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Blog

Made In China - Part 2

cheynne murphy

PART 2 - Made in China

Waking up in a country so different as China is strangely exciting. You know that feeling when you wake up and it takes a few seconds to remember that you are actually in another country, half way around the world. The thing about travel is it gives you such perspective. Insight into a bigger picture. The sign on the floor acts as subliminal programming to keep the population 'happy' (or just good vibes)

Sitting on the toilet and contemplating (as you do) not really sure which button to press to maximise my happiness:

Quick shower, mindful of my skateboard injury (see blog 1) not being exposed to too much water (I was told there are issues with the health of the tap water). I had left home in such a hurry and didn’t get a chance to book my travel insurance in. That came back to haunt me many times on the trip. But that’s another story. Time to jump in a lift and sample the breakfast buffet. 

There was very little on this buffet I could recognise. I saw something that resembled chicken and rice and some noodles and a few veggies. I was actually thinking about how many mouths there are to feed in China and where all the meat comes from. It was everywhere but I had question marks on its farming and origins. What was the process? Where are these big animal manufacturing plants based? My suspicion was that blending of animals in some kind of mass factory meat processor may have been happening?  This clip opens with my good friend EJ and some of his band members from Areef.

We all meet in the lobby and we were presented with a range of possibilities of how to fill the day in. As excited as we were there was one objective for us as a band. Rehearse. Our new China friends didn’t know that as a collective we had not played a note of music. That in itself was intriguing to me. I love risk and music. Ben our bass player quite directly explained to the lovely Junia, “not sure if you understand but rehearsing is the number one priority”. The look in his eyes conveyed his seriousness and cemented his place as a serious musician on the team

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I had been told by my smiling assasin, EJ that there were in fact rehearsal rooms over somewhere (he pointed toward a shopping centre and gives some kind of vague direction). As we took off with some student translators it became apparent they were not really clear about where this rehearsal room was. We ended up climbing the stairs into what seemed like a deserted building and were shown some rooms that had floor to ceiling mirrors, gym pads, table tennis tables but importantly no musical instruments. We were told that for each gig there was a ‘backline’ of music equipment provided for the band. So we restated nicely “we need things like drums, microphones, bass amps, guitar amps. this must not be the place because our friend (EJ) assured me there were rooms full of gear ready for bands”. There were a lot of puzzled looks and the students seemed somewhat distressed about the situation. It was interesting to note that despite being translators, most of the students only had very basic English. We didn’t know that. It became a process of deduction. I decided that I would go looking based on EJ’s earlier instructions. In China you always get confronted by scale. What appeared like a local shopping centre suddenly became Dr Who’s tardis with escalators everywhere, levels upon levels of shops and I quickly realised I was looking for a needle in the haystack. Eventually after hours of running around a message got through about the mysterious rehearsal studio location.

 

We were led past some graffiti walls into a bunker. When the room was pushed open we were greeted with checkered walls and a whole range of gear complete with tags on it. It was that new! So we began setting up to play music. After some ‘lost in translation’ moments we had a set up happening and started jamming.

Music has this liberation possibility or alternatively it can be excruitiating if it doesn’t gel. From the first few songs it became apparent that the gamble had paid off and there was some inherent music chemistry happening. Coming into the trip I was aware of each individual ingredient for the ‘band’ but still not sure how it would come together ( given we were playing a basket ball stadium show first up on the Wednesday  had some concerns). It was great reconnecting with old band mates, new musical brothers and after 3 hours we had the makings of a show coming together. We even had new chinese friends continually standing by the door and taking in this very different brand of musical expression. Needless to say we established very clearly that another rehearsal tomorrow would be crucial again. Upon walking out we wandered into another room where we found out we would be playing on the second night. It was the live house. We were greeted by the sound engineer who promptly offered us cigarettes in a polite but serious fashion. He was mixing the sound for this local band. Apparently the singer sings in a rural southern style. Facinating but unique with some very interesting melodies and this strange chinese trumpet??? Short Clip:

Later that evening, we bonded over some beers and a sumptuous traditional chinese feast.

