In the making of his sophomore album Run Fast Sleep Naked, Nick Murphy spent four years traveling the world solo with a microphone in his suitcase, recording his vocal tracks in whichever spaces and environments most inspired him. During that time, the Melbourne-bred singer/producer/multi-instrumentalist formerly known as Chet Faker immersed himself in intense self-examination, a process aided by his reading of Joseph Campbell’s theories of the artist’s shaman-like role in modern society. With its penetrating songwriting and kaleidoscopic palette, Run Fast Sleep Naked is a hypnotically candid document of that searching, an album equally informed by constant questioning and steadily arriving at fragments of truth.
Co-produced with Dave Harrington and mixed by Murphy and Phil Weinrobe, Run Fast Sleep Naked is the latest in a series of widely acclaimed releases including Murphy’s 2014 full-length debut Built on Glass—a platinum-selling effort that won him seven ARIA Music Awards including Best Male Artist and Producer of the Year, and lead to him playing sold-out shows on five continents, appearing at major festivals including Coachella and Glastonbury, performing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and seeing his videos receive hundreds of millions of views and more.
Although Murphy captured his vocal performances in spaces across the globe—including his grandmother’s living room, a studio in Tokyo, a vacation rental he shared with his family in New Zealand, and his own New York City apartment—the musical component to Run Fast Sleep Naked was mainly recorded at Figure 8 in Brooklyn. And in sculpting the album’s shapeshifting sound, Murphy enlisted over 15 musicians and a full orchestra, embedding each song with unexpected textures and wildly varied tones.
“It’s almost like I was finding different shapes and colors from around the world, and then bringing them back and putting them all together,” Murphy says. “If you sit in one space for a long period of time, you get settled and stop experiencing the world in a new way,” he adds. “There’s a kind of power in leaping into the void without set structures and systems in place.”
The opening track to Run Fast Sleep Naked, “Hear It Now” wholly embodies the album’s expansiveness, encompassing everything from delicate orchestral flourishes to full-hearted gospel harmonies to urgent pieces of spoken word. And in the first few lines, the gently triumphant track contains something like a statement of purpose for Murphy: “I was put here with a bleeding heart/To help somebody else’s start.” Later, on the soulful lead single “Sanity,” Murphy brings bright piano melodies, off-kilter beats, and radiant synth lines to his unflinchingly self-aware lyrics (“My sanity it comes to question/But I need to have someone to burn up all my God attention/It’s like honey inside my head/But could you give it up to change the pace before you crawl into my bed”). With the album also offering the darkly cinematic storytelling of “Harry Takes Drugs on the Weekend,” the unabashed anthemic glory of “Never No,” and the stark piano balladry of “Believe Me,” Run Fast Sleep Naked closes out with the dreamy ache of “Message You At Midnight”—a string-laced and indelibly tender portrait of obsession.
For Murphy, the sonic depth of Run Fast Sleep Naked has everything to do with the kinetic collaboration he found with Harrington and Weinrobe. “At some point our minds became one,” he says. “I didn’t have to explain anything to them, and it was the most addictive state I’ve ever been in—I was just exploring the unknown with these brothers in arms. It was the purest version of creation any of us has had, and the music is far beyond where it would be if I’d done it on my own.” On the contrary, Murphy’s songwriting process happened in deliberate seclusion, which he views as essential to the deeply reflective nature of the material. “I returned to writing with paper and pen, or just on an instrument, without having all my toys around me, and I found that infinitely more powerful,” he points out. The collaborative aspect of Run Fast Sleep Naked also marks a striking departure from the making of Built on Glass, which Murphy produced and performed almost entirely on his own.
In bringing Run Fast Sleep Naked to life, Murphy rigorously questioned his own motivations for making music and his fundamental intentions as an artist. “At some point I realized there was a path I could continue on where I could put things forward as a way to boost myself up, or as a gain to my ego,” he says. “But that’s not true to the whole purpose and role of the artist.” In that questioning, he discovered a new touchstone for his creative output: music that empowers and elevates each listener to a more exalted version of themselves, and ultimately undoes a certain emotional suppression imposed from the outside world. “The world tells us not to feel, but music can help us get there,” says Murphy. “I might feel alone and I do all the time; it’s not really a door I could ever close. For a long time I could never understand how other people could close it, but then I came to realize through making this record that it’s meant to be open. I’m meant to feel for those who don’t know how to. That’s the whole point of all this.”
Catch Nick Murphy’s latest synchs below: