Neil Murray (Australian musician)
|Birth name||Neil James Murray|
|Born||1956 (age 57–58)
Ararat, Victoria, Australia
|Origin||Papunya, Northern Territory, Australia|
|Genres||Aboriginal rock, rock, country|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, singer-songwriter, writer|
|Instruments||Guitars (lead, rhythm), vocals|
|Labels||Festival/Infinity, Aurora/Mushroom, ABC/EMI, Island Home/Universal|
|Associated acts||Warumpi Band, Neil Murray and The Rainmakers, 2songmen|
Neil James Murray (born 1956, Ararat, Victoria) is an Australian musician, singer-songwriter-guitarist and writer. He was a founding member of the Warumpi Band (1980–88, 1995–2000) which were the first major rock group with mostly indigenous members and were an influential Aboriginal rock band. Murray was recognised as one of Australia's foremost songwriters at the APRA Awards of 1995 by winning Song of the Year for "My Island Home" – as covered by former band mate, Christine Anu. The track was also listed in APRA Top 30 Australian songs of all time in 2001.
Murray has had a solo career since 1989 and had issued eight studio albums by 2014. Murray regularly performed throughout Australia, either with a backing band, The Rainmakers, or solo. He undertook a series of performances with Shane Howard (ex-Goanna), as 2songmen from 2006 to 2007. A similar set of gigs, One of those Tunes, occurred with Jim Moginie (ex-Midnight Oil) from mid-2013 to early 2014.
Neil James Murray, was born in 1956 in Ararat and raised on a farm near Lake Bolac in Western Victoria. His paternal great-great-grandfather was driven out of his home in Scotland by the Highland Clearances and arrived in Australia in 1848. His grandfather showed him "blackfella stones" (remnants of indigenous artefacts including grindstones and axe heads) of the local Tjapwurrung tribe. He later wondered about the fate of the land's traditional owners. His family's farm raised sheep and crops until the mid-1970s. As a tertiary student, Murray studied art in Ballarat and Melbourne. In 1978 he started travelling through Australia, and by 1980 he moved to Papunya (about 240 km north-west of Alice Springs) where he worked as a teacher, truck driver and outstation worker, both there and at Kintore (about 530 km west of Alice Springs). In June 2011 Murray described his earlier journey:
It's not an easy road but those who really are meant to do it will do it anyway – they do it because they must, it's the only thing that validates their existence ... I was on a quest for meaning and that meaning I felt was to be found in the company of Indigenous people, the simple premise being they've lived on this land the longest, they know it the best. I wanted to learn from them so I kind of headed to the Territory because that's where I heard people still had their language and law and culture—Neil Murray, ABC News
Murray, on rhythm guitar and backing vocals, became a founding member of the Warumpi Band alongside Aboriginal members, Sammy Jabanangka Butcher on guitar and bass guitar; his brother, Gordon Jabanangka Butcher on drums; and George Rurrambu (born Kumanjayi Rurrambu II Burrarrawanga aka George Djilaynga) on lead vocals and didgeridoo. The Warumpi Band were pioneers of Aboriginal rock music and with Murray as a member they released two albums, Big Name, No Blankets (April 1985) and Go Bush! (April 1987). They toured widely, including the Blackfella/Whitefella Tour through outback Australia with Midnight Oil in 1986. The tour is named for Warumpi Band's 1985 single, "Blackfella/Whitefella", which was co-written by Murray and Djilaynga. Another single by the group, "My Island Home" (1987), was written entirely by Murray. By the end of 1988 Murray had left the group and relocated to Sydney.
Murray launched his solo career and by 2014 had released eight studio albums, three books, and one CD of spoken poetry. His debut solo album, Calm and Crystal Clear was issued in April 1989 on Festival Records' Infinity label. Murray described its sound as "outback rock with a slab of transcontinental drivin' thrown in". It was produced by Mark Moffatt (Mondo Rock, Eurogliders, Jenny Morris) and Murray used session musicians including Midnight Oil's Peter Gifford on bass guitar and Andy Travers from The Happening Thang on drums. In February of the following year The Canberra Times ' Mike Jackson felt that Murray "does belong to the current wave of new country music that's sweeping the land, courtesy of the likes of The Flying Emus and ... Joe Sun. However, his songs have definite folk overtones to them".