Everyone opted for an earlier night on day 1.....except Ben and I. We were ready to sample some Heshuan nightlife. We wandered up just three doors from the hotel and went into the first bar. The Chinese don’t really drink that much so there are not a lot of choices. As soon as we walked in we were greeted with stares of amazement. There were no westerners in this bar. In fact there were almost no westerners at all in Heshuan (we saw less than 5 in total through all our travels there). Upon finishing our first beer, we were surrounded by a whole crew of local drinkers. Whilst we had no english communication whatsoever it was clear that having a good time was on everyone’s mind and we laughed away together not quite sure what anyone was saying. In fact I found everything so bizarre I just kept giggling. Almost hysterically. After we put down our first beer, there was a table of drinks and it seemed like all the night club patrons had moved around our table. There were a few well dressed younger Chinese men and we had thoughts they were part of some Chinese mafia. they started getting quite serious around having our attention:

They were harmless enough but they were really focused on getting some social leverage out of Ben and I. Suddenly one grabbed my arm and took me up to the Karaoke stage where an androgynous local singer was performing and requested I dance. "When in China"…so I danced in a sea of neon lights, chinese phonetics and a growing beer buzz. This became known as the bunny dance because at one point I pick up a big bunny side of stage and cuddled it. Why was the bunny sitting there?

At one point, one of the ‘bosses’ as Ben and I had called them even held onto me for some kind of Chinese waltz. Or was he gay? We had no idea what was happening. I kept giggling. Ben tried to leave and he kept getting stopped and ushered back to the table. We were drinking beer from thimble size glasses. Overtime our glass was empty, our friends would ensure a quick refill. At one stage they even placed two cases of beer next to me.

I went to sleep in a haze of Chinese faces, a cacophony of foreign sounds, some karaoke and dreams of pink bunnies. Like Alice and wonderland I had fallen into the rabbit hole. 

 

 

 

 

Through The Hills Of Inishmore (Inis Mor) - Media Release

cheynne murphy

Cheynne Murphy | Through The Hills of Inishmore

Through The Hills of Inishmore, is the second single off Celtic Heart, the latest album from Australian singer-songwriter Cheynne Murphy.  It is the follow up single from the title track Celtic Heart inspired by Cheynne’s reconnection to the birthplace of his Grandfather. After visiting family across the mid and west coast of Ireland Cheynne ventured over to the Aran Islands off the coast of Galway, and rode around the ‘big island’ of Inishmore. Spelt Inis Mor in Gaelic, it may be the biggest island but it still only took a few hours to ride around it.  As Cheynne shares “It was really lovely visiting a more traditionally part of Ireland. The island sits in the middle of the Atlantic and feels the brunt of the wild weather. I listened to the stories and was fascinated that it was originally just a big rock. It was inhabited to escape the ravages of invaders on the mainland and grass managed to sprout from seeds planted in the seaweed by the original inhabitants.” After sharing some Guinness and more stories with some locals after the ride, the song seed was planted.

 

To recreate this West Coast Ireland inspiration on return to Australia, Cheynne engaged some local players he new had the right ‘feel’ in his home of the Byron shire. Namely Guy Anderson whose brief was to play a groove like he was playing the traditional Irish drum - Bodhran. It came out like a rocking Pogues live track. Matt Connley whom Cheynne new had visited Ireland shared some Irish ‘Uilleann’ pipes that he had made himself. The violinist and mandolin player Chris Aronsten who had also spent time on the West Coast added violin and rhythm with his 1930’s Gibson mandolin. Finally after a fortuitous meeting with a PHD candidate in traditional Australian folk music, Chris Sullivan, at his workplace in Lismore, Cheynne mobile recorded some concetina on the recording with Chris’s instrument which dates back to the 19th century.

 

This melting pot of traditional sounds andinspirations from the West Coast atlantic seas form the back drop to the song Through The Hills Of Inishmore, where Cheynne acknowledges the traditional Irish music elements but ends up as a sprawling folk-rock production. As he says “its all about the flavours, the choices have given the song the energy and sound to support the inspiration and lyrical vision”.

 

Debuting his first EP ‘Firesongs For the Soul’ at the 20th Anniversary Bluesfest, in the company of giants (Ben Harper, Xavier Rudd, Blind Boys of Alabamma) Cheynne has achievedgreat critical acclaim, television appearances and some major festival gigsCeltic Heart is the follow up album to the critically acclaimed A Horse Called Freedom debut and is internationally distributed across all major outlets.

In Honour of Samba Blissta Paul Barrett

cheynne murphy

Last week I was  saddened and upset to find out that an old musical and work acquaintance Paul Barrett passed away suddenly. I first met Paul in a work for the dole project called Musicoz I was running in Mullumbimby. He had just moved to the area and was trying to establish his colourful community drum project called The Samba Blissta's on the North Coast. He was a lovely man and we ended up sharing some music at his little house in South Golden Beach and made this recording together spontaneously. A shame his drum parts aren't louder. Its a song I will now call 'the voice', originally written at a time my sister was very sick during child birth and I will now also dedicate it to the spirit of Paul. I love you mate. 

