One of the reasons former Wiggles member Murray Cook hung up his red skivvy in 2012 was he was “sick of all the full-on touring”.
So god knows what he was thinking when he joined powerhouse Sydney singer Lizzie Mack to create kick-arse rockin’ soul combo the Soul Movers. And last year he was clearly still not thinking of quality couch time when the band recorded a stunning album, Bona Fide, on a whistle-stop tour of America’s premier soul studios, including Muscle Shoals and Fame, in Alabama, and Sun Studios in Tennessee.
On a recent show, the band also caught the attention of Nick Chugg (son of promoter Michael), who signed them to Chugg Entertainment and became their manager.
“He was just blown away when he saw us live,” Cook says. “He was saying ‘I thought the record was great’, but was saying to Lizzie ‘your voice! I just … nothing really prepared me for it. It’s awesome’. He was just gushing.”
The Soul Movers were started about 10 years ago by Mack and her then-partner, Deniz Tek of Sydney rock icons Radio Birdman. “Lizzie had never sung in public that much, so while a few of us knew her, we didn’t know her as a singer,” Cook says. “Deniz just heard her singing in the shower one day and said ‘where did you learn to sing like that?’. So he suggested they do some writing together and it turned out that she had a real talent for that as well.”
Let’s just get this out of the way first.
They recorded one album before Tek and Mack split, and the band went on hiatus. Then one day, having left the Wiggles and wondering what to do next, Cook came across the record.
“I listened to it and I just went ‘wow, she’s amazing!’ So I phoned her and said, ‘it would be great to do something together.' "
They began jamming and co-writing, eventually resurrecting the Soul Movers name. A second album, Testify, was released in 2017. But it is Bona Fide that has captured the band’s visceral live energy – and much more of the spirit of pure American soul music, enhanced by guests like keys player Spooner Oldham, drummer Milton Sledge and bassist David Hood.
He may be on the soul train, but Cook happily acknowledges his past. At the recent Don’t Kill Live Music rally in Sydney, he paused before his speech. “Let’s just get this out of the way first,” he said, before doing the Wiggles' double-finger waggle to the crowd’s delight.
“Most feedback I get from young people is that [the Wiggles] was a really positive thing in their lives. Now all of them are into other music and partly because of the Wiggles, which is pretty rewarding.”
The Soul Movers launch Bona Fide at the Django Bar in Marrickville on Saturday, March 16; and at the Evelyn Hotel in Fitzroy on Saturday, March 30. The album is out now through ABC Music.
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