Home Music Music Features

Pete Murray Meets The Wiggles

Murray got together with an OG and new Wiggle for a fun chat ahead of this weekend’s Hello Sunshine Festival

Pete Murray and The Wiggles

L-R: Pete Murray, The Wiggles

After a successful first edition in 2023, Hello Sunshine is descending on Melbourne again this year.

On Saturday, March 2nd, the city’s Caribbean Gardens will play host to the family-friendly music and food festival for a day of live music, enticing food, and stacked markets, and this year’s lineup is packed with nostalgia and quality.

Iconic Australian rockers Grinspoon will perform on Saturday, fresh from releasing their beloved albums, Easy (1999) and New Detention (2002) on vinyl last year. Pop duo The Veronicas will also be there for their first local show since 2022. It will be the sisters’ only Australian show before their US tour begins in April in support of their new album, Gothic Summer.

The Wiggles – well, some of The Wiggles – will bring The Wiggles Sound System to Hello Sunshine 2024, promising a set of Wiggles remixes, while Pete Murray will bring his classic singer-songwriter fare to the festival too.

Ahead of their appearances at Hello Sunshine, Murray got together with two of The Wiggles – Anthony Field and John Pearce – for a fun chat about their music and careers. Read the full conversation below, which even features the bold Murray enquiring about the possibility of joining The Wiggles’ lineup.

More information about Hello Sunshine 2024 is available here.

Pete Murray Meets The Wiggles

Pete Murray: What’s happening today guys?

John Pearce: So today, we’re just working on a bit of Wiggly content here in Wiggle Town. There’s never a dull day here. We’re working on music, having a bit of fun and games, and the Wiggly House and the Big Red Car are here too.

Anthony Field: Yeah, we’ve been doing some stuff. In the old days, we used to make content just for TV. A lot has changed, so we’re actually spending a lot more time making content, especially for YouTube. That’s what we’re doing at the moment. It’s been fun to really devote some energy and time to it, just like regular TV.

Pete Murray: Anthony, how much has it changed since you guys started this in 1991? How much has the whole industry changed, even just music? What was it like when you first started and came up with the original idea of starting to do kids’ music? What avenues did you have to try to get your music out there?

Anthony: Well, I started in music in the ’80s with a rock band, The Cockroaches. The great thing about that was before in Sydney, you could play five or six nights a week at a pub unsigned. There were so many pubs, so many live music venues. It was just so much fun. And there was such a scene; everybody knew everybody. You’d wake up, see friends, and say, “Let’s go see a band tonight.” It was affordable. It was just an exciting time and encouraged so much creativity. What was harder in those days if you wanted to record a band or your music, you know, you had to get someone with a bit of cash to get a four or eight track. There were no digital things going on; it was still cutting up the tapes.

Pete: How confusing was that? I remember when I first recorded my first independent album and then I did [2003’s] Feeler and the guys cutting the tape scared me because, it’s like, “Guys, don’t make a mistake.” I mean, seriously, that’s gonna affect the whole thing.

Anthony: What a skill it was. I look at today with the digital and it’s fantastic. 

John: Just double click it. 

Hello Sunshine Festival

The crowd enjoys Hello Sunshine 2023

Pete: I remember Charles Fisher, he’s a great producer. He’d be there with his razor blade and getting the sticky tape out. It was incredible. So yeah, that was different. Then also these days people have got computers. For a start there were no laptops, there were no mobile phones. I think people without cash these days can make an album at home. But we had to rely on the record company paying money to the studios. And then you have to pay to recoup that and all that sounds really different. Well, that was but it was fun. 

Pete: I remember moving from Brisbane to Melbourne and taking a CD around to the venues to try and get a gig, and then the problem was that you’d call them up and you’d say, “Oh, it’s Pete Murray here, can you check out my demo?” And they’d say, “I can’t find it, can you send us another one?” You go again just so many times, you’d just be doing the legwork. Where now it’s like you email, bang, shoot off, and it’s a lot easier. 

Anthony: And all around the world instantly too.

Pete: Anthony, let me get back to when you first started The Wiggles back in ’91. What was the inspiration for you? Because I know you guys were studying teaching and the inspiration to try and do something different for kids. Did you feel that there was something lacking in the kids’ entertainment world at that stage musically?

Anthony: It really wasn’t musically. We’ve just become qualified early childhood teachers, and I can hear great music out there, but they’re not really coming from a developmental background or looking at children’s ages. I just thought it would be great to use what we learned at uni to make an album for young children. That was all it was; it wasn’t a commercial idea. It was really just a teaching thing.

Pete: Was there a moment for you when you guys started to do that, and that you could feel this momentum that was taking off? 

Anthony: Well, it was funny in Australia. We had this happen when we went on a show called The Ray Martin Show, you know, the midday show – you probably remember it. And then after that, we did Carols in the Domain as well. People saw us on television, and then we noticed that we were getting a lot of inquiries to come and play little shows somewhere. ABC signed us up.

