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Feature Interview: Xavier Rudd

Xavier Rudd

The infinitely touring Xavier Rudd took some time out of his day to have a chat with AAA Backstage’s reporter, Navarone Farrell, about politics, life and philosophy:

Xavier! How are you doing this morning, where are you calling from?

Just calling from home, I’m finally home. Got home on Thursday, after three months on the road. It’s good to be home. I’m still coming home after a trip like that, it takes a lot to kinda come back to reality… a little bit.

A big kick in the pants for reality, how did you feel about the election results? 

Oh… look… yanno… what do I say? Um, yeeeaaaaa. It could be a good thing. I mean Colin Barnett in WA, was such a wombat that he started to expose that and out of that there’s bean some great victories. I just wonder if on a bigger scale, the same things might come out of Tony Abbott in power. So yanno… it’s one way of looking at it

Keeping it positive, that’s good.

It’s definitely been the case in WA with Barnett, and Abbott is cut from the same cloth. So, one good thing in our country these days, there is a good social network on the ground to be able to make noise. So it’s not as hard to trip someone like that over, and then have it exposed. Maybe it’s a stepping-stone to bigger change. 

Out of all the instruments you play, which do you think you’re the most in touch with do you reckon?

They’re all got their story and their place, um… they’re all handmade, so they all come from a story. From someone and some wood, and a place that they’re from. So on different days, different ones sort of stand up, and wanna be heard. It’s a bit like that, but I guess, um, in terms of preference, and something I’m always drawn to, I’m always pretty big on playing slide guitars. Awesome noises from the slide guitars.

Cool. I understand a lot comes to you from your travels, are there any places that you have great success writing in?

I don’t. No, I don’t really have a particular place for writing. Writing for me just sort of happens when it happens, and it comes thick and fast usually. It’s never anywhere where I intend it to happen. I’ve never sat down and intentionally tried to write a song. They always happen when I’m busy doing something… usually. There’s no real place that it happens more than others. It’s something I’ve always had since I was a kid. It just comes when it comes. 

I read a story in a previous interview about the idea of the Spirit Bird coming to you, and the black cockatoo, tell me about that?

It was amazing. And it was an amazing day. And very powerful. That was really profound, it’s pretty… as I’ve got older, in my mind I can understand how the process of the spirit coming through me works a bit better, and there’s definitely times when I write music and it’s a personal reflection, it’s an emotional/personal reflection for sure. But then there’s other times when I write and it comes thick and fast and it comes from some other place. And it’s the spirit coming through. That was one of those times, and it was really profound.

Also in my research, I came across your Aboriginal name translating to, ‘shark?’

My yulu name in Arnhem Land is murra, which means, ‘shark.’ That’s what I was named when I was adopted up there about ten years ago. I got invited up that way, by a fella, I can’t tell you his name, he passed away, but he travelled down to see me, I was in Darwin, and it was part of his dream, and he told me—he didn’t speak much English—he came from Arnhem Land and invited me up, so I went up, and the whole journey began there.

So you grew up in Torquay, is that right? I know there’s a great deal of Aboriginal history there—but there unfortunately wasn’t the population when you were growing up. How did you get so involved in native Australian culture?

Ummm, yeah, like you say, down there, there is a lot of history, and it’s really powerful country down there. Although there’s not a lot of… the last full blood Wathaurong man died in the seventies. It was one of the most devastated communities that I’ve ever seen around the country, in terms of the obliteration of the people. But the spirit of the land is very, very strong down there, and there’s a lot of sites and stories and stuff that hasn’t even been discovered in those cliffs and that area. I always spent a lot of time in the scrub as a kid. I had places, cultural places that I went to, that I’d found and I have that blood on my father’s side, but that was swept under the rug, it was one of those shame stories, which we don’t know a lot about. So I feel like I always had a spirit with me, I dunno how to explain it… almost like there is an old woman with me. Always I get this kinda feeling. And as I came up in the world, I fell into a lot of different situations with a lot of different communities and I just connected with the mob right around the country, and overseas as well—North America. 

It all came to you pretty naturally when you were younger, did you have this vision, and this path in mind for yourself when you were growing up?

Playing music you mean?

