Rudd balances highs and lows

Sarah Dunstan
Xavier Rudd. Picture: James Looker

Chances are that as you are reading this, Xavier Rudd is somewhere in the Amazon ... at least in his mind.

When I spoke to him, he was in California. Our phone conversation is punctuated with silence but his approach to music is astute. He’s simply a vessel for the songs.

“I wouldn’t tell my grandma what to wear to church and I won’t tell my music what to wear to church,” the 35-year-old, originally from the surfing township of Torquay, Victoria, explains.

Before I ask him to elaborate on this bombshell of an analogy, he continues: “People are thanking me for these little messages in my music or for what it has done for their lives, maybe they’ve used it in a wedding or a funeral or something.

“But a lot of the time I can’t really take responsibility for it.”

While Rudd doesn’t feel responsible for 11 years of tracks that have catapulted straight from the Triple J circuit to many a barefoot beach wedding, it is clear his passions are far from lacking.

“I’ve spent time with some indigenous groups in Canada; the Cree, Mohawk and Iroquois,” he says. “Their understanding of spirituality isn’t a part of my music, it is my music. It comes from energetic connection, from what we are as human beings.”

A sour academic might suggest that is cultural appropriation but Rudd seems to always save himself from falling foul of such accusations. The simply positivity of chilled-out music is something rarely embraced as wholeheartedly as it is by Rudd, particularly in a music world that takes itself way too seriously.

Ahead of a tripartite billing alongside Californian musician/surfer dude Donavon Frankenreiter and Hawaii’s Nahko and Medicine for the People, Rudd is characteristically humble.

“It’s just a show that we’re touring. Medicine for the People are opening for me in Australia, people dig them everywhere.”

As for the songwriting that has come after last year’s much-lauded Spirit Bird, his seventh studio album, Rudd is less than expansive. “It is all really different, a different sound, pretty groovy. A different lyrical story.

“There’s been a lot of lessons in the past five years, lots of highs and lows. I feel in some ways that this balance is starting to present itself in my life,” he says. “I really feel like I am just getting started.

“We’re not meant to understand anything,” Rudd continues. “For us to have attachment to anything we need ego — all those human qualities like understanding, judgment and control.”

Xavier Rudd appears with Donavon Frankenreiter and Nahko and Medicine for the People at 3 Oceans Wine Company, Margaret River, on September 28 and Fremantle Arts Centre on September 29. Tickets from tour.xavierrudd.com.