Neil Murray and The Rainmakers were formed to tour in support of Calm and Crystal Clear, with an initial line-up of Murray on lead vocals and lead guitar; James Cruikshank on keyboards and guitar (ex-Widdershins); Bill Heckenberg on drums; and Alex Hodgson on bass guitar. The group toured Australia before Murray took a four-month break, he reassembled The Rainmakers in mid-1990 which supported Midnight Oil's tour of Australia. By that time the line-up were Murray and Heckenberg with Bill Jacobi on bass guitar (ex-Warumpi Band); and Russell Nelson on guitar, keyboards and backing vocals (ex-Matt Finish).
By 1992 Murray had added Christine Anu to The Rainmakers, initially as a backing singer, he asked her to take on lead vocals for his track, "My Island Home". Murray's second solo album, These Hands, appeared in July 1993 and was co-produced by Moffatt, Jim Moginie (keyboardist and guitarist of Midnight Oil) and Angelique Cooper. By that time Anu had left to pursue her solo career. In June 1995 she recorded a cover version of "My Island Home", on her debut album, Stylin' Up. That version was named the APRA Song of the Year at the APRA Awards for Murray as its songwriter and Anu as performer. The Anu version became an unofficial anthem and she performed it during the closing ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympics. In the following year it was listed in APRA Top 30 Australian songs of all time.
Murray's second book, Sing for Me, Countryman, appeared in 1993. By that year he had returned to the Lake Bolac area where he had bought a small farm block, and worked with the local Tjapwurrung members to try to learn more of their culture. Although he also spent time living in the Northern Territory. The book was submitted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award of 1994 but was not short-listed. When in Victoria, Murray contacted neighbouring Gunditjmara people, Uncle Banjo Clarke (an elder) and Archie Roach (a musician). Murray was mentored by Clarke as he tried to speak and sing in the Tjapwurrung language.
In 1995 Murray, Rurrambu and Sammy Butcher reconvened Warumpi Band with Heckenberg on drums to undertake a European tour. A new album, Too Much Humbug, appeared in April of the next year, which Ian McFarlane described as having "slicker production values than either of its predecessors". Murray also issued a solo album, Dust, in May that year using guest musicians Chris Abrahams (of The Necks), David Bridie (of not drowning, waving), and Moginie; as well as backing vocals from Anu, Roach; and Sally Dastey and Amy Saunders from Tiddas. It was co-produced by Murray and Moginie for ABC Music's Songwriter Series. Murray was the subject of a documentary, "Native Born", broadcast on Australian Story for ABC Television in April of that year.
Murray performed intermittently with Warumpi Band until 2000 while mainly working on his solo career with his backing band, The Rainmakers. His fourth solo album, The Wondering Kind, appeared in February 2000, which was self-financed and self-produced. By that time he was based in Darwin, but had recorded the album in Sydney during periodic visits over a year. For the album he worked with Heckenberg on drums and percussion; and Cotco Lovit on electric, acoustic and upright bass guitar. Other musicians included Stephen Teakle, Brendan Williams, Seamus (aka Jim) Moginie, Lucy Eames, and strings by Coda. Seth Jordan of Rhythms magazine opined that the "apathetic music industry seemed unsure whether to categorise Murray's solo work as rock, folk or country, despite critical acclaim", while his live performances "continue to attract a dedicated audience amongst those who appreciate truly well crafted songs".
