Neil Murray

Neil Murray – Singing Up Country

One of Australia’s most respected and influential singer songwriters Neil Murray returns to The Tanks Arts Centre as part of NAIDOC Week celebrations on Friday 1st July alongside Leah Flanagan and Chris Tamwoy for an event titled ‘Singing Up Country’. An evening inspired by the 2016 NAIDOC WEEK theme – Songlines: The living narrative of our nation. Songlines are central to the existence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and are imperative to the preservation of cultural practices.

This event shines a light on those Songlines which penetrate these writers’ as artists and human beings. Neil Murray, well known for his solo career, being a founding member of the Warumpi Band and for his legendary song, ‘My Island Home’, will perform solo alongside Chris Tamwoy and Leah Flanagan for a magical evening of, story and connection.

No stranger to The Tanks, Neil Murray has performed in Cairns many times over his illustrious career.

“I’ve played at The Tanks a couple times; last time was with Shane Howard in 2007. It’s an interesting venue. I’m looking forward to coming back” said Neil Murray

Murray is very well known for being a founding member of influential group Warumpi Band who were pioneers of Aboriginal Rock Music in the late 80’s. They released 2 albums and touring extensively including the ‘Blackfella/Whitefella Tour’ through Outback Australia with Midnight Oil in 86.

“A lot of the remote places we played on that tour we had played before ourselves. We were playing with The Oils in Sydney and they asked us how we did it, and I explained we generally just went in Utes (laughter). But they were really keen to get out there and they used a lot of our contacts and resources to make the tour happen.”

While in the Warumpi Band, Murray wrote a song titled ‘My Island Home’ for lead singer George Rarrumba. The song speaks about George’s life and where he is from, and become a hit amongst the Indigenous communities, although the band never broke through to the mainstream. After later perusing a solo career, Murray meet a young dance student called Christine Anu and invited her to sing backing vocals in his band.

“It was just luck that I met Christine Anu when I was in Sydney and starting my solo career. She was just a dance student then and didn’t really regard herself as a singer. I encouraged her to sing and she started off doing backing vocals and eventually more. When we were looking for songs for her to sing I suggested the song (My Island Home) and being able to make it work, we did at as a duet then. But when she got her record deal she did her own version and obviously the rest is history”.

In 1995 ‘My Island Home’ won ‘Song Of The Year’ at the APRA awards and in 2001 the song was listed in the APRA Top 30 Australian Songs of all time.

“I’m extremely grateful that one of my songs got away and got to that level. I sort of feel the same as if one of your children went out into the world and become extremely famous or did something amazing. You’re proud of that child but you can’t love that child any more than your other kids. You love them all equally.  The success of that song has enabled me to record and release and a whole lot of other songs that are just as important to me. There was a lot of luck involved as it was first released with the Warumpi Band in 1987 and it was a hit in the Indigenous community. I originally wrote the song for the Warumpi Band lead singer George to sing as it speaks about his life and where he is from”.

Neil Murray performs at ‘Singing Up Country’ at The Tanks Arts Centre as part of NAIDOC Week with Leah Flanagan and Chris Tamwoy on Friday 1st July. Tickets from Ticketlink. Doors open 6.30pm, Show starts 7pm. MC – Narelle Nicole

Mitch Sullivan

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