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Made in China - Part 1

cheynne murphy

Confucious say: "when one journey ends another begins". Not sure if he did...but someone said something like that sometime. I had only just finished stamping the new Celtic Heart album when I received a Facebook message from Ej the engineer and co-producer of Firesonsgs for the soul EP about a trip to China: 

“Morning, will you by any chance be interested to perform at a music festival in Chongqing, China? Me and my project band will be going there for the second year. It's nothing fancy but from my experience it was fun.  The catch is that there could not be any payment for the shows because it is part of a university's welcoming festival. You are however will be fully taken care of (flights, other transports, food, hotel, translators, small trip). And you are free to bring along band members and crews whom they will cover for as well. Festival is between 24-30th October. Let me know if you are interested mate “ 

So I went through a process questioning if it was real or not. But EJ is a man to be trusted, so I took it on face value and accepted. Who couldn't trust this face?

I had been playing with a harmony based trio that included Mark Heazlett (co-producer of Celtic Heart) and Mat Akehurst (drummer on A Horse called Freedom). Initially they said yes. however for different reasons eventually both guys opted out. I knew I had to get to China. Even thought about going solo with the 12 string. I love playing with other musicians, and if the intention was right I believed I would get a good crew for the project. Time was running out. There was hesitation from various people I ‘felt’ out.  I then invited my old originals band from Sydney - Spinifex. We used to play around Sydney in the 90's.

We were only a small indie band but I had this kind of "Spinal tap" moment where I thought it would be good to invite the whole band to do a reunion tour in China and film it. The bass player declined but Jay Kong (violin and guitar) and Carl Hemmings(drums) said yes. A week later Carl also pulled out on personal reasons. He also has anxiety around flying. I then asked Dave Atkins (sometime drummer from Wolf Mother, and key figure of the Resin Dogs) who was giving a lecture at SAE where I teach. He said in a text: F%^$# yeah and told me he knew of this dope bass player Ben who may be up for it if we needed a bass player.  Based on one phone call I booked him in.  It seemed trust was going to be a key component for this adventure. 

I did one quick rehearsal with Dave and we had a plan to use some loops with organic drums, however again something came up for Dave and he pulled out. When Dave pulled out I called Carl again and this time he seemed ready and took the plunge. He only got his visa approved the Friday before leaving. We left Sunday. Paul Pilsneniks who co-produced the Horse album was in from the get go, originally for audio crew support but then included to play keys, backing vocals, and percussion. It was to be his first ever band gig. I also had the hidden agenda he would record the band at a later date. Here Paul introduces himself:

I also went through a process of what 'set' to tour and decided that the Horse Called Freedom was the best vibe for the trip and based on Carl’s ‘John Bonhamesque’ (Led Zeppelin) take on drums I focused more on the rock element (featuring the tracks A Horse Called Freedom, Back At the Start, Burnished Gold, Good Feelings). I did some research and found out that Hotel California was a big deal in China and also Blowers Daughter (Damien Rice) was quite popular. I learned ‘Hotel’ as one of the first songs ever on guitar and I loved Blowers daughter so they got included. Because Jay and Carl were coming I wanted them to connect to the set, so I included one of the first songs he, Carl and myself wrote called On My Mind. It was a long song and never really got completed until this tour. Also Snake was in the set which features Jays violin prowess. See old recording excerpt of Jay tearing it up on violin:

Finally I wanted to present one of my favourite rock tracks I have written but never recorded properly called “Give Your Love To Me’. I had a hidden agenda to record the band either in China or back home.

Right until we left, I was dealing with one line emails from my contact in China ‘Robert’. The biggest email of the itinerary which includes a 'lecture' I was to do is below. The details of said 'lecture' are outlined in another 'chapter' but lets just say it was more than a "lecture' - it was in a huge auditorium seating 500 Chinese students complete with coloured balloons written in my name. This became the theme for the trip. What you expect may not arrive but won't you don't expect will arrive in spades. Email example here:

 

I was also getting random emails from other Chinese people, ‘Mark’ who said he works for Mr Lin. They spoke of this lecture I would do. But no real details whatsoever. For example suddenly the concept of B-boxing just appeared in an email:

The final hurdle happened for me just 3 days before flying out. I face planted on a new skateboard I had just bought and I was in Tweed hospital emergency getting treated. Given the water issues in China, I am thankful no infection happened but it remains a blemish on all photos and footage form the trip :-)

Remarkably we all got our visa’s, and there we were at Ghuong Zhou airport in the humidity and throng, meeting as a group for the first time. Bonding began whilst waiting in the queue at immigration and on the plane to Chongqing (Deepening through music, good times, laughter and a few hotpots).

