I’d say Torquay’s second biggest export, trailing closely behind Ripcurl, would have to be Xavier Rudd. In the last sixteen years, he has become renowned for his relaxed blend of folk, blues and reggae the world over, and on March 16, the man is returning to his home-region to headline Summersalt, a huge event at Leura Park Estate along side other Australian legends Yothu Yindi & The Treaty Project, Sampa The Great, and Tay Oskee. We caught Xavier on the phone recently, as he was watering his plants and preparing for a surf, to have a chat about the event.
So, you’ve got the Summersalt Festival in mid-March. What’s it like getting to play back in your home region?
It’s awesome bro, I’m excited. It’s rare these days that I get to play very much in Australia, I’m always overseas, and when I’m home it’s time off. Playing back in my home where I grew up is extra special though, it’s gonna be beautiful. Yothu Yindi are one of the most important bands in Australian history and to have them down on the Surf Coast is really special, and Sampa the Great is amazing. I haven’t seen her play live yet, but her music is really cool.
Last year you put out your first solo album in six years. How did you feel going into it, and has your process changed much since your earlier records?
Every time you record, you learn different things than the one before. There were similarities but also differences. I worked with a producer on this album which I never really had done. I’d worked with producer-type people before but no one had really inspired me too much, I sort of ended up producing my own stuff, but this guy Chris Bond was awesome. We just made a really nice record with a bunch of really great musicians and good people, and did it in my house too, which was pretty special.
In general, what inspires you to write music?
Just life man, I’ve always written music, ever since I was little, I was always singing songs about what was happening around me. I spent a lot of my time outside; I liked to be outdoors and not contained so a lot of my music I wrote on my own, with my dog out around Bells and Anglesea area, out in the bush there. Thirty years later, I’m still doing the same thing. I also don’t plan my song-writing, it just comes to me, and I don’t push it, so I’ve never had a period where I felt like I’ve had writer’s block. Life’s a journey, and I feel like music is a bit of a diary in a way, sometimes it’s behind you and sometimes it’s ahead of you. Essentially, it’s about life and the lessons of life and the things that we learn and the things that we grow from.
A few years ago your song ended up in that KFC add. Is it challenging as an artist, especially as one whose personal views come out a lot in their music, reconciling personal values with making a living, and do you think artists get held to a higher or even an unfair standard compared with businesses?
It’s not hard for me. Because I make my living from live touring, that’s the way I’ve always been, that’s how I live and get by. My values are what they are, and they definitely come into play for sure; a lot of what I do is based around caring for the earth and different humanitarian things, that’s kind of the circle that I move in. I don’t find that hard, I think it kind of flows. Good people and good organisations are drawn to my music because it’s of the earth. I feel like I’m lucky to be able to connect with people from good places, doing good things all the time.
At this point you’ve had a pretty massive career – you’ve been releasing albums for about 16 years and you’ve become a massive name in Australian music. What goals do you have left for your music career?
Well I never really had any. I’m so thankful for everything that has come of it, I never had too many plans. I’ve been so blessed with an amazing career. I’ve never had any problems, you mentioned that ad – that was the only time I reckon in my whole career when people got stuck into me. That was a weird one for me. It was a long story, but I had to go into a major surgery at that time and wasn’t really with it. It was a cricket ad, and it was just a bad move and was handled really badly and got out of control. But in general, I’ve had a blessed career, I give thanks every day for what I get to do, and for what I’ve been able to achieve in terms of giving back, and creating a lot of awareness in the world for different causes and I continue to… there’s good karma out there for me. I’ve been able to live karmically in a good place, so I don’t really have any plans, I just take things as they come and I’m stoked to be doing what I do.
What are three Australian music acts you think everyone should be checking out at the moment?
The Black Rock Band, they’re awesome. They’re an indigenous crew from way up north Arnhem land, they’re amazing. Um, I’m gonna say Sampa the Great, because I’ve just been listening to her lately and she’s awesome. Also, it’s more of a live experience but if you ever get a chance to see Chris Tamwoy, he plays his guitar in his lap, and you see other people doing that for sure but what he does is next level, I reckon. Yeah, he’s really worth seeing.
Have you got anything else planned for the rest of the year?
Yeah got a big year this year. Starting Europe in June and we’ll be flat-stick headlining a bunch of festivals which is pretty exciting. Europe’s been going from strength to strength for us every year, so that’s really cool. I’m also working on a humanitarian project. We want to build some dormitories in Zimbabwe for some kids at a school, which is a bit of a long story, but that should come out in the next little while with a video of what we’re trying to do over there. There’s some good stuff going on.
What’s that initiative called, is there something that people can look up if they want to find out more about it?
I think I’m going to call it Zimbabwe Lovemore, because Lovemore was the guy who showed me around there. I want to raise money to build dormitories for ‘bush boarders’ they call them – kids that walk like 15-20 kilometres at the start of the week to go to school. They can’t go home because it’s too far to go. Just because they want an education, they sleep on the floor of the classroom which is literally like a brick building. There’s no desks or anything, just cardboard on the floor where they learn. They sleep on the floor, and they eat from whatever they can find around the fields outside. It’s all pretty basic. I was just blown away by their keenness to learn, and to see young kids going through that you realise how much we take school for granted, you know? People say ‘Ah, I fucking hate school’ but these kids are just doing everything they can to get out of the troubled conditions they’re in. I want to raise money to build two boarding houses, one for the boys and one for the girls, each with showers and bunks and some cooking facilities just so they can live a bit better while they’re trying to go to school. That’s the plan, I can’t really direct anyone anywhere right now, but hopefully in about a month we will be launching that campaign.
Summersalt will go down at Leura Park Estate, Curlewis on Saturday March 16 2019.
Written by Liam McNally