Sitting in a spacious, light room in New York, Chet Faker switches on his camera as quickly as his openness and willingness to share his thoughts on his own reality while diving deeper into the conversation about his new album Hotel Surrender, the second under this moniker after 2014’s legendary Built On Glass and releasing music under his birth name Nick Murphy in recent years. With both projects now co-existing on friendly terms, Chet Faker talked to us about dealing with vulnerability and his urge to express himself, whether as Chet Faker or Nick Murphy, as well as his longing for some kind of lightness in his life.
Happy Belated Birthday, Nick. Did you have a good day?
I had a great birthday. Probably the best one I’ve had in years. I really felt a lot of love which is good.
What is your perspective on getting older?
Uh, I hate it. No, I think I’m just at that age where I’m like, oh, I really am getting older, you know. The body…I’m just trying to take care of my body more. You know, I take all these vitamins and stuff. I think spiritually it’s nice getting older and there is less chaos and stuff in my head. It’s weird as a touring musician because everyone my age is getting married and having kids and I’m still going to night clubs and shit like that. So I end up being friends with younger people.
I guess, but then the problem is they are young and don’t understand half of the stuff so they are not always the best friends. It’s messy.
A place of lightness
What are you longing for at this point in your life?
Oh wow. I’m not sure. I just want to stay free and fresh. I can’t speak for anyone else, but certainly as I get older, things happen to you and life happens to you and everyone’s life happens to them differently and in different stages and in different orders, but my sort of life goal is to not let the old man in – the tension. It is so easy to become disillusioned and jaded with life and the world of people. My great task, personally, is trying to keep a sort of optimism and lightness and a joy in my day to day.
Every day I’m trying to get to a place where there is lightness. It’s not like everything is good. I want to stay in touch with the kind of childlike aura of existence, even for a moment. Even if it’s ten minutes in a day or something. That is really my goal for life because it definitely gets harder and harder as you get older when you go through things.
Not everyone is a good person, life is not particularly fair, it can be really cruel. It’s so easy to let these things become permanent placements in the way you think about life, but I don’t think that that is the best way to live a life. It’s easier said than done for sure.
Finding that flow
You once wrote on Twitter “The older I get, the more I admire kindness.” Sometimes though, the hardest part is actually being kind to oneself, don’t you think? Have you learnt to have more empathy with yourself over the years?
Absolutely. That’s maybe one of the biggest lessons for me in the past few years. It’s not to treat myself like a machine. I think that is what a lot of people do. I certainly did, especially as an athletic young male, I was like, ah let’s go! And then as I get older, it’s not like you versus the force of the world. You will always lose if you try to equally oppose things that are in front of you. There are times for opposition, but as a rule you have to use the river. You don’t swim upstream, it just doesn’t make any sense. So find that flow and that comes from being kind to yourself and recognizing when you are pushing too far one way or the pressure is a lot. We could talk about this for hours.
Definitely the big thing is kindness, but also in other people. I think when I was younger, well I still am so captivated by expression and art and the mystic, divine place that it comes from that makes no sense to science. It’s the last magic we have left, or one of, that I almost wasn’t interested in anything else, you know. I was only interested in people that also shared that passion, but as I got older I realized that there is a similar thread in creativity that there is in the way people relate to each other with kindness and love. There might be people who aren’t necessarily creative, that I just thought whatever…but there is a kind of creativity in being generous. It is kind of amazing because you are pulling from this endless well, this endless spring which is the same as art. I think it’s easy, it’s such a clastic young person – I’m talking years ago by the way, this is not recently – to think that the person who is the most explosive is therefore the most interesting. That is not always the case.
Give and take
It’s true what you just said about creativity and kindness and these two relating to each other, both kind of open doors you wouldn’t have opened otherwise maybe. In that sense, it’s perfectly true.
Yeah, and there is a balance involved as well. It is not as simple as just giving all the time. Kindness is actually quite difficult to maintain in the world because there are a lot of people in that world that take all of it and in their sickness or not wellness in themselves or almost as an unconscious reaction attack where the kindness comes from. There are a lot of people like that because they hurt and they have been hurt and they don’t even realize what they are doing, they take and they attack.