Not necessarily just music, but your ethos, your beliefs… I know you don’t call yourself an activist, but you’re loud about the things you believe in, I guess I mean did you feel like you always had your calling?

I just… I always saw it as this thing, as I sang songs for our earth and what inspired me was always… I spent a lot of time, just cruising around in the bush with my dog, and at the beach, down at the beach. Always pretty secluded places. And I always sang songs, as a little kid even, and before I even knew that I was writing songs—yanno, the same thing I do now—but I was singing for my country and for what I felt and for what I appreciated and what I loved, and it was my own little intimate thing. I never showed anyone what I did, it was my own little thing, it was really private, and it took me a long time to actually show anyone any of my little songs that I’d made. So it’s always been ingrained in me, but it’s never been a conscious decision to write songs for a reason or anything like that… for how other people would perceive it. I just do the same thing I’d always do when I was a kid, and I have opinions now and I’ve seen a lot, and I… yanno… as I travel, I appreciate home so much more. And I appreciate the amount of destruction and oppression because I’ve been able to compare it to the rest of the world. My songs are a natural progression from where they began.

Very cool. You do speak widely on your views, and like you said they’re evident, but at the end of the day, do you have a conscious vision, politically or spiritually, for Australians—or even people all over the world?

I feel that’s sort of hard to sum that up in a nutshell, but I feel like one of the biggest things that’s been lost in human culture is pretty simple. It’s just the energetic connection that we have with the earth. In that we are of the earth, and not just on the earth. And cultures and society has become so distant from that energetic connection through so much, you know, through electricity and through whatever, and we’ve forgotten that we’re a species that doesn’t have a direct connection with the earth; we’re nomadic. We have the same energetic connection as anything else in creation. I think that if the whole world… if every person on the whole planet took a minute every day to pay respect to that, to remember that, to energetically place that in their being and I think that there would be a big shift on the planet, between… energetically with humans with the earth and with what’s been lost. From there, there’d be a natural awareness of the fact that we come from that… that would translate into action and into better choices.

Ah man, that’s beautiful. Awesome. Okay, so I know some other Australian acts with your disposition have culturally sort of gone the other way… for lack of a better term, ‘sold out.’ How have you maintained your original views and visions—or refined them even further—over the last five years or so? 

How… hang on… what do you mean, like what?

Okay, well, John Butler Trio are a good example, John Butler’s sort of ditched his original views on Aboriginal rights and environmentalism, which he was so passionate about originally, and has just focused on making straight up rock music, where as you’ve gone the other way, your beliefs come through now more than ever in your music, and in your media presence.

Rock music… yeah… haha… that has happened… You know, I have an amazing connection with a lot of people and places and albums and I’ve seen a lot… the stuff that comes through me, it’s important. So I guess I feel removed from that scene, from the actual music industry, I’ve never really been too far involved in it in terms of... I’ve never written music for that purpose, I don’t manipulate it, I try not to involve my ego, which is all the things you’ve gotta do if you wanna get on the radio, and yanno, and get successful in the actual… sort of business of the music. That whole scene, I’m just not into it. That’s not why I do it. I’m actually completely removed from it. But saying that, I’m a really lucky artist, because I have great support wherever I go. And the people that come to my shows are really conscious, good folks. Good, solid real people, who wanna see change, and who wanna have interesting conversations about what can be done, and that’s really inspiring for me. I couldn’t imagine playing music for any other reason.

That’s beautiful. So, speaking of all that, we’re having a chat on account of you having a tour!

That’s right, we’ll be coming around the country in a few weeks.


Hahaha, yeah.

So after your Australian tour, you’re heading overseas again?

Nup! I’m having a break haha. Oh… I think we’ve got three Hawaiian shows in November…

So you’re gonna go knock out Hawaii and then just chill out?

Yeah. I just need to… take a break haha.

You’ve been away for three months on this last stint? 

Yeah, we just had a massive tour in Europe and the States. I had Bobby Alu, or Charles Wahl, yeah he’s a wicked drummer, and he was with us on the tour. He’s such a great player it’s gonna be a great little tour.

Perfect, well it’s been an amazing chat, a really insightful one. I’ll let you get around to the rest of your morning and I’ll see you when you get out for the tour.

You too brother, you have a great day hey.

Xavier Rudd

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