But in the States, we went over there and the first time we went there, we played to four people at Blockbuster Video. We were signed to Fox TV over there, and nothing was happening. Then Disney Channel took us, and they put us on four times a day. Again, this was before the internet. So when we went back to America, we got recognised by the security, the people at customs, and I said to Murray [Cook], “Things have changed.” And like you’re saying, Pete, that moment where you’re pretty much doing the same thing as you were doing yesterday, but so many more people know about you. 

Pete: I remember walking down the street and going to rehearsal in Melbourne. You start to notice people giving you a second look, but then you go through waves in your career where you come out of a cycle when you’re in the press, and then no one sees you all the time. It’s kind of weird. I tell the story of a time wherever you go, even to the urinals, and there’s a guy standing beside you and you get ‘the look.’ And he goes, “Hey man, are you Pete Murray?” It’s an odd situation to be in, but that’s what happens a lot. And then you start to get people that go, “You know what, mate? You look like that guy Pete Murray,” when you’re sort of on the way down when there’s not much happening.

John, a couple questions for you mate. Now you were born in 1991?

John: Born in 1991, the same year The Wiggles started. 

Pete: That’s right. So when the Wiggles kicked off, I imagine you grew up watching them because every kid did. It’s pretty hard not to know who The Wiggles are when you’re growing up. You were obviously a fan as a young fella of The Wiggles?

John: Yep. 100%. Who didn’t grow up with The Wiggles? I was three, four, five years old, in preschool.

Pete: So to be a Wiggle now, how does that feel? 

John: I don’t feel like an imposter. But it’s because my Wiggles were Anthony, Greg [Page], Murray, Jeff [Fatt]. And the Purple Wiggle was Jeff for me. That was the one I grew up with. It’s a bit strange to call myself the Purple Wiggle.

Pete: But all the kids growing up watching you, you will probably be the original Wiggle, so that’s a nice thing. 

John: It is, it’s a fulfilling thing being part of their life and part of their journey. It’s incredible to feel, to be that influential for them.

Pete: We’re having this chat because we’re playing at the same festival down in Melbourne on the second of March, the Hello Sunshine Festival. It’s a family-friendly event with lots of kids and rides, offering plenty for everyone to enjoy. I think it’s going to be incredible, not only for the kids but also for the adults. What I find amazing about Wiggles fans is that it’s not just the kids; it’s the parents who love you too.

You’ve tapped into a market where every year, you gain a new fanbase. Young fellas keep coming through, and they love you to death. It doesn’t matter what you do, you’ll always have a supportive audience. There’s no one in the audience saying, “Play something we all know.” It’s just 100% love. That must feel fantastic?

Anthony: You know, children’s audiences are very discerning. Because if they don’t like something, they might not be able to express it, but they’ll just walk away.

Pete: That’s happened to me, people have walked out.

Anthony: But if you think that they’re ever going to be quiet while you’re playing a ballad or something, forget about it. 

Pete: Yeah, fair enough. The meltdowns and tantrums, I guess. You know, I brought my daughter, who’s six now, because I’ve been watching you for 25 years. When I first did my independent album, I lived with my sister for a while. She and her husband loaned me money to record my first independent album. So in return, I had to still look after the kids and do some work around the house, so The Wiggles were around. I’ve been watching you guys for 25 years now.

I have four kids: my eldest boy is 20, and my youngest is two and a half. I came in and saw a show in Brisbane with my daughter a few years ago, and it was incredible, unbelievable. It was the first time I’ve seen you guys play, and it seems like hard work when you’re so into it, so energetic. How tired do you get after a show?

Anthony: Well, just look at the arms on Johnny and he’s as fit as you are, Pete! I’ve taken a back seat in my later years. I’m 60 now, so I sit back and play the music and Johnny jumps on the drums. But these new guys are just fantastic. They’ve got all the energy.

Pete: What a great idea, mate! I remember when you had the new Wiggles come in the first round, and you had a female — what a great idea, Emma [Watkins]. And how popular was she? My daughters loved her too, you know. They met you guys at the back, and Emma was so lovely to the girls that they were just buzzing. It was pretty special

A few little quick questions before you guys gotta get back to work. What’s on The Wiggles’ rider? Now before you answer, is it jelly beans, snakes, and lollies, or is it hot potato, cold spaghetti, mashed banana? What do you guys have?

Anthony: When we do our Wiggly daytime gigs, we have Allen’s lollies. But this young man is so fit, he prefers lots of water. What else do we have? Chicken, water…

John: Mainly water. We don’t really have Red Bulls or anything like that.

Anthony: I remember in the early days when we were doing Police Boys Clubs, we played at Wagga once and we put in a rider. There was a lady working there who wasn’t used to serving people lunch, and she brought out those triangle sandwiches with a pineapple and dumped them in front of us, saying “There’s your restaurant.”

When you travel, you get all different lunches, riders, or sometimes nothing at all. But for nighttime shows when the original Wiggles get together for the adult shows, it’s more like a rock ‘n’ roll rider. Let me put it that way.

