Nick Murphy Struggles to Put ‘Chet Faker’ to Rest

Right from the get-go, let it be known: Nick Murphy is still Chet Faker, regardless of what he says.

Since deciding last September to ditch his stage name Chet Faker in favour of his real name, Murphy has taken pains to paint his old name as something of the past. It was a project that had run its due course, an alter ego he had to leave behind in order to keep growing as an artiste.

As he made his second appearance this past weekend at the Singapore edition of the annual St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival, the circumstances of Murphy’s two performances couldn’t have been more different.

Memories of Laneway 2015

Murphy’s 2015 set saw him performing solo at the comparatively minuscule Cloud Stage, tucked away from the main festival ground. While polished and commendable, his show was better remembered for sound issues and inadequate space allocation, perhaps a result of his appeal being grossly underestimated by the festival organisers. Audience members had to perch precariously on safety barricades to get a proper view of the Australian singer.

Festival organisers evidently learnt from their previous misjudgment. They belatedly granted him the chance to strut his stuff at the Bay Stage, one of the two main stages at the main festival green, and he duly drew one of the largest crowds on Saturday night. That being said, many audience members either hadn’t caught onto his rebranding, or simply didn’t see its point, and still referred to Murphy as ‘Chet Faker’ more often than not.

New and improved Nick Murphy

Armed with impressive stage lighting and a backing band, Murphy’s performance was bigger, louder, and a lot flashier than his debut bow in Singapore. He strayed from familiar crowd favourites like his 2014 hit ‘Talk is Cheap’ and ‘No Diggity’, and instead reached further into his repertoire to perform an almost completely different set from his previous show.

Perhaps he was distancing himself from tunes instantly recognisable as ‘Chet Faker hits’, but with only two new songs — ‘Fear Less’ and ‘Stop Me (Stop You)’ — released thus far, there was little Murphy could use to demonstrate his new musical direction. Audibly more experimental and heavier in nature, these new songs elicited lukewarm reactions from the audience. They displayed visibly more affection and enthusiasm towards his older, Chet Faker-era material.

Murphy closed his set with a soulful and tender imploration in ‘Stop Me (Stop You)’: “You can’t stop me / I’ve made it this far, alright / I can’t help it / Still got things I need to do.” Rather than an affront to fans disappointed with his new material and musical direction, it seemed to be an invitation to listeners from a man caught between the old and new, a plea for their patience to embrace the pains and flux of change along with him.

‘Chet Faker’ persona lingers

Make no mistake, Murphy remains a gifted musician and soulful performer. But despite his performance befitting that of a festival headliner, it did little to answer the question of who Nick Murphy truly is, or if his name change was anything more than a pseudo-philosophical move. One thing is for sure: Murphy will need time to lay Chet Faker to rest. His alter ego very much remains a spectre in the background, with the best achievement of his past possibly becoming the biggest obstacle to his future success.

Photography: Lionel Boon – Laneway Festival Singapore