Guitar slingin’ his way through Sydney, troubadour Nick Murray is a 21st century crooner with the ways of an early 20th century bluesman. Influenced by the likes of everyone from Son House, Mississippi Fred McDowell to Bob Dylan and Derek Trucks – he creates a melting pot of delta blues and folk with a certain finesse in writing lyrics that touch base on political, personal and universal issues.
Remindful of a late Townes Van Zandt, Murray’s gothic take on the genre is simple, yet brain-rattling; relatable, yet completely detached from reality. His music is a giant contradiction that exudes authenticity.
Taking in a range of influences from the legends to contemporary greats, Sydney’s own Nick Murray is a man no blues fan can afford to miss.
Murray got his start learning piano at the age of 7, yet it wasn’t until 10 years later, at the age of 17 that he discovered his true passions laid within the endless wonders of the guitar. “Although I played piano for roughly 10 years, I didn’t practice much and never thought it was something I wanted to pursue,” he says.
With such an intense connection came the freedom to express and convey important messages through his lyricism, and soon thereafter came a desire to share his music with other people; “I guess what prompted me to start creating my own music and playing it in front of people was the desire to project my thoughts and feelings. Playing music is a pretty personal thing and gives me the freedom to say and do things that I don’t think I could do through any other medium.”
“I like to write songs about the problems I see in the world,” he says. “There are a heap of challenges in the world today and I always grapple with conveying a meaningful message in my songs. From songs about people getting the rough end of the stick to the destruction that is apparent across the natural environments of the world, there’s certainly a plentiful supply of depressing song-writing material“.
Murray insists that the most important part of writing a song is grabbing on to the sentiment, before it’s disappeared. “I like to find songs on the guitar and have the bones of the music in place before tackling the lyrical side of it. However, if I am writing a song with a particular message or theme in mind then I’ll often write words and lyrics until it feels right before setting it to music.”
The crooner describes his music as somewhere between folk-blues traditions of those early blues artists and the foot-stomping roots music that is synonymous with Australian blues artists, and with his Byther Smith-esque execution, he sure isn’t wrong.
“The more I listen to a range of genres, the more I find it comes out in my playing,” Murray says. “The slide guitar is great for hitting on those different emotions because it is such a versatile instrument. It is very similar to the human voice so having great vocal lines such as the ones found in blues and gospel music make the music much more vibrant and powerful.” Although his eclectic inclinations have given an extra layer of depth to his music, the blues are still the foundation for everything this songbird produces.
“The blues for me is that rawness and deeply personal aspect of storytelling. It is nearly all about the voice. It’s the voice of someone baring their soul as they struggle through something that most people can’t comprehend. The guitarists who I love to listen to have that vocal quality in their playing. People who can make a guitar scream and quiver with emotion.”
Murray explains that not only does the genre and its guitargasm goodness influence his playing, but also his state of being.“Whenever I get confused or lost I just go back to those people and they set me on the right path. Perhaps the biggest influence over the past 3 years has been Derek Trucks and more widely the Tedeschi Trucks Band and the Derek Trucks Band. I play more and more using Open E tuning with a bottle slide and that’s solely because of Trucks.”
With such an array of influential musicians soaking into his aura, I was curious to know of any new releases on the horizon, and when asked, Murray reassured that there will always be new music, but that getting it to people has been the challenge.
“This past year has been a really great year in terms of making connections with similar musicians and with people who can steer me in the right direction. I’ve got an EP in the works but it is still in its early stages. I find that as time goes on, I understand more what sound I am searching for.”