Musical connection returns to the Grampians
For songwriter Neil Murray, the feeling of performing at the foot of the Grampians is one of connection, grounding and positivity – this is home.
Poignantly, when asked to describe his sound, Neil says simply, “heartland belonging”.
His folk, rock and roots sound has been an unforgettable contribution to Australian music.
Beginning his career as a young man with a guitar in hand in the 1970s, Neil was a founding member of the pioneering Warumpi Band. Twenty years of touring and three albums brought contemporary indigenous music into mainstream Australia.
Iconic songs including My Island Home, Blackfella Whitefella and Good Light in Broome have become part of the fabric of our nation’s musical heritage.
Neil has enjoyed a successful solo career since 1989 and his influence on music has been celebrated over the years.
In 1995, Neil was awarded the APRA song of the year for My Island Home, originally written for the Warumpi Band and re-recorded by Christine Anu.
My Island Home featured in the closing ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympics and the opening ceremony of the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Neil’s songs have been recorded by Mary Black, Jimmy Little, Missy Higgins, Liz Stringer, Christine Anu, Peter Denahy, Carus, Adam Brand, Amy Saunders, Powderfinger, The Tiddas, Ursula Yovich, Peter Brandy, Emma Donovan and the Warumpi Band.
He is more than familiar with the Grampians region, growing up on a 640-acre farm block nestled between Lake Bolac and Wickliffe, given to his great-grandfather who received it for his service on the western front in the First World War.
“Gariwerd is my home country – at least the east side is,” he explains.
“When I was young I was eager to explore them, then I wanted to see what was beyond them (travelling) north and west into inland Australia.
“I still regularly walk and camp in its ranges.
“The ranges have been an orientating beacon all my life.
“As long as I can see them, I know I’m home.”
Family has always been a strong influence in Neil’s life, with family singalongs around a piano, led by his grandfather, his earliest musical memory.
He says his influences are varied, but one of his favourites is one that will be familiar to many.
“When I first heard The Beatles I was set on the path,” he says.
“There’s been a thousand artists since that have kept me on that road.”
Neil acknowledges one of his most memorable experiences over his journey was all about the impact he had made on another, and serves as an ongoing inspiration.
“I was introduced to a young Aboriginal man in the gulf country and as he clasped my hand he said, ‘without your music I wouldn’t be alive now’,” he remembers fondly.
Neil is currently writing a memoir and planning to tour Western Australia.
He is excited to be a part of the Grampians Grape Escape’s Sunday musical line-up. He says an audience that appreciates what he does is one of the best parts about playing live.
“One feels vindicated, valued and loved,” he says of the experience.
The Grampians Grape Escape is on May 2-3, Halls Gap 2020