In May 2003 Murray issued his next solo album, Going the Distance, which Martin Flanagan of The Age compared to the previous album "[grief] is also the subject of several songs on his new album... but the music is gentler now, lighter in touch". The album was co-produced by Murray and Moginie, Flanagan contrasted Murray's depiction of Tom Wills from the track, "Tom Wills Would", with his own understanding in The Call (1998) – a historical novel of the Australian sportsman: "I saw a man destroyed by the weight of contradictions bearing down on him, caught as he was between black and white culture. Murray sees a man who acted from choice throughout, even choosing a self-inflicted death ... His Tom Wills is the man who supports the local team when no-one else will, who won't abide being dropped from the team ... He's the man who won't bootlick to authority". Also in 2003 Murray recorded a live version of "My Island Home" at a gig at Richmond's Corner Hotel.
By May 2005 Murray had released his first compilation album, About Time: A Song Collection, which consists of 2× CD with one disc a "best of" collection from his previous studio albums and the other disc had "live and rare" tracks, including his 2003 version of "My Island Home". It appeared on his own label, Island Home Music, and was distributed by Universal Music Australia. In August 2006 Murray performed as 2songmen with Shane Howard (ex-Goanna), a fellow singer-songwriter-guitarist, at the Darwin Festival. The performance was recorded for a live album, 2songmen – Shane Howard & Neil Murray Live in Darwin, which was issued later that year. The pair also toured together into 2007.
Murray's sixth studio album, Overnighter, was issued in November 2007 by ABC Music. It was inspired by meeting fellow travellers at various roadhouses throughout Australia "when you are that strung out and tired, there is an unspoken camaraderie with those with whom you share the night and the distance. You might not speak but there is a kinship. Its not too hard to imagine their story". He toured eastern Australia in support of the album during May to June 2008. Witness, his seventh studio album, followed in February 2010. A track, "One of Those Tunes", was co-written by Murray with Moginie.
Michelle Slater of Australian Musician Network described Murray's performance styles in November 2012 "[they] comprise of indie rock, folk, jazz and country swing. He made this gig unique with such an array of songs and stories. Upon leaving the venue, my aural senses were mixed with the reminiscent smells of a dripping tropical night and the red dust of the central desert". Murray and Moginie toured from mid-2013 to early 2014 under the banner of One of those Tunes. Murray's eighth studio album, Bring Thunder and Rain, was issued by May 2014.
- Murray, Neil (1980), Starting Procedure: Poems & Prose (to read aloud), Alice Springs, NT: N. Murray, ISBN 978-0-9592205-0-6
- Murray, Neil (1993), Sing for Me, Countryman (2nd ed.), Rydalmere, NSW: Sceptre, ISBN 978-0-340-57856-8
- Murray, Neil (1999), One Man Tribe, Darwin, NT: Northern Territory University Press, ISBN 978-1-876248-42-0
- 2009 Native Born (song lyrics)
- 2010 My Island Home 
- 2012 Blackfella Whitefella 
- "Home and Away", The Bulletin 1983
- "Boomerangs", Going Down Swinging 1983
- "Two Stones", Inprint 1983
- "The Risks of Two-up Motorcycling", Australian Short Stories 1987
- "One Last Hitch", The Edge 1989
- "Unmarked Graves", included in Banjo Clarke's Wisdom Man, Penguin Australia, 2003
- "A Guide to Boomerang Buying", On the Street 1983
- "Turning up the Stars Full Blast", Australian Playboy, 1984
- "Over the back fence", Follow me Gentleman 1986
- "He's My Brother", The Australian Way, July 1989
- "The Getting of Banjos Wisdom", The Age, 25 April 2000
- "Was True Blue a Blackfella?", The Age, 6 July 2002
- "Gunnedah Dreaming", The Age Review, 3 July 2004
- "No Flowers", The Monthly, 3 August 2005
- "How Many Sleeps?", The Monthly, January 2006
- "A Healing Walk", published 2009 in the University of Portland Magazine, Vol 28, No 2
- Murray, Neil (4 September 2010). "Deliverance – Now That's the Ticket". The Age (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 3 August 2014.
