By Josh Herwitt //
When Nick Murphy dropped his debut LP Built on Glass (read our review here) under the alias “Chet Faker” in 2014, the Australian singer-songwriter was relatively unknown outside of his home country.
Sure, his cover of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” reached No. 1 on the Hype Machine charts and made an appearance in a Super Bowl commercial, but Murphy’s popularity had been mostly confined to the land Down Under, with a list of accolades including “Breakthrough Artist of the Year” at the Australian Independent Records Awards and “Best Independent Release” at the Rolling Stone Australia Awards.
Built on Glass changed all of that, paving the way for Murphy to sell out shows in major U.S. markets, including two in LA at The Roxy Theatre (read our review here). With the 12-track album boasting three singles — one of them being “Talk Is Cheap”, which shot all the way to No. 1 in the 2014 Triple J Hottest 100 countdown — the Melbourne native was quickly headed for mainstream status.
Since then, he has made an appearance on “Ellen” and this year headlined music festivals up and down California, including CRSSD Festival (see more photos here) as well as Lighting in a Bottle (read our festival review here), where he reaffirmed that moving to a full live band was one of the best career moves he has made. In fact, ever since his set on the main stage at FYF Fest (read our festival review here) in 2015, Murphy has taken his live show up a few notches.
But that was a different person; Chet Faker is now a man of the past. Nearly two months ago, Murphy made the announcement on Twitter, revealing that “there’s an evolution happening and I wanted to let you know where it’s going.” It was his way of telling us that he no longer wanted to hide behind the moniker he spun off in reference to famous jazz trumpeter Chet Baker. From here on out, his real name would be attached to his music. And as cheesy and cliché as it might be for a musician to change their identity for artistic reasons, Nick Murphy — the one who sold out another show in LA last Wednesday — is an extension of Chet Faker more than anything else. Call him Chet Faker, Nick Murphy or whatever name you want — it doesn’t change the fact that the 28-year-old Aussie always pours his heart and soul out when he’s onstage.
At The Theatre at Ace Hotel, the gorgeously ornate, Spanish Gothic-style movie house built in 1927 and owned by United Artists, Murphy put a stamp on Red Bull Sound Select’s 30 Days in LA, which after only three years is becoming a November staple for the city’s booming music scene. From opening night with Sampha at the Palace Theatre to Murphy’s series finale just a few blocks down Broadway, Red Bull continues to seemingly outdo themselves year after year with a month full of shows featuring top-notch talent at an affordable rate (all tickets were $15 or less before taxes and fees).
But unlike many of the series’ other shows, Murphy didn’t just hit the stage for an hour and call it a night. Instead, his 90-minute set extended past midnight as he dove into newer cuts — “Bend”, “Stop Me (Stop You)” and “Fear Less” — from his forthcoming sophomore studio album (release date TBA) and played older hits like “1998” and “Gold” off of Built on Glass. There were also guest appearances by Marcus Marr, the English DJ/producer whom Murphy worked with on last year’s collaborative EP Work, and Dave Harrington, the Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist who is best known for being one half of the now-on-hiatus electronic music duo Darkside that includes Nicolas Jaar. Murphy might be filling seats thanks to his uniquely soulful voice, but it’s his propensity to surprise that keeps them filled at bigger venues each and every time he performs in LA.
Murphy’s music, both new and old, can be difficult to describe. It’s equal parts electronic, rock and soul, a hybridization that accessibly encompasses all three genres. And while his latest material follows along a similar sonic path, Murphy continues to prove that he isn’t afraid to take risks with his honest, heartfelt songwriting. So, who really needs Chet Faker when you got Nick Murphy now anyway?