STRENGTH IN UNITY
Byron Bay singer-songwriter Xavier Rudd celebrates his beliefs in his latest album, Nanna, inspired by his great-grandmother whom he describes as a strong spirit who comes through in his music
XAVIER RUDD BRINGS HIS BIG BAND TO THE GOLD COAST
Australian singersongwriter Xavier Rudd doesn’t consider his music political. “I don’t know much about politics, I’m just interested in what I believe and what I know,” Rudd says.
“I am aware of the threats to our environment and I’m aware of the injustices faced by our Aboriginal people and I sing about it.”
Behind his barefoot surfer appearance and catchy indie tunes, the Byron Bay singersongwriter has had a strong presence as a social and environmental activist and his latest album, Nanna, is a celebration of his beliefs.
Rudd heads to the Gold Coast this weekend as part of his 35-date Flag National Tour following his recent appearance at Splendour in the Grass.
The tour, named after the album’s single Flag, marks the debut for Xavier Rudd & The United Nations – a band made up of members Rudd handpicked from around the world.
Almost every musician comes from a different race, and Rudd recorded Flag and tours with band mates who have heritage in South Africa, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Australia, Germany and with Aboriginal and South Sea islander ancestry.
As for Rudd’s own cultural heritage, he described himself as a “full cocktail – I’ve got a mix of everything”.
He has Dutch, Irish and English in his blood but it’s perhaps the Aboriginal ancestry that influences him the most.
“You have to understand where my music comes from,” Rudd says.
“Sometimes it’s obvious that it comes from my emotional connection to the world. But quite often it comes from somewhere else – the spirit of an old woman who had a lot to say.”
Rudd, 37, refers to his greatgrandmother, an indigenous woman whose presence he feels in his songwriting.
“She’s quite a strong spirit that comes through in my music,” he says.
Dedicating Nanna to this female figure, Rudd says the album is “about respecting that great-grandmother creation in all of our cultures and that we all come from a traditional place originally”.
Nanna isn’t the first musical tie Rudd has made to his Aboriginal heritage – he recorded with yidakis (didgeridoos) as early as his 2002 debut album To Let.
“The spirit of our indigenous culture is very powerful and magical and passes through everybody,” Rudd says.
“It might appear in some of us who say ‘I love that view’ but there’s also a spiritual activity that’s going on in each place. It’s part of why we love this country.
“This album is about respecting creation and the future above our human cultures and ego.”
Rudd has a history of speaking out on cultural and environmental issues.
As a long-term supporter of ocean wildlife and conservation, he received the Sea Shepherd’s Rock the Boat Award and through his live performances, he has helped raise support and awareness for its campaign.
He has been named one of PETA’s sexiest vegetarian celebrities and has visited Tasmania to sing in protest against old-growth logging in a mass rally in the Upper Florentine.
In the single Flag, Rudd doesn’t talk about the flag of an existing nation but rather “waving the flag for what we believe”.
“It’s for change in this country and worldwide,” Rudd says of the song.
“Whether it’s an environmental protest where we’re getting shut down or whether it’s a protest for indigenous rights, the song Flag is about sticking together … for the future of our country environmentally and the future of our children.”
Since the release of his debut album To Let, Rudd has met with songwriting success as he fuses genres from blues and roots to reggae and tribal jam. His 2004 album Solace went platinum and scored two ARIA nominations, with three of its songs featured in the Triple J Hottest 100. Xavier Rudd & The United Nations, Miami Marketta, Rabbit + Cocoon, Sunday
THE SPIRIT OF INDIGENOUS CULTURE IS VERY POWERFUL AND MAGICAL AND PASSES THROUGH EVERYBODY
Xavier Rudd and his band, The United Nations, play Miami Marketta on Sunday.