When we landed the big question was : would my contact Junia be at the airport to get us to Heshuan (1 hour out from Chongqing airport). We had genuine trepidation based on the communications trail.

Our thoughts were answered as we came around the gate to collect luggage. A smile that would guide and support us throughout the whole of the Chongqing trip. Junia was here.

Bags loaded, dark night, on the road. No idea where we were really, nor where we were going. Finally end up at the hotel which was pretty amazing to retreat to. Huge separate rooms (that would end up being a saving grace for us to have our own ‘retreats’). Drinks overlooking the streets of Heshuan and marvelling at the artistic nature of the printed language - Hanzi. We had arrived. (Stay tuned for Part 2 ).

 

 

September News

cheynne murphy

Location of the writing of Celtic Heart - Abbey Glenn Castle

Location of the writing of Celtic Heart - Abbey Glenn Castle

Been busy as a mad hatter, managing three jobs , a gaggle of kids, bills etc., You know the usual. But I have to say inspired as hell. Collecting the new album Celtic Heart today from the printers. Only did a really short run, minimalistic artwork but very environmentally friendly and sounding I believe authentic and heartfelt. I had some lovely feedback from a musician who plays at this old castle Abbey Glenn where Celtic Heart was written and performed for the first time in a couple of memorable late night sessions with a motley Irish crew..you can checkout the scene here ( https://www.facebook.com/cheynnemurphymusic/ )..same guys there as when I was there but that's Ireland. Music is the source. It's entwined with their spirit and mine too. Yours as well.  

 

A couple of big things happening on the live front. First is a tour to Bellingen starting Oct 14 at an incredibly intimate and amazing sounding live performance space in Sawtell, Coffs Harbour called 63 First Avenue, then to Bellingen Markets, Federal Hotel Bellingen and home via Harbourside Markets. Here is a quick peak of a new ad they are running with one of my songs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6U9sdhLPZM

 

Also heading to China in October. My co-producer of the first Firesongs For The Soul EP recommended me to this University in 20 million strong Chongqing and I got the gig. The boys for the Bello tour were originally going but after some cancellations I rang up my very first band from 1992. They all thought about it but again two declined but my incredible guitarist /violinist Jay Kong said yes. A sequence of synchronistic events then led to Dave Atkins (Resin Dogs, Wolf Mother) agreeing to play drums, Ben Brennan (whom I haven't yet met but have passport photo :-) on bass (Seven) and Paul Pilsneniks keys and backing vox. So we are reinterpreting some songs from A Horse Called Freedom and also presenting a bunch of new songs in this kinda epic rock band thing!

 

Finally people, as I know you are all busy and may not get this far. This is the second track off Celtic Heart. It's called Through The Hills of Insihmor (also known as Inis Mor in Irish). Inishmore is an Aran Island off the coast of Galway and I cycled around this small rocky island smashed by the atlantic sea and winds, listened to the tourist speel in the old castle ruins, spoke to some gaelic/Irish fellows in the pub and constructed my own version of the spirit of the place here: https://soundcloud.com/cheynnemurphy/02-through-the-hills-of-inishmore

(with some help from Matt Connely Irish Pipes, Chris Aronston on Mandolin, violins)

 

Thanks for your support.

 

Adious. Be good. 

 

Cheynne

p.s Last time I asked people to send in songs inspiring them. Please do so again. This one had great spirit for me me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dukZLjp1fDg

Celtic Heart Journey

cheynne murphy

So last year (2015) I journeyed over to Ireland. My Pa Murphy was born there and moved over to Australia and joined the Australian police force at the ripe age of 40 living in Randwick where dad grew up. Life was tough. He was born in a small pastoral farming area called Knocknageehe. One of 7 hungry children, his Mum Catherine died when he was a boy. In traditionalist catholic sects the father was not allowed to marry again so his father had to bring up all these kids alone in the cold pastures during the famine. The intro to my home made video captures the moment me, my Dad and two brothers found the house using I-phone sat nav. The song Celtic Heart accompanying the video acknowledges my Grandads story and also my ancestral link to the peoples of Ireland. 