- King for This Place, commissioned by Deckchair Theatre, Fremantle, Western Australia, 1999
- Calm and Crystal Clear (April 1989)
- These Hands (12 July 1993)
- Dust (1996)
- The Wondering Kind (February 2000)
- Going the Distance (May 2003)
- About Time: A Song Collection (2× CD compilation) (April 2005)
- 2songmen – Shane Howard & Neil Murray Live in Darwin (released by Shane Howard and Neil Murray) (live album) (late 2006)
- Spoken (poetry readings) (early-to-mid-2007)
- Overnighter (5 November 2007)
- Witness (26 February 2010)
- Sing the Song –The Essential Neil Murray (compilation album) (November 2011)
- Bring Thunder and Rain (May 2014)
- "Calm and Crystal Clear" (March 1989)
- "Let's Fall in Love Again" (August 1989)
- "Ocean of Regret" (March 1990)
- "Far Away" (February 1993)
- "Holy Road" (May 1993)
- "Sing Your Destiny" (October 1993)
- "This Bliss" (1996)
- "Late This Night" (2000)
- 1989 "Calm and Crystal Clear", "Let's Fall in Love Again"
- 1993 "Holy Road", "Sing Your Destiny"
- 2004 "Over the Moon", "Holding on to Sky"
- 2005 "Tom Wills Would"
- 2007 "Lights of Hay"
- McFarlane, Ian (1999). "Whammo Homepage". Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-072-1. Archived from the original on 5 April 2004. Retrieved 10 April 2012. Note: Archived [on-line] copy has limited functionality.
- "'My Island Home' at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 31 July 2014. Note: User may have to click 'Search again' and provide details at 'Enter a title:' e.g My Island Home; or at 'Performer:' Neil Murray
- McFarlane, 'Neil Murray' entry. Archived from the original on 1 September 2004. Retrieved 31 July 2014.
- Schwartz, Larry (6 May 2005). "Wondering and Wandering Far, yet Deeply Rooted". The Age (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 3 August 2014.
- "Gunditjmara – Neil Murray". Lore of the Land – Indigenous Cultures. Fraynework Multimedia (Adele Howard). 1999. Archived from the original on 25 October 2004. Retrieved 1 August 2014.
- "Neil's Odyssey Rolls On". Northern Rivers Echo (Lismore). 15 April 2013. Retrieved 2 August 2014.
- Murray, Neil (1993), Sing for Me, Countryman (2nd ed.), Rydalmere, NSW: Sceptre. National Library of Australia, ISBN 978-0-340-57856-8, "Summary: 'Neil Murray grew up on a farm in Western Victoria. He studied art in Ballarat and Melbourne, taught briefly, then went bush in the Northern Territory. In 1980 he became an outstation worker at Papunya, an Aboriginal community in Central Australia, and it was there that the Warumpi Band was formed... He launched his solo career in 1989 and has since released 5 albums... Neil Murray divides his time between the Northern Territory and his native "Tjapwurrung country" in western Victoria. He continues to write and perform regularly'".
- Greene, Robbie; Lemke, Laetitia (19 June 2011). "Neil Murray: Musician Neil Murray returns to tour the Northern Territory, the place where it all began". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 1 August 2014.
- McFarlane, 'Warumpi Band' entry. Archived from the original on 3 August 2004. Retrieved 31 July 2014.
- Australian Rock Database entries:
- Neil Murray: Holmgren, Magnus; Scott, Jeff; Jones, Chris JJ. "Neil Murray". passagen.se. Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 14 May 2011. Retrieved 31 July 2014.
- Warumpi Band (1980–88, 1996–2000): Holmgren, Magnus; Scott, Jeff. "Warumpi Band". passagen.se. Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 9 July 2011. Retrieved 31 July 2014.
- Christine Anu: Holmgren, Magnus. "Christine Anu". passagen.se. Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 14 May 2011. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
- Bill Heckenberg: Holmgren, Magnus. "Bill Heckenberg". passagen.se. Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 5 August 2011. Retrieved 31 July 2014.
- Murray, Neil (2009). Native Born. One Tree Hill.
