Chet Faker: The Real Deal

Text by J. POET
Photography by Lisa Frieling

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Two years ago Nick Murphy, who records as Chet Faker, was working in a bookstore dreaming about having a musical career. He was attending The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, studying to become a recording engineer. In the evening, he was a DJ spinning soul and R&B records, but he had no definite plan of action.

“I started making my own music in a garage when I was 15,” Murphy says. “I had a chaotic set up with a keyboard, a computer and whatever I could get my hands on browsing eBay. If it looked cool and could make a noise, or change a noise, I’d buy it. It didn’t matter if I didn’t know what it did, or how to use it. I was making it up as I went along, composing melodies in a guitar, writing lyrics and creating beats and crappy loops on the computer. I’d constantly switch back and forth between guitar and the loops, looking for a way to express myself.”

One morning at 3:00 am, Murphy came back from a DJ gig and started putting together a collection of loops. “It’s more romantic to work on music late at night,” he says. “I was trying to write an original song and put together a bunch of rhythm tracks on the computer. I always leave the vocals till last and, as I listened to what I’d put together, I started singing the words to [Blackstreet’s] ‘No Diggity.’ The song had been in my head for a while and it was 5:00 am, so I sang it and went to bed.”

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The next day Murphy decided his low-key remake of “No Diggity” was worth sharing. He put it up on YouTube and his Facebook page. Murphy’s rumbling baritone and the track’s laid-back feel instantly gained him a global audience. The track went viral, with almost four million hits. “It got me a record deal and a fan base big enough to let me do the music I want to do without having to compromise. I spent two years making my first album, without any pressure to put it out.”

The result, Built On Glass, came out in his native Australia last year and will drop in the States in April. Its quiet, soulful songs prove you can deliver strong emotion in an intimate whisper. “I don’t like invasive music. Music shouldn’t distract you from whatever it is you’re doing, be it reading a book, cooking a meal, or making love. You can listen to this music and it’ll have a harmonious effect on you.”

Murphy’s vocal style has obvious similarities to the singing of Chet Baker, the jazz musician whose name he adapted for his stage persona. “People think I’m an expert on his music because I referenced his name, but I’m not. I did listen to a lot of his music while I was trying to develop my own style. He’s not an amazing singer technically, but he used his flaws to make his music more powerful. I’m not very proficient on guitar or keyboards or anything, but the idea that your flaws can help create something unique appeals to me. The question I get asked the most is, ‘Are you faking it?’ I tell them, ‘It’s a fake name, but I’m not faking it at all.’”

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