Pete: The other question: when the original Wiggles that aren’t performing anymore, do they sit out the back and watch the performance? Smoking cigars and drinking port…

Anthony: Jeff’s great-nephew comes to see The Wiggles all the time, but we can only get Murray along maybe once a year. Greg has grandchildren, so sometimes he comes when they’re around.

But speaking of drinking, here’s a funny story. We were playing at Queanbeyan, and they looked after us so well. We did a nighttime gig with a folk band and then the next day, they said, “Oh, we’re going to look after you during the daytime for The Wiggles show.” They thought we were going to be like we were at nighttime. They brought wines and beers in between Wiggles shows for kids three or four times, but I promise you we didn’t touch those beers or wines. But the roadies did.

Pete: You’ve got to look after the roadies. Now seeing you’re the only original Wiggle [Anthony] that’s still working, is that because you have an addiction to Caramello Koalas that you’re still paying off? 

Anthony. That’s it mate. The rumours are true. 

Pete: I bet they’re addictive, those things. It’s ridiculous. I’m 54 now, you know, and as you know, getting older, you have to eat well, especially being on the road. It’s hard work. So you have to give yourself good fuel to get through the whole tour and get back home to the wife and kids. I’ve got two little girls now, so when I come back, I don’t want to be hungover or anything like that. I want to be fresh and ready to go.

Anthony: You and John should talk about the fitness routines because you’re both amazingly fit.

Pete: How do you get shoulders like that, John? 

John: I’ve been training every day. 

Anthony: Do you do bodyweight stuff, Pete – what do you do? 

Pete: Yeah, I do supersets when I work out, so I don’t get much of a break. By doing that, you keep your heart rate up, get some fitness out of it at the same time, but you’re still working your muscles. That kind of keeps you fairly toned and strong. Keeping that strength up is the thing for me.

I think as you’re getting older, you want to be strong and keep that fitness there. When I was younger, I used to like training a lot more. These days with the kids, honestly I just keep it to half an hour. I’m in and I’m out, and then I’m back dealing with the kids again or work. It’s working, kids, and quick fitness sessions for me. That’s how it is every day. A couple of days off a week maybe, and that’s it.

Anthony: Can I ask you a question. When you’re on the road and you’re driving three, four or five hours, whatever you do around Australia, right? That to me is the worst because that’s the snacking, terrible stuff.

Pete: Those Caramello Koalas.

Anthony: What do you do when you go on a big drive? Do you do anything that keeps you fit?

Pete: In the hotel sometimes, I just do push-ups or squats with my own body weight. Otherwise I’ll stick to eating salads, I try not to eat junk food. Late nights are tricky because my metabolism is very high. I went on a surfing trip years ago with Mark Ghazni, who’s an ex-rugby league Australian player. He said to me, “I’ve known some massive, big footballers, and I don’t know anyone that’s got the same appetite as Pete Murray.” I just churn through food.

So after a gig, I’m starving, you work hard and you get hungry. The only thing that’s left is kind of McDonald’s. So I basically go and get the chicken salad wrap, pretty much that’s it. My dad had a heart attack at 47 when I was 18, and he died. So for me, that was a really big lesson to look after yourself pretty well. And that’s obviously hereditary – his dad had a stroke as well. So I started to wake up and think, “Hang on, I don’t want to be that person. I want to live to a ripe old age and look after my kids.” That’s what I want to be, so I’ll look after myself as best I can.

It’s been amazing talking to you, and I can’t wait to come and see the show at Hello Sunshine festival. It’s going to be awesome. I do think that there’s something still missing with The Wiggles… I’m friendly with Murray, and we’ve had a bit of a chat about this. We feel that there’s room for me to sort of slot into the team somewhere. But it does come with a bit of a catch.

Anthony: Hey, I’m ready. I’m ready to hand it over!

Pete: I’m just gonna hang back with you with the two guitars. Just the two fellas. I’ll give you the sidestep, that’s about it.

Anthony: That’s all you need. 

Pete: The only thing that Murray and I were talking about was maybe a little name change to The Wiggles. Murray and I think it sounds great, but maybe we could change it just to freshen the whole brand up a little bit. How about ‘The Wiggling Murrays’? Do you like that?

Anthony: Ah, the two Murrays!

Pete: I think he wants to come back frequently.

Anthony: Mate, next time we do a gig you should come and play.  

John: That would be sick.

Pete: All right, let’s look at the second of March. Thanks for the chat. And congratulations to both of you. Anthony especially, for starting this 30 years ago and to [be] where you are now. Absolutely incredible and amazing for what you’ve done for the kids all around the world.

Anthony: Right back at you, Pete! What were you gonna say about the festival, John? 

John: So the show we’re doing at Hello Sunshine is just another Wiggly show. It’s a Wiggly show featuring dance remixes of OG Wiggle songs. DJ Dorothy will be leading the way, taking us through the exercise. It’s designed for adults, so feel free to join us on the stage. You just gotta go up!

Anthony: I’m just there for fun. 

Pete: Just hang at the back and eat some Caramella Koalas, mate.