- Dodshon, Mark (2004). Beds Are Burning. Penguin. p. 146.
- "'Blackfella/Whitefella' at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 31 July 2014. Note: User may have to click 'Search again' and provide details at 'Enter a title:' e.g Black Fella White Fella; or at 'Performer:' Warumpi Band
- Jackson, Mike (22 February 1990). "Calm and Crystal Clear". The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995) (National Library of Australia). p. 35. Retrieved 31 July 2014.
- Jenkins, Jeff; Meldrum, Ian (2007). "40 Great Australian songs". Molly Meldrum Presents 50 Years of Rock in Australia. Melbourne: Wilkinson Publishing. p. 294. ISBN 978-1-921332-11-1.
- "1995 Music Awards". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) AMCOS. Retrieved 31 July 2014.
- Kruger, Debbie (2 May 2001). "The songs That Resonate Through the Years" (PDF). Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 31 July 2014.
- "Miles Franklin Literary Award 1994: Entries Submitted". Various Publishers. National Library of Australia. 1994. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
- "Miles Franklin Literary Award 1994". Miles Franklin Literary Award Trust. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
- "Program Details: Series 2, Episode 9 – Native Born". Australian Story. ABC Television (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 12 April 1997. Retrieved 1 August 2014.
- Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Radio National; Dodds, Trevor; Guivarra, Nancia; Patrick, Rhianna (17 July 2007). "Tribute to Uncle Banjo Clarke". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2 August 2014.
- Jordan, Seth (March 2000). "The Wandering, Wondering Kind". Rhythms (92). Retrieved 2 August 2014.
- Flanagan, Martin (23 May 2003). "Songs of a Defiant Heart". The Age (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 3 August 2014.
- Murray, Neil (2005), About Time: A Song Collection, Universal. National Library of Australia, retrieved 3 August 2014
- "Daily Diary – Day 13" (PDF). Darwin Festival. 22 August 2006. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
- Eliezer, Christie (23 September 2006). "Song Men". Billboard (Prometheus Global Media): 72. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
- Eliezer, Christie (23 October 2007). "Festival & Tour Guid". In Music & Media. Archived from the original on 18 February 2008. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
- Murray, Neil (2007), Overnighter, ABC. National Library of Australia, retrieved 4 August 2014
- "'Lights of Hay' :: Neil Murray :: OzTrax". ABC Local. Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). Retrieved 4 August 2014.
- "Neil Murray". Country Rage Page. Tamworth Rage Page. September 2011. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
- "'One of Those Tunes' at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 5 August 2014. Note: User may have to click 'Search again' and provide details at 'Enter a title:' e.g One of Those Tunes; or at 'Performer:' Neil Murray
- Slater, Michelle (28 November 2012). "Neil Murray at the Caravan Club. 23/11/12". Australian Musician Network. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
- Guy, Russell (May 2014). "Neil Murray: Bring Thunder and Rain". Alice Springs News (Media Choice (Erwin Chlanda)). Retrieved 5 August 2014.
- Murray, Neil (1980), Starting Procedure: Poems & Prose (to Read Aloud), Alice Springs, NT: N. Murray. National Library of Australia, ISBN 978-0-9592205-0-6
- Murray, Neil (2003). Sing for me, Countryman. ISBN 0-646-42868-3
- Murray, Neil (1999), One Man Tribe, Darwin, NT: Northern Territory University Press. National Library of Australia, ISBN 978-1-876248-42-0, "Notes: ...contains poems written between 1978 and 1999...".
- Murray, Neil (2009). Native Born-Songs of Neil Murray. ISBN 978-0-9805643-9-6
- Murray, Neil (2010). My Island Home ISBN 9780980564334
- Murray, Neil (2012). Blackfella Whitefella ISBN 9780980794892
- Official website
- Neil Murray discography at MusicBrainz
- "Neil Murray, Songwriter, Performer, Novelist, 1993" photo by Jacqueline Mitelman, held by National Library of Australia