Prior to his forthcoming Australian tour, Xavier Rudd completed a run of sold-out dates across Europe and North America in support of his seventh album, Spirit Bird. Profiting from the overseas market can require constant work, but Rudd has managed to uphold a distinct artistic identity throughout. “I’ve been touring internationally now for about 13 years, so I’ve built up my fan base as I’ve gone. It’s all been through live touring and doing what I do and keeping it real, not really changing anything for any reason, just doing shows. People seem to dig it.”

Still, living such an unsteady existence did take time to get used to, admits Rudd. “It’s a bit of trial and error on the road. Especially the overseas thing, it’s a different beast to travelling in Australia. I’m lucky enough to be doing the numbers that we can make it pretty comfortable, in a tour bus. If you’ve got to fly or you’re in a van that’s a whole other ball of wax. Doing it in a bus is pretty groovy, you just go to bed in the bus and wake up in the next city.”

The irregularity of the touring lifestyle is infamous for hindering the creative impulse, but Rudd says the full-on schedule doesn’t greatly interfere with his writing habits. “Music just comes for me, it doesn’t matter where it is. It just comes when it’s ready. That can be surfing, it can be going for a run, it can be sitting around under a tree on tour.”

Rather than adhering to a detailed brief of what he’d like to achieve musically, Rudd’s organic approach to songwriting allows his life experiences to intertwine with his music. “With the songwriting, it’s more about what’s going on in my life, as opposed to what’s going on musically. The spirit that’s with me, the emotion, the journey that I’m on is what shapes the music and it’s always changing. It seems like the music always changes with it. Or maybe the music changes ahead of it and I learn from that. It’s a hard one to pinpoint.”

Rudd refrains from making self-important claims of ownership over what he creates and posits the belief that his music exists separately from him. “I see my music a little bit like my grandmother. I wouldn’t tell my grandmother what to wear to church. I respect my music the same way. I understand that it comes through and I’m a bit of a vessel for it and often times I feel like I can’t really be responsible for it. It comes from another place. I try not to involve my mind in it, try not to involve my ego; just letting it be what it is when it comes through in its raw form and leaving it that way.”

Over time, it’s become apparent to Rudd that he’s outlasted many of his former peers. “I used to feel like I was the young guy coming up, but when you’ve done post-ten years on the circuit, not a lot of acts last that long … I feel like there’s a real element of respect for me out on the road. I have young bands coming up and saying they used to listen to me when they were kids. It makes me feel a bit older.”

BY AUGUSTUS WELBY

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