We also visited one of my Grandad's sisters Sarah who is still alive (90 something) and living alone in a cottage on a family farm in Mullingar / Multyfarnham (with the support of her daughters and grandchildren) . Here we are catching up with Sarah:

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Here is a pic of my brother speaking to Jim Murphy about the future of the family farm and the possibility of turning it into a whiskey distillery. A reflective moment.

My brother and I reflected on this church imagery. About exorcising the demons that may travel through the ancestoral linage. An inner struggle from dark to light. Its in the Murphy line for sure and comes out in much of my music

I ended up playing with Buddy Holly's distant Irish relative on the streets of Galway until the early hours busking...it was really roots stuff. I snuck out from the house and got home 5am. Only had one more night on the streets and then the Irish flu smashed me!

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A big night out with my happy go lucky brothers sampling Galways finest in some pub with some rollicking music

I then contracted an Irish flew that literally floored me and I recovered by the fire of my good family 'god mother' Ena in Cork. She actually got a role in the home video of Celtic Heart as Pa's Mum "Catherine". Ironically I visited a doctor in Cork named Shane who diagnosed that I was indeed very sick.

I was still recovering but I ended up visiting the Aran Islands off Galway. A lyric to a new song called Through The Hills of Inishmore was inspired by these "cliffs that dropped to nowhere, black oceans deep" ...soon to be recorded

I must have started recovering at this point because I went for a swim in a bay on this island to sample the Atlantic Ocean.. twas cold as ice!

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Finally I caught a bus feeling lonely but happy and sad at the same time...listening to 'Into the Mystic' by Van Morrison and Astral Weeks had me in tears looking out at the countryside and thinking about Van writing this music in this country. 

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Had a happy ending, landing in this old castle I visited firstly with my Dad and brothers in Clifden. I met these very lovely old Irish ladies on the bus here who assured me I would have a wonderful time here. They had been visiting this place Abbyglen for 30 years which is now a hotel of sorts. It was a great coming out of the darkness after being so sick. I ended up playing Celtic Heart by the Piano one evening with resident pianist Barry Ryan with a throaty voice after writing it in the afternoon.. 

To be sure this journey will continue

I felt completion as I arrived at Dublin airport to head home and looked at the Horse Called Freedom on the wall. A full circle.

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The song Celtic Heart now appears on a new album dedicated to the spirit of our Celtic brothers and sisters. 

Through the Hills of Inishmore - recording notes

cheynne murphy

I am on the final stage of finishing a track call Through the Hills of Inis Mor. Last week at  SCU university where I work I met a fellow called Chris Sullivan who is doing a PHD on the Australian folk music tradition. Any way I asked him what he played and he said button concertina. When I left the conversation this song which I wrote about an island off Galway jumped into my head with the a concertina playing in it. I walked straight back got his number and we are doing it next week.! Here is a pic of the place.

Spinifex - dualing vocals....the 90's

cheynne murphy

Really enjoyed my creative journey in this old band Spinifex where I often share vocals with the drummer Carl and we used to write music as a band. You can tell because its not that commercial but I really like the feeling. Even the name of this track is weird: "Serengetti Feeling" because when I heard the music I had a vision of Africa and animals roaming the plans. The expansive feeling related to the music. 

Burnished Gold - Before and After

cheynne murphy

This was one of the first demo's of Burnished Gold (off A Horse called Freedom) with English ex-pat (and neighbour) Adrian on flute

This was the final demo emailed to the band and production team. We actually grabbed some of Toby's guitar form this take and put it into the final mix.

This is the first mix no edit...longer intro and lead break

Final album version 


ALBUM REVIEWS OF A HORSE CALLED FREEDOM

cheynne murphy

Feel free to add your own reviews or thoughts in comments. Some big words used but in the end of the day its just music :-)

Review Publication: Rhythms Magazine

Date: Jan/Feb 2015 edition

Author: Marty Jones

CHEYNNE MURPHY

A HORSE CALLED FREEDOM

CMI RECORDS

roots rock

Northern NSW local Cheynne Murphy delivers on the promise of his two EPs with a debut album that focuses on earnest singing and songcrafting. Remaining firmly within the boundaries of contemporary roots-rock, Murphy isn’t aiming at breaking new ground. He’s simply presenting the sounds and ideas as he hears them in his head with the help of some adroit playing from the likes of guitarist Toby Andrews, bassists Maurice Cernigoi and Matt Bone and drummer Mat Akehurst.

