Interview: Xavier Rudd (AUS) chats Twilight at Taronga, Storm Boy and the world’s ego

Off the back of his seventh solo studio album, Storm Boy, Xavier Rudd is playing a few select dates across the country including two sets at ‘Twilight at Taronga’ – a picturesque harbour-backdrop amphitheatre surrounded by the chorus of Sydney’s Taronga Zoo. Ahead of his soon-to-be-sold-out shows, Xavier was able to chat about his newest album, his married life and his 2019 plans.

How are you doing? Where are you right now?

I’m just on the Sunshine Coast.

Very nice, the Sunny Coast is the best, I love those beaches! I’m a Brissy girl myself.

Oh, nice one – not too far.

Let’s launch right into it, I want to talk about your ‘Twilight at Taronga’ gigs coming up! You’ve got two nights there in February including one sold out show – do you reckon you’ll be able to get some of the animals singing along?

Yeah, of course!

Which one would you be aiming for?

They’ll just be singing, it’ll be up to them! I’ve played a few zoos here and there. I played one in Minnesota last year and the animals were quite close and there was definitely a few animals singing along which was nice. It’s always nice when they get involved.

Makes it a different experience for the audience! So you’ve played a couple of zoo venues – is that something you’re actively searching out then? I mean the venue does reflect your environmental kinship which is nice as an artist.

I’m not a huge fan of zoos, you know, your actual zoo. But you know, these days they’re trying to be… When you go, the concept is weird but when you go and talk to the zookeepers, most of them that you go to (and I haven’t been to a lot), they seem to be always conscious of making life better for animals so it’s an interesting topic that one. I’m playing music there and it’s a beautiful venue in Sydney, it’s real nice. It’s going to be beautiful.

I mean it’s a ‘concert with a conscience’ is what Taronga is billing theirs as, so it’s not just a zoo concert, it’s also raising awareness and raising funds for marine life. There is some giving back there which is great.

Yeah it seems to be run by some good crew. I think it’s a good thing.

Do you think there’s a different sort of energy exchange between you and the audience when it’s an open-air gig like in an amphitheatre at Taronga?

I like playing outside no matter what and the energy is always pretty powerful outside. Whether that’s just because I like being outside or not, I don’t know. I think there’s something pretty special about music outside so there’s always good spirits.

I think if you’re more comfortable outside, it shows in your performance as well. One thing I’d be most excited for is your didgeridoo solos! I’m a Wathaurong woman myself from near Geelong…

Are you! I grew up on your country! You don’t come across many Wathaurong mob, hey.

Not at all. It makes me super proud to see the heritage come through your work. It’s awesome to have that more in the mainstream as well. Are you conscious of educating audiences when you’re performing about culture?

Yeah, I sort of let the music do the talking but people are always pretty intrigued about Indigenous culture, especially in… I find it’s more so overseas in a lot of other countries which is great. Although there’s a lot of devastation in our culture back home, I feel like in a way it’s going, it’s spreading in a good way, a positive way as well, around the world through different vehicles, through different people, through stories, messages. So, it’s good, good stuff.

I agree, and I think music is such an easy conduit for people to be able to recognise and associate themselves with as well, particularly when it comes to educating themselves about culture and the likes. It’s powerful.

I want to chat briefly about Storm Boy, because there was about six years between releases for your solo studio albums, and it came out around the same time you got married! Can you tell me about that journey because I’d imagine that being in love and getting married would have greatly impacted on the creation of Storm Boy?

I’d been writing the record for a while. I guess there are a couple of songs there that were quite old, like ten years old sort of thing, and special songs that I was kind of just holding on to, waiting for the right time to bring those through. And so meeting Ash and going through this journey with her was pretty powerful and brought a lot of those songs to life – they’d been sitting dormant there for a while. And then, lots of new stuff was definitely influenced by that space and yeah, there’s definitely a lot of reflection on her and not only her, but my life to get to the point of meeting – that’s pretty interesting, pretty powerful. There’s definitely a lot of energy there in Storm Boy.

It’s quite an optimistic album even. You can hear that your life is wholesome, it’s in an upswing. And another important strength of your works is your overtly socially-conscious themes that you weave throughout, particularly with our connection to the earth. If everyone could hear one message from Xavier Rudd, what would it be?

That’s a tough one. I guess it’s just… I don’t set out with a punch. My music is just how I feel and what I feel that comes through me. I don’t pretend to think that anything I’m saying or do is right, but it’s what I feel in this world and my travels. I guess overall I would say if we could drop the ego and if we could believe in the earth the way the ancients did and respect our earth the way the ancients did as though we’re equals and we’re a part of the earth not just on the earth, which is how society has become to be – people seem to just live on the earth and take everything they need. But, we are of the earth and we need it. We live and breathe it so to lose that ego and go back to that space or even in modern society have people just reflect on that fact and give thanks each day to be part of the ecosystem I think would put people in a different mindset sometimes, you know.

It would be a lot more symbiotic sort of life – can you imagine if everyone just listened to you!

It’d be a pretty slow world…

Doubtful! Okay so audiences can see you on February 15th and still get tickets to your February 17 show at ‘Twilight in Taronga’. Where else can we catch you in the next year? What’s the plan for 2019?

We’re not doing much in Australia. I’ve got a big European summer and so these few shows that are going on are probably some of the only ones that we’ll be doing this year in Australia. The second Taronga one is going to be a more of an acoustic sort of show which is kind of… we’re playing a whole different set of songs to the first one.

That’s exciting! That makes it even more important for audiences to come see you right now then!

Yeah, we won’t be doing much in Aus but I don’t know yet. The end of the year we might have some stuff but definitely most of this year is overseas.

That’ll be an amazing European summer though! I’d better leave you to it as you’re a busy man today, so I’ve heard, so thank you so much for chatting with me Xavier Rudd!

No worries, it’s been nice chatting to you!

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You can catch Xavier Rudd at the Twilight at Taronga Summer Concert Series in Sydney, on February 15th and 17th. For tickets and more information about their shows, head HERE.