Local musician Lee Murray talks to Amy Heague from Focus about his career, family life and the state of live music here in the Manning Great Lakes – which is well and truly alive.
How long have you lived in the Manning Great Lakes?
All my life. I grew up in the Taree West area and as a kid used to run amok (you can still see my name engraved in the concrete path the top end of Spence St!)
Moved out to Forster/Tuncurry for a few years and then back to Taree. I guess I’m a bit of a homebody; my whole family is. I’ve travelled the world a little bit and love getting away on holidays when I can, but it’s always good come back to Taree. It just feels like home.
Among other things, people may know you best for fronting the popular covers band ‘Mum Says Rock’. When did that start, and what do you love about the band?
Around 2001, my previous band ‘Meester Steenky’ called it quits after a long time on the road. It was fun, but we ran ourselves into the ground with the amount of gigs and travelling we were doing. I thought that would have been the end of my music career, but the itch came back, and a few years later Mum Says Rock was formed.
Originally we were a 5 piece – 2 guitarists, bass, drums, vocal. A few guys left and me, Matt (Drums) and Craig (Bass), were left to battle on as a three piece. It’s proven to be the right combination, because we are still going strong after 6 years and having a ball doing it.
Tell us a little bit about your family; how do they like having a muso for a husband and dad?
I have a beautiful wife, Sally, and 2 boys who fly around at a million miles an hour all of the time! My oldest boy Logan is on the Autistic spectrum and is the most loveable special guy. He has made me realise that not everything revolves around money and success. Without him, I wouldn’t be who I am today doing the things I love.
My youngest boy Blake seems to have inherited my love for all things musical and artistic. He loves busting out on the drum kit and coming along to gigs and dancing up a storm! I’ve been in bands since before Sally and I met, so she’s always been very tolerant of my music. She is always there for me, usually reminding me of something I’ve forgotten to do, but I couldn’t live without her. Since making it my full time job, the kids now know when I hop in the van to go to a gig, dad is going to ‘Work’.
How do you juggle having a young family and your passion for music?
I guess it’s the same as anyone; family always has to come first. It’s hard, but I guess because I work mostly nights, I see more of my kids now then when I was working 9 to 5. I’m currently studying event management, which occupies my weekdays.
The best thing is that I can still drop off and pick my kids up from school a few days a week. I’m fortunate, because I know a lot of dads who don’t get the chance to do even that. The band has a few weeks off in April, so our family is doing the theme park trip to the Gold Coast. I’m looking forward to some time away doing fun dad things with the boys.
You used to work in a bank. What finally convinced you to pursue your music full time?
Yeah, I worked 16 years with the NAB. I met a lot of really great people and made some lifetime friendships along the way, but I guess I always felt like a square peg in a round hole. So after a lot of soul searching and some major events happening in my life, I decided to take the plunge into the unknown. It’s really been the best thing I’ve ever done, and I guess made me realise that there are other things out there than just the 9 to 5 clock in/clock out life. It’s heaps easier to decline a song request than someone’s home loan, though!
You’ve just kicked off a new music project for local musos?
I started ‘Rock The Royal’ a few months ago with the help of Craig Thompson from Mum Says Rock and Hamish McDonald from Paradyme Studios. It’s a night for original bands/soloists/songwriters to get their music out into the public. The feedback we’ve had has been overwhelming, with heaps of great bands and soloists hitting the stage.
We are also going all out with production, to make the night a more memorable all round experience for everyone. It happens every Thursday night in the front bar of the Royal Hotel and kicks off around 8:30ish. If you are on Facebook, search ‘Rock The Royal’ and become a fan. It’s a really good atmosphere and a great place to meet up with friends mid week, as well as catch some amazing music.
Is live original music dead?
Definitely not. I think we just have to come up with ways to make it more accessible to people. That’s where I came up with the Idea for ‘Rock The Royal’. I know of a lot of bands and performers in the area that are pushing their original material, but have to travel to Newcastle and Sydney to do it.
It’s amazing the amount of talent there is in this area. The all ages scene was really kicking in the Manning a few years back with thanks to The Skate Centre, PCYC and kids putting on their own shows, but unfortunately since the closure of the skate centre and change in management at PCYC there has not been a lot happening.
Bree at the Council is still in there doing Live and Loud at the library, but there is still a definite need for a dedicated all ages venue in Taree. It’s a shame seeing talented kids leaving the area to go to uni etc, without ever getting the chance to show everyone what they can do.
What do you think about the local music talent?
Wow, where do I begin. There’s a lot of really good young singer songwriters out there at the moment. Tenika, Millie Hauritz, Morgan and Alex Sheather, Elisa Barker just to name a few, all from around this area. Heaps of bands that are out there flying the flag for original music.
‘The Great Escape’ has been quietly kicking some goals, featuring on an Australian Surfing Life DVD and landing some support shows for some international acts, as well as putting on a great show at the Manning Entertainment Centre last year, which saw around 200 people through the doors – awesome for a local original band. Another band to watch out for is the ‘Influence’, you’ll see a lot more of these young guys soon, I’m sure. ‘The Workshop’ is probably the hardest working original band out there at the moment. Kev, Steve, Dave and Phil are true legends of the local music scene, and I take my hat off to them for all they have achieved.
On the production side of things, Hamish McDonald at Paradyme Studios (behind Fish Fish Fish) is a true genius at what he does. His work on Shane McLeay’s single ‘Hold On’ was truly unbelievable. If you find yourself up that way, pop in and say hello. I’m sure he’d love that.
Any exciting projects on the horizon you’d like to share with us?
I’m dabbling in a little bit of artist management work with Australian Idols’ James Johnston at the moment, looking at a run of shows for James in the April School holidays. Apart from that, I’m focusing on continuing to grow ‘Rock the Royal’ to a stage where we can get some bigger acts coming through, similar to what the Laurieton Hotel is doing at the moment.
Hopefully we can get an all ages venue up and running sometime this year as well. Not to forget Mum Says Rock! We still have heaps of gigs booked this year, so it’s looking to be a very busy 2010 indeed.
Thank you Lee.