The album peaks early with smouldering centrepiece ballad, ‘Burnished Gold’, showcasing the shimmering production and instrumentation (consistent throughout the entire album). While Murphy occasionally wanders into prosaic territory lyrically, the arrangements and performances are accomplished and should appeal to fans of the Powderfinger and Pete Murray school of song based rock. Martin Jones

 Review Publication: Country Update Magazine

Distribution: 25,000

Date: Feb 2015 edition

Author: Gareth Hipwell

CHEYNNE MURPHY A HORSE CALLED FREEDOM Independent

The first full-length release from Byron Bay’s Cheynne Murphy, A Horse Called Freedom is a narrative record of sorts, loosely charting the travails and epiphanies of an introspective everyman as he makes his way in the world. Produced and engineered by Paul Pilsneniks (Angus Stone, Powderfinger) and featuring Matt Bone of Starboard Cannons on bass, A Horse Called Freedom is the evolutionary endpoint in a process begun with EPs Firesongs For the Soul I and II. Cheynne has embraced a full band here, and the resulting sound is true to the spirit of acts such as Crosby Stills Nash & Young, and America. Across the record, Cheynne engagingly clothes the meat and bones of a folk animal with the skin of a rock beast, pulling together folk-like lyrics, gentle percussion, and frequently chiming lead guitar to gently soaring effect. At once ambling and cinematic, the nostalgic ‘Burnished Gold’ is a wistful tale of a cowboy encountering a beautiful maiden (‘there’s an echoe in the canyon from a time long ago…’), while ‘Until It’s Gone’ is a portrait of loss painted in ashes, overgrown wildflowers, and misty rain. Title track ‘A Horse Called Freedom’ is inspired by the mythology of the First Americans, and combines uniquely Australian imagery with a building blues-rock mix: ‘I see a black cockatoo cross the sky, I’m gonna move my camp up a little higher.’ While his lyrics are consistently engaging, Cheynne is at his best when giving flight to an engaging vocal hook scaffolded by a pop-informed rock arrangement (‘Firebird’, ‘Good Feelings’). An impressive debut that captures a strong sense of movement and reflection. Gareth Hipwell

 

Review Publication: Fender Newsletter

Email subscribers: 3000

Date: October 2014

Author: Fender Australia

A HORSE CALLED FREEDOM

 Classic Aussie folk rock – soulful stories backed with big acoustic guitars, uplifting melodies, driving rhythms, and tasty guitar work.

In the tradition of other timeless homegrown artists – from Paul Kelly to Pete Murray, the Black Sorrows to the Waifs…catchy, original and unmistakably Australian.

Source: Fender Australia

 

Review Publication: Courier Mail

Date: Jan 31, 2015

Author: Noel Mengel

Distribution:

Total audience 693, 000, Circulation: 215, 000, Qld/NSW

Online: 3.2 million readers,  National

 

ROCK

CHEYNNE MURPHY

A Horse Called Freedom (Independent)

***

AUSTRALIAN songwriter Murphy knows music can be a tough game: He threw in a corporate career to pursue his music and after signing an international publishing deal saw it all come crashing down. He found peace in the foothills of Byron Bay while teaching university students about the pitfalls of the biz. His rediscovered love of songwriting has resulted in this 10-track album, which reveals a mature folk-rock style with a tight band including his long-time guitarist Toby Andrews. Lyrically, the focus is on surviving to fight another day in a philosophical song cycle which celebrates the joys of a simpler life. Subtext: you better do this because you love it, because it can tear you apart. Burnished Gold is one of the best tracks with its imagery of an old coin uncovered in a canyon and the title tune takes inspiration from the warrior imagery of the Richard Harris film A Man Called Horse. Elsewhere some overused metaphors slip through, but songs like Good Feelings, a powerful folk-rock track with sighing harmonies and evocative guitar from Andrews, show how deep the fire still burns.

