was never a persona. When [Chet Faker] blew up, I had three other alter egos or pseudonyms, because my issue had always been that I had such versatile music. I had this idea that it was so diverse that people wouldn’t be able to digest that from one person. [Chet Faker] just happened to take off; I guess I followed that intuition. It was always me; I was never good at pretending.
At some point after half a decade, I’d worked so much under that name that it felt like it had come to represent decisions that I no longer felt like were progressing anymore. It’s almost like I was building something because I found the creation of building something rewarding, and then all of a sudden it was built, but now I knew that’s not what I want to be building—I want to be building something new. It’s like I didn’t want to live in the house I built, but I built the house.
Are you a shy or removed person?
One of the main reasons that I moved to New York firstly was because I’d always been a kind of insular person. My problem is I’m like a million different people in one, which is also probably why I was making a million different types of music. I think I spent a long time trying to pick one of those facets of myself and the music and hone that in. I think Chet Faker was one of those facets, one color in a spectrum.
I’ve spent my whole life trying to get consistency out of myself and [my] music. I think I was finally old enough to realize that I’m all these colors. I gave up trying to control and be consistent with myself. I was like, “Fuck it, I am whatever I am.” If I want to go and DJ some fucking industrial techno or if I want to do some acoustic piano sets, that’s OK [if] that’s what I want to do—that’s true and honest.
One of the big changes for me was realizing that all these things that I do, they’re not wrong because they feel right. The only name that could actually represent something as inconsistent as that was my name: Nick Murphy. Now, it’s clearer, but it’s less specific. I’ve surrendered and committed to just being honest to whatever I’m creating and feeling, and the only way I felt like I could represent that is by actually putting my name on it.
You’re touring now through early December as Nick Murphy, but do you play Chet Faker songs in your sets?
Yeah, I understand that music means a lot to a lot of people. I’m not negating or cutting off everything I’ve done, so I’m still playing [Chet Faker music]. Also, I don’t have enough songs yet to not play them; I’d be a short set [laughs].
Does this whole identity and artistic metamorphosis change your creative process?
In a lot of ways, it’s a return to how I first wrote music, but then in some other ways, it’s a brand-new process. One thing I’ve ended up doing is actually writing songs down with pen and paper and just writing them on a piano or a guitar—not like piecing it together in a studio, but bringing in a song, a structure, a form.
In terms of a new process, I’ve been working in studios, which is new for me; I’ve always worked from home. I’ve been working on [my new album] with Dave Harrington [Darkside] and engineer Phil Weinberg. Working with other people is really different; it’s really challenging in a lot of ways. I’ve always just had an intuition in my head and just done it. But all of a sudden, there’s people in the room and they’re like, “What do you want?” And I have to articulate what I want, which I found really hard to begin with. I even switched software out: I’ve been on Ableton, but I switched over to Pro Tools. There’s actually some really different approaches going on; I’m hoping that makes the music better.
How did your fans react to the name switch?
I’m just blown away by the reaction. I thought people would just flip out. I was pretty nervous about it, [but] I knew it was the right thing to do for me and my creative process. I’ve developed this new depth of love for my fans. I’m really psyched to just give them this album that I’m working on. There’s a big question mark and this experimentation, too, at the moment. I’m really grateful for everyone just being along for the ride.
Let’s say five to ten years from now, once you expand the Nick Murphy discography, will you phase out Chet Faker music from your performances and canon?
There’s two ways I approach what I play. I try and only play music that is still relevant to me emotionally. But at the same time, I always throw in a least a few [songs] that I know people are coming to hear. I don’t think it’s going to be a question of whether I should or shouldn’t. I think in 10 years if I still want to play “Talk Is Cheap,” I’m going to play it.
I believe whatever I put out now is going to be an extension of what I’ve always done. If there are people that only want to hear that Chet stuff and not the new stuff, then they’re not really fans; they’re fans of what I used to do. There’s going to be people who are going to want to hear both, and I’m going to play for them, the people that really want to hear what’s happening.
It sounds like the Nick Murphy sound and identity is an extension of Chet Faker.
I look at Chet Faker or what I’ve done [in the past] as one color in a spectrum, a palette of everything. It’s almost like I was honing in green on my palette. And then I’m like, “Now let’s paint this actual picture.” I’m not just painting green [anymore].
You’re still getting used to the recent name change, but have you thought about where you’re going from here now as Nick Murphy?
It’s starting to settle, at least personally, and now it’s just the ripples outward in terms of the process. It feels right. I’ve written more in the last couple of months than I have in the last three years. It’s opened something up. In a way, it’s less intellectual. I’m trying to articulate this intellectually, but it’s more of a subconscious surrender. And that’s all it’s been, this faith in that indefinable expression.