Pete Murray reveals family tragedy behind career as he marks 20 years in music industry

This year marks 20 years since beloved homegrown artist Pete Murray released his debut album, Feeler.

Murray was 32 at the time and has since joked he was considered a “geriatric” in the industry, but given he only picked up a guitar at 22 and took a decade to learn how to play and perfect his songwriting, it was worth the wait.

Speaking to, Murray reveals how losing his dad at 18 opened his eyes to how precious time was. His own father was contemplating an early semi-retirement when he died suddenly from a heart attack, aged just 47.

Murray, now 53, said he didn’t want a similar fate and set out to find a career that allowed him to live in the moment – not live for retirement.

At 18, he craved a job that allowed him time to travel, time to work on his passion, and time to spend with loved ones as he pleased. And he found that in music.

“What I wanted out of life was time because my dad died when I was 18, he was 47,” Murray told us. “He and mum just bought a Piran [a type of caravan] and they were about to travel around Australia and sort of semi-retire. We’d come from Chinchilla, a small country town west of Brisbane. They were gonna go and live on the Sunshine Coast after they travelled around Australia. And I thought that would be so good for them.”

“But Dad died one month before that happened. So for me, I was like, OK, he’s worked his whole life and was about to go and enjoy it – and he died. I didn’t want that to happen to me. I wanted to be able to have time. To spend with my family, with friends, and have time that I can do my own thing, you know?

“So when I work on my music, I’m busy of course, but it doesn’t feel like work. It just gives me the freedom to have a have a lifestyle that I’ve wanted. And that was my goal early on and that’s what I’ve achieved.”

Murray certainly kicked all his goals – he has released seven albums, garnered 1.2 million album sales and received 17 ARIA nominations. He believes he survived the cutthroat industry because from the get-go, he set out to write songs that were timeless – not trendy.

“I’ve always just kind tried to write songs that would connect with people lyrically and emotionally and musically, so they can laugh about it, cry about it, dance to it, sing along with it, whatever – as long as it means something to them and touches their soul. When you sing a song with a bit of passion and have good lyrical content, I think it’s hard to go wrong,” he says.

“You can’t really do things to please other people. You’ve gotta stick to what you do. There’s people that have been with me for 20 years, and there’s a reason for that. If I make a change and try to predict what they’re gonna like, then I’m not being true to myself.”

Murray says gaining success a little later in life was “helpful” as it allowed him to stay on track in an industry where artists can often succumb to distractions.

“The older you are, you can deal with [fame] and not let it go to your head. I’ve never, ever been that sort of person anyway,” he says. “In your twenties, you can be very influenced by people. And that’s where I used to see a lot of younger artists have trouble coping. Maybe their ego, something gets a bit big for themselves and they start to carry on a certain way. “They might even do drugs and drink just to deal with the pressures of fame or pressure of failure, if they’re not pleasing an audience.”

“The main thing is, you’ve just gotta kind stick to doing what you want to do and sometimes not everything’s gonna work. As long as you’re aware of that, then you can deal with certain things.”

It’s this attitude that has kept him thriving in the industry after two decades – and the best is yet to come. This month, Murray released his Best Of album featuring his greatest hits over the years.

This year is also a hectic one for Murray. He will soon resume his international tour, playing in the UK, Netherlands and Ireland. In July and August, he returns to Australia to play gigs across the country.

Safe to say retirement is still far off for the beloved musician?

“I wanna keep going. That’s what I love doing, and playing live is so much fun. I love it. I wanna be doing it till the day I die, and I think that’s a long way off,” he laughs.

“I love getting together with my band – I’ve got a great band that’s so much fun. A lot of people have given the Rolling Stones a hard time for years about why they are still playing – they don’t need the money. It’s not about the money. It’s a love for jamming, playing together. That’s what it’s about. People seem to forget that. It’s not about earning money. It’s not why we got into music in the first place.”

Fans who saw Murray’s Men’s Health cover in February would agree he is still in his prime and nowhere near retirement. After losing his dad at 18, he was always conscious about leading a healthy lifestyle.

But undergoing 12 transformative weeks ahead of his cover photo shoot was another level.

“I didn’t know that I would be able to get there – it definitely shook me up a lot,” he recalled of the gruelling training and lifestyle changes. “[Being on the cover] was a goal of mine for a long time.”

“It was definitely a big change and for people to see the before-and-after photos like, wow, I really, really worked hard for this to make it happen. Interestingly, my son Charlie, who’s 19, was like one day after we’d just done some stuff in the garden, he said, ‘Dad, can I see your six-pack?’ So it was nice to get the six-pack back again after a long time. It wasn’t there for a bit,” he laughs.

Pete Murray’s ‘Best Of’ album is out now, and his national greatest hits tour kicks off on July 8. Tickets and info at Pete

Originally published at

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