Noel Mengel

The lyrical journey of A Horse Called Freedom

cheynne murphy

This album documents a journey of the soul for me. Into new territory. An exploration of the inner world through music and the outer world through metaphorical landscapes.  It is in essence a concept album that had its genesis upon listening to a poem being read out on ABC radio that had the striking visual lyric ‘burnished gold’. My first musical projects embodied a concept called ‘Firesongs For the Soul’ so that lyric evoked the flame but also the way the sun lights up the back of the wave in the early morning, how the fronds of a palm shield and reveal a golden light, the setting sun…its everywhere. It seeped into my consciousness. At the time I was driving back from my work in my day job as a marketing lecturer that I like… but is not quite as inspiring to me as music and song-writing is. Burnished gold took me somewhere that day and as I looked out the window passing the beautiful sun-drenched hills near Murwillimbah a haunting melody struck me in three part harmony and the song had begun to write itself. It took me quite literally to ‘a time long ago’. Lost in the canyons, almost like a lost cowboy on some kind of shamanic journey after stumbling into a tribe of American Indians…falling in love with them, nature and a raven haired woman.  This song had some very interesting variations rhythmically and after much experimentation I settled into the unusual 6 /8 to 4/4 feel which in a way can be disorientating but strangely harmonious simultaneously.


The song burnished gold is written in a minor key (capo on the second fret) and I began the realization that where I was at spiritually was often best reflected in the deeper mournful yearning of minor keys and in fact at a certain point I had surrendered to the idea of writing an album completely in the minor realm. In the past I had always thought people would like to be uplifted through music and this uplifting lends itself through major or as music teachers often call it ‘happy’ chords. Music that makes you want to dance. But I was being led by something different. I wanted to create some kind of concept album which begins in the more melancholic ruins of self discovery but leads the listener or writer on a journey that faces the inner shadow squarely and hopefully leads them to a more relaxed space and acceptance of ‘what is’. Back tracking now…

The journey begins with Back At the Start. It was inspired by a brief encounter with a radiant little baby, peering over his mothers shoulder…such innocence and joy. I reflected on this innocence and how we are conditioned by parents firstly and then society, and are filled with preconceptions and ideas that may or may not be true but we somehow become confused in our identity and some of us turn to drugs or therapy to unravel this conditioning. I see it like a helmet or uniform that we are told to wear. I then thought of my 4 grand parents that passed away in nursing homes. My Irish Grandad in particular had an interesting journey with Alzeimers and during my monthly visits he eventually forgot who I was or indeed his own wife. However he did seem rather happy and by all accounts he was content, smiling and loved his food. He was even known to wander the local streets in search of….who knows. In some respects he was almost turning into a baby again hence the title Back at the Start. The heart has some kind of guidence system, some kind of purity, and 'if it comes from the heart you'll be back at the start again'...back to a more innocent approach to life.

So in track 1, Back At the Start we contemplate the corruption of innocence by unwanted rules and conditioning that are designed to order us but may in fact constrain our freedom.  Burnished Gold (Track 2) looked at the old worlds and tribes and their connection to nature which are ‘signs like a roadmap, always knowing where to go”.  But our path can unravel unpredictably and we can sometimes face loss and devastation. Until its Gone (Track 3) is a contemplation that often “we don’t really know how good it is until its gone”. Originally inspired by the death of the brother of one of my closest friends who has indigenous heritage, I used this as a metaphor for an American Indian warrior dealing with the grief of the death of his own brother and feeling his presence, sitting by the fire, hears his brothers totem animal the coyote … “wild cries in the distance’ your animal songs”. This song traverses minor sadness and lifts up in the chorus almost as a revelation to honour what we have hear and now. The altro or end is the acceptance. I have played music at many funerals and see these as a celebration of one’s life but wonder about the irony that this happens after they are gone?

 The title track of the album (track 4) follows, as this warrior, whom ambiguously may be of modern times or from the old world, is searching for “A Horse Called Freedom”.  Not sure if I was unconsciously affected by an old movie I saw with my Dad called 'A man called horse' or the desert chill of Horse with No Name by America. This lyric is a metaphor for finding freedom within. My personal journey of living in a blended family with my two children and my partner’s two children has been emotionally challenging. Combine this with 5 jobs and still a burning desire to keep writing and recording musical ideas, I sometimes feel like a warrior albeit misguided at times. This journey is not free from darkness and the emotional upheaval of my own difficult upbringing (family of 4, a very strict father and all the conflicts apparent in the interrelationships -N.B dad has since mellowed like a bottle of red wine god bless him x). Interactions in my own day to day experiences can trigger these old wounds. This leads the warrior to paint his face, embodying his shadow. Removed from society, somewhere in the mountains, with the threat of rain, a metaphor for inner isolation and the emotional storms that can plague us. Throughout this isolation there are glimpses of this mythical white horse (also represented in the album artwork). Glimpses of a freedom that can lift the spirit beyond these sometimes chaotic worldly concerns onto a more elevated plateau.

