The man behind the artist: Nick Murphy rebrands creative vision

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Not too long ago, Chet Faker was running through the Australian awards circuit with his self-produced extended play “Built on Glass,” even taking home Best Male Artist at the 2014 ARIA Awards. In the wake of his success, however, the man behind the artist had a realization about himself and his alter ego.

“My whole life, I’ve had what I perceived to be very inconsistent tastes, moods, behaviors,” he said. “I spent a long time obsessing over that and trying to become one version of myself, but at certain point it was just like, ‘Maybe I am all these different versions.’”

Chet Faker was honest, but he wasn’t complete. To fix that, the creator reverted to making music under his birth name, Nick Murphy, with the intention of returning to his full creative vision. The most substantial project since this name change is  “Missing Link,” an EP that was released in May and has a darker, more menacing sound than his previous works.

“Life, I guess,” said Murphy, when asked about what caused the change in tone. “Growing up and being more comfortable with those dark energies, I think I shied away from that for a long time. There are some darker songs way back in the SoundCloud days, but I wasn’t particularly known for those. It’s kind of a return to some energies I had, and had been neglecting for a long time.”

It doesn’t take long for Murphy to get back into that mindset on “Missing Link.” The first track “Your Time,” co-produced by KAYTRANADA, uses that brooding tone to its full extent, with the grim instrumental paralleling the desperation in his voice and lyrics.

“[‘Your Time’] was actually for [KAYTRANADA’s] album … but it didn’t end up on the record, it didn’t fit,” Murphy said about the collaboration. “This seemed like the last chance to put that song out, so that’s why it was up front on the record. It was like, ‘By the way, we’ve got this guy sitting here too.’”

Along with the change in tone, Murphy used his fresh start to venture into a new creative space — acting. The Los Angeles Music Video Festival, which took place in early October, saw the premiere of his short film “Missing Link,” meant to accompany the EP of the same title. It was Murphy’s first time acting, and he said the new medium was more genuine than he had expected.

“Authenticity is a huge thing for me, and I think I naively always considered acting as sort of faux, like you’re pretending,” Murphy said. “But it’s not really about that — it’s about bringing something that is real into the character, into the framework. Once I got into that, I found it really interesting.”

Tapping into the theme of embracing the multiple versions of himself, the film saw Murphy split between two personalities: the stoic, burdened man on a mission, and the man who is much more careful to live in the present. The former came naturally to him, but co-director Johann Rashid pushed Murphy to fully embrace the more liberated character.

“Anxiety is accessible for me,” Murphy said with a laugh. “The other one was hard at the beginning of the film, but it was a lot more fun to play with. This zen Nick, just being in the moment, and surrendering to whatever’s happening right now. It was actually quite good practice for me, to get out of the stress mode into another one.”

Instead of a plot with a beginning, middle and end to the storyline, Murphy said the film was originally intended to have a cyclical plot that looped back to the opening scene. The final version veered from that concept, but still saw a character searching for a beginning rather than finding resolution when it was all said and done.

The real-life Nick Murphy still doesn’t know what his next move will be, but said that creating his visual work has already changed how he makes music, using a more collaborative approach rather than the do-it-all mentality he’s used to.

“This record I’m working on now, I’ve been working with Phil Weinrobe and Dave Harrington from Darkside,” Murphy said. “I’ve been working out of a studio more, and less from home. I think at this point, I know I can do everything myself … but let’s see how much I can give to the music, to the art. Working with other people, the art is bigger than you.”

This Thursday, Murphy will be headlining a performance at The Shrine as part of his nationwide tour. Under the stage name Chet Faker, he has built a reputation for putting on a commanding, yet intimate show, and will now integrate that catalogue into his current work to give fans a dynamic experience that shows all sides of his artistic personality.

Editor’s note: This post has been updated to include information about Murphy’s upcoming performance.