Catching Up With Xavier Rudd

The first thing you need to know about Xavier Rudd is he’s the real deal – an artist whose music comes from the depths of his soul.

Photo: James Looker

He’s articulate in describing the creation process, while at the same time leaving a little of it to one’s imagination. No matter how many times he’s heard the same question, he responds as if answering the inquiry for the very first time, sometimes pondering the subject for a few seconds, sometimes thinking out loud before giving you a glimpse into what it’s like to be him.

And there’s a lot to explore. Often referred to as a one-man band / didgeridoo virtuoso, the Australian singer / songwriter is a complete package – an artist who is responsible for the entire album, from writing to performing to producing as well as in complete command of his concert persona. As a person and musician Rudd is as unique as his music – a rarity in a world dominated by talent show winners and meticulously produced multimedia extravaganzas.

Photo: James Looker

Rudd is currently touring the U.S. and Canada, but he’s not alone. The acclaimed artist known for playing all the instruments has a little help on this outing – Lucky Dube’s rhythm section consisting of Toto Moloantoa on bass and Andile Nqubezelo on drums.

Rudd hooked up with the musicians when they were touring Australia with British reggae artist Eddy Grant. At first it was one of those musician-meets-musician kind of meetings where artists exchange compliments, photos and stories as well as watch each other perform.

“Then we got talking in the catering, later,” Rudd told Pollstar. “I was always a big fan of Lucky Dube. He was a big part my journey.” Dube was murdered in South Africa in 2007.

“And we made a really strong connection. I didn’t really think about playing with them. I was talking to the bass player and the guy told me he wanted they wanted to play. And that’s how it came together. We ended up having a rehearsal.”

For many fans, their first experience seeing Rudd on stage was probably at a music festival, for the artist has played more than his share of multi-day events. But Rudd is as much a fan as he is performer and likes to spend his festival down times checking out the other bands on the bill.

“I’m always a fan,” Rudd said. “To be on stage with incredible artists. I love that aspect of festivals.”

Every journey has a beginning and Rudd’s musical adventure has its genesis in childhood where his parents, while not musicians themselves, enjoyed listening to music and passed that passion on to their son.

“I had very working-class parents. My dad worked three jobs,” Rudd said, adding, “My dad had great music tastes and I grew up listening to Dad’s records. It was Leonard Cohen. It was Neil Young. It was Jimi Hendrix.”

Photo: James Looker

When it comes to creating music in the studio, Rudd is very much the master of his own domain. Throughout his music there are moments where you think you’ve nailed him. That is, until the next song begins and you realize there are several sides of Rudd you have yet to meet.

For example, with his last studio album, Darker Shades of Blue, Rudd gave fans a glimpse of his darker side.

“Even though it’s a darker album,” Rudd said upon its release, “I think there is a lot of sunshine in the record. There’s brightness in the instruments, tonally, and I can hear the humidity in the didgeridoos, and in the guitar. I can hear that humidity, the warmth of the climate in Byron Bay.”

Rudd’s summer tour of North America has the Australian playing major theatres, clubs and, yes, a few festivals through Sept. 18. Currently the artist is in Canada and plays Montreal’s Metropolis July 15; Toronto’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre July 22-23 and Bala, Ontario at Kee To Bala July 25.

The artist is also appearing at several Canadian festival shows, including July 16; the in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, July 18 and the in Guelph, Ontario July 24.

The tour returns to rhe States July 28 when Rudd plays Higher Ground in South Burlington, Vt. Other U.S. appearances include Philadelphia at Theatre of Living Arts July 30; Boston at House of Blues Aug. 2; Nashville at Cannery Ballroom Aug. 7; Chicago at the Vic Theatre Aug. 11; Aspen at Belly Up Aug. 14; Salt Lake City at The Depot Aug. 15 and Boise at Knitting Factory Aug. 25.

Other U.S. stops include Jersey City, Hartford, Washington, D.C., Norfolk, Portland, Spokane, Denver, Santa Fe and Flagstaff, before playing Colorado’s Telluride Blues Festival on Sept. 18.

Photo: James Looker

Summer is never complete without an adventure, and a Rudd performance promises a journey through lands yet unexplored, a passage through darkness and light that personalizes the concert experience for both artist and audience, a unique experience you’ll talk about well into the fall.