 The album’s central character re-enters society in ‘Must Start Moving’ (Track 5) but on the fringes only. Wandering with just a dog as a companion he finds deep solace in the solitude of loneliness and turns his gaze once more back to nature and its infinite support. The theme here for the character is not to get stuck. Not dwell unnecessarily in emotional confusion but to stay grounded. He 'Must keep moving'.

 This theme is continued with Tears for the Road (Track 6) where a soul is dealing with the tremendous grief of losing his family in the Victorian bushfires. He couldn’t save them and watched them be burned alive. Horrifying. To tell someone to just move on would be disrespectful to them so instead the song explores how grieving can be like leaving ‘tears for the road’ (Track 6) which can lead you to a lighter space. It is also touches on the journey from one place to another.

Thus we enter a transition from the dark into the light where in track 8 “good feelings will guide you to a home”. A metaphor for the inner home of knowing yourself and contacting your own inner power and strength and ability to self-nurture.  The song is  also an exploration of manifestation whereby the intuition is expressed by genuine good feelings which if you choose this method of guidance may lead you towards self-actualisation. It is also an honouring of family and its role in the bigger picture.

Now as the transformation is near complete, the wounded warrior with the ‘broken wings’ meets the mythical Firebird (Track 8) who becomes a spiritual healer and teaches him to ‘fly again’. This is similar to the rising phoenix that according to Greek mythology, is a long-lived bird that is cyclically regenerated or reborn. After writing the song I was present at a ceremony where an indigenous leader from Australia was passing on a Black cockatoo feather to another man of Hawaiian descent as a peace offering and a sacred symbol of the environment to 'spread' the word. He relayed the story that his people called the black cockatoo a firebird as well as the bearer of rain and it is very lucky to be 'dropped' one of these feathers. I actually wrote the song as Fireburn but my lovely step daughter Arianna thought I said Firebird so it stuck. It is interesting when you let go of the conscious mind what can come through. Now our character is transforming, lightening and moving through into modern times.

 So We Can See (Track 9) looks at the pressure of day to day living. We can all ‘crack like thunder’. It also looks at how long term relationships can lead to the  drifting apart ‘phase’ through the mundane, the familiar, as we are ‘moving along like trains in the night with rattles and aches, and there’s splinters of light’. This metaphor draws on the themes of ships in the night which may arise from a lack of quality time spent together, which in turn can create unwanted friction. Again pointing ‘back to the start’, this quest for peace and liberation may require a connection to a greater spirit or power who can ‘strip us of the dark, so we can see’. It also looks at the humanistic aspect of spirituality where each one of us can ‘light a candle’ for the other 'so we can see'.

In the End (Track 10), we need not take it all so seriously, so as the painful process of the metamorphosis ends and the butterfly emerges from the cocoon we can move into that peaceful, breezy, connected space that dwells somewhere within the moment. Written at a Corroboree near Casino, I was by a rushing stream, like vagrant, a wayfarer, watching the children swim and play free from the shackles of technology and Facebook. It is also inspired by a great book called Siddhartha by Herman Hesse who'se journey of hedonism ultimately leads him to a life of simplicity by the river.

So as this first part of my journey ends…..another begins

Alternate mix for Good Feelings

cheynne murphy

This was the alternate mix that Paul Pilsneniks and I came up with after a late night session with me playing some ruffhouse electric guitars (sorry Toby) ...its dirtier than the mix we settled on, which was more congruent to the album sound, but standing alone I think it suits the song..

Samoan dreaming

cheynne murphy

Would like to thank Mr Alex Slade, surf adventurer, Samoan travel friend who has quickly whipped up a thumbnail for the demo song “The Mission” which was written after an epic journey into the jungles of Samoa, down a 4WD horse track (with locals horse riding to remote village locations), landing at the base in front of a bay of stunning, iridescent magnificence and then we paddle and walk across rocks to this beautiful ‘secret surf spot’ with a backdrop that would inspire Robert Louie Stevenson aka Treasure Island …on day 1 of our Samoan trip…very beautiful indeed

Sladey's quick mockup for the song below!

Sladey's quick mockup for the song below!

The Mission...somewhere in Samoa Day 1

The Mission...somewhere in Samoa Day 1