Posted July 8, 2013 by Jeff in Tunes

Xavier Rudd: Letting his spirit bird fly free

Xavier Rudd
Xavier Rudd

Just over ten years ago, Australian singer-multi-instrumentalist Xavier Rudd made his debut with To Let, an album that showcased his ability to play everything from guitar to didgeridoo and drums. His laid-back music drew comparisons to the likes of Ben Harper and Jack Johnson and U.S. tours found Rudd playing to the same surf/jam band fanbase. His new album, last year’s Spirit Bird, opens with the sound of a didgeridoo in the trippy “Lioness Eye” and then delves into a bit of everything, including the folky “Comfortable in My Skin” and the tender “Paper Thin.” We recently emailed Rudd some questions that he answered while flying to the States for a summer tour. Here’s what he had to say.

You grew up in Australia but you’re influenced by Hawaiian and Native American music. Talk about how those styles of music in particular came to influence you.
I’m influenced by a lot of native cultures around the world, I have indigenous blood on my father’s side and feel that affiliation to earth and spirit most places I go.

How the hell did you learn to play so many different instruments?
Just taught myself over time since I was a kid. I never really focused on just one and was open to making sound on anything I could get my hands on.

Who taught you to play the didgeridoo?
I taught myself at a very young age. I have a memory of playing the end pipe of a vacuum cleaner when I was little.

I have a memory of playing the end pipe of a vacuum cleaner when I was little.

Who’s your favorite guitarist?
I have a few. Hendrix, Mark Knopfler and Harry Manx, to name a few.

Midnight Oil is one of my favorite Australian bands. Talk about their legacy and whether or not it has had any impact on your music.
They did some great work over the years for country and culture and continue to this day. It’s a shame that their front man didn’t do much in politics while he had the chance to make some change. Their music never really influenced me but I do have respect for them for sure.

Talk about Spirit Bird. What did you try to do differently this time around?
The main difference was going back to recording the album solo and exploring my idea of using bird sounds in the flow of the music, which was an idea I heard for quite a while and worked out beautifully.

The opening tune, “Lionness Eye,” is so trippy. Were any drugs consumed during the recording of it?
Ha, ha, ha. High on love.

“Comfortable in My Skin” could be an American folk tune. What inspired the song?
Moving out of a troubled time and being semi-paralyzed with back pain when I wrote it, realizing it was time for change.

Your career stretches back over ten years now. What kind of set list have you put together for the current tour?
Bit of everything I guess. There are some new groovy versions of stuff and new places to go with drummer Charles Wall who is touring with me for the first time. He is an amazing player and we create an interesting vibe together.

Upcoming 2013 Tour Dates

July 7

July 10

July 11

July 12

July 13

July 18

July 21

July 23

July 25

July 26

July 27

July 31

August 2

August 3

August 5

August 6

August 7

August 10

August 11

August 13

August 16

Toronto, ON – T.U.R.F Festival

Cleveland, OH – Beachland Ballroom

Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall

Apple Valley, MN – Minnesota Zoo Amphitheatre

Winnipeg, AB – Winnipeg Folk Festival

Halifax, NS – Olympic Hall

Portland, ME – Port City Music Hall

New York, NY – City Winery

Asbury Park, NJ – Stone Pony

Baltimore, MD – Rams Head Live

Floyd, VA – Floydfest Music Festival

Phoenix, AZ – The Crescent Ballroom

Santa Cruz, CA – The Catalyst

Petaluma, CA – Petaluma Music Festival

San Juan Capistrano, CA – Coach House

Solana Beach, CA – Belly Up Tavern

Solana Beach, CA – Belly Up Tavern

Whistler, BC – Crankworks Festival

Bellingham, WA – Summer Meltdown Festival

Missoula, MT – Stage One 12

Loveland, CO – Arise Music Festival


Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at jeff@whopperjaw.net.