It’s kind of similar in the creative process because you can’t punish yourself when making art. I mean you can, some people do it, but you can destroy yourself in the process so there is this ebb and flow balance between push and pull. There are some days where I’m in the studio where I sit there and do absolutely nothing, but I can’t get stressed out about that. I have to just accept that that is the process. I think that is similar when it comes to being kind to people. You can’t get stressed out about the efficacy of the kindness and you also have to keep your own balance within yourself when you are playing with these forces…this is a great interview. It feels like a therapy session (laughs).
There is a new song – Peace of Mind – on your upcoming record Hotel Surrender. For a lot of people peace of mind is like the ultimate goal to reach. What does it take for you to get to this point these days, if that is possible at all?
It is definitely possible, but I don’t know if it is like so much as something that you can get to as it is that you can create the potential for it to get to you. That is a really old song actually and it is a bit of a love song in the sense that it is about a Sunday morning just lying in bed with someone that you have a connection with. The sense is about the giving that we were just talking about. But today, peace of mind for me is about good sleep, hydration…all the simple things that are not fun things (laughs).
But it is about the balance for me. I’m really trying to balance and not push too hard and stop treating myself like an experiment or machine and more like flowing water.
It is the way it is and you adjust accordingly. Today I went for a run.
That’s good. How long have you been doing that?
I recently started because I put on a bunch of weight last year. I’m so unfit. 2020 ruined me, but I started running again so I have been running across the Manhattan Bridge which is like 6 kilometres. I’ve been doing that most days as long as my knee doesn’t hurt so much.
There is so much positivity and confidence to your new record as a whole. Could the secret to confidence be vulnerability? Do you find any truth in that?
I absolutely do. 100%. Yeah. Just to let go. It’s a surrender. I mean the secret to everything in life is acceptance of whatever you are which is so hard because sometimes you have to be something you know you don’t like in front of people that you think they won’t like it and a lot of the times they don’t like it. But that is what it is and that is what you are and then time passes and we all move on from things. It is not the end of the world. People are a lot more forgiving of each other than we often think we are when we are being real and honest.
I suppose I have always felt very confident in my vulnerability since I was a teenager. I think it is something my father instilled in me. If I feel something than that is real, for me. It doesn’t mean it is real for everyone else, but it is a real feeling and I don’t think anyone should feel apologetic for how they are feeling. They should certainly put in work to manage it as it is not other people’s problems to deal with, but that is something I hope to – apart from giving people just good vibes because music is sort of a mass therapy – which is sort of my kind of main goal, but I do hope I can show some people that it is okay to be vulnerable, particularly males. I don’t know if there is a lot of confident vulnerability in terms of society for a lot of male stereotypes these days. It is okay to just feel stuff. It doesn’t make you weak, in fact it makes you strong.
It does. Some people just have to work on gaining this confidence to be able to share their emotions and it is a learning process that is not easy. If you are lucky, you get this from a young age because you have grown up in an environment that allows you to feel and express your emotions.
Yes, the hard part is that you have to defend your feelings as well. A lot of people will almost negate or deny how you feel right in front of you as you express it. It is like a weird thing we do as humans. People try to talk you out of it. It is a way of trying to help sometimes like no, you’re not sad, no no no. And you are like, but I’m fucking sad! Stop telling me what I’m not (laughs).
It is easier to not be vulnerable and I think that is why a lot of people bury things and I think that is why for me expression is the tool. That is the weapon for everyone. I think everyone should be allowed to draw, sing and bang a drum or dance. We need all of these things. You should not have to be good at it, per se. You should just do it because that is what humans do. We express these compounding feelings and emotions that aren’t as easy to express in other factions of every day life. That is the real revolution I hope we can see one day. We are seeing it more and more that everyone is an artist and ought to be an artist. Not for monetisation, but just for self-actualisation and spiritual growth. Or just because that is what we are born to do, express ourselves.
Metaphorically speaking, if I were to check into Hotel Surrender what would my stay there be like?
Well, it is different for everyone, but Hotel Surrender is your reality. Your current reality. So right now, it is looking at me on a screen. That is your Hotel Surrender (laughs). We are not always in our reality. At least I’m not. Sometimes I’m in the future, sometimes I’m in the past. Sometimes I’m in some made up hypothetical, sometimes I’m thinking about a conversation and all these thoughts and abstract things. We are less and less right in front of ourselves. Hotel Surrender is kind of a name that I gave to this like checking in by surrendering to your reality and essentially being present.
Hotel Surrender is your reality and whatever is in front of you. The general tone is usually joyful. Even in a not so good moment, if you can check into your reality, you are usually fundamentally fine and there is a joy from that. It is a joyful place.
I find music and expression in general really helps with this which we were just kind of talking about. All of these songs on the album came out of that goal. That was the North Star of just trying to be present and I think that is why these songs maybe have a bit of a different energy than some of my more recent music because I didn’t bring too much intellectualisation to it at all. This is what my body is doing. Right now, this feels good, therefore it is valid. It doesn’t have to be great art or anything. Of course ironically, this is one of my favourite records of all time. It just happens. You got me talking about all these great subjects, but yeah, Hotel Surrender is your reality and whatever is in front of you. The general tone is usually joyful. Even in a not so good moment, if you can check into your reality, you are usually fundamentally fine and there is a joy from that. It is a joyful place.
The return of Chet Faker
Much has been talked about you reviving Chet Faker and making music under this moniker again. Was it inevitable to examine your own sense of identity at some point along the way?
In retrospect, it was necessary for sure. I hadn’t even been sober for six months before I essentially got famous and Chet Faker blew up and then I was on an endless tour for four years following that so I had spent less time with myself as myself as an adult than I had been touring as Chet Faker or partying as a teenager. I certainly knew that I don’t think that there was ever going to be any healthy self-development in that realm. It is like a blessing, it is a total gift to what I have been given in terms of what I get to do, but it is not a true reality. I jump on planes and go to different venues and all this stuff like it is weird. Most people I talk to are either super fans and think I’m some kind of God or they are checking me into a mode of transport or they work for me. That is not normal.
Part of the decision was the singularity or the succinctness of the Chet Faker project. It became such a distinct thing so quickly – much to my surprise – I think everyone kind of knows what it is that listens to it. It is just such a clear thing and it became apparent to me that I wasn’t going to really use that project to go and explore these other spaces. I had sort of already built this house and it was done and it didn’t need any more and it didn’t make any more sense to work on it in terms of exploration. That was kind of the calling. It all sounds smart in retrospect, but it was really the music that was leading me on that journey which has always been the case.
I just noticed that when I thought of maybe releasing music under my birth name that all these songs and different energies started to come into play.
That felt important to explore.
In how far was all that necessary to keep going and pursuing your creative dreams?
In a sense I had already achieved half of my creative dreams at that point. In a way the success of that Chet Faker project at that point in my life had become maybe a kind of hinderance to one of the aspects of my creative dreams which was to be always infinitely authentic with myself through expression. And then I came to this crossroads where it was like I’m feeling that I want to make these things that are very much not this Chet Faker project, but I can’t do it here and to not it would be to deny a kind of authenticity which is why I’m doing this. It is why I’m so obsessed with creativity. You are always trying to be true. In a sense, with the Nick Murphy there is a lot of grey areas, but it is a bit more selfish. It is a bit more about me, for me and it is about more about the creativity as creativity.
I suppose the Chet Faker music is very giving and satisfying. It doesn’t ask too much of those that listen to it. It is very understanding I think. They still come from the same well, but it is like, here is the song guys, please enjoy it. I don’t need too much from you guys, it’s yours. Versus, I like music that asks of the listener, but I have noticed that a lot of people don’t like that or they don’t have time for it. They have better things to do than to think about music. That is the kind of spirit of these projects for me.
Hotel Surrender will be released via BMG Rights Management (Warner) on July 16th, 2021.