It's the calm before the storm. Relaxing on the Gold Coast, singer/songwriter Xavier Rudd, is patiently awaiting the release of his new album, Storm Boy, his first solo LP in six years.
“It’s been six months since I finished recording it so it starting to feel old to me,” he laughs, “but I’m proud of this record, it’s been a beautiful process for me. I’m really excited it get it out and get people listening to it.”
A lot has happened over that time for Rudd, personally and spiritually. Even so, six years between drinks for a solo artist is a quite a while. Then again, he’s always released music when he’s wanted to, not because he had to.
“I’ve never had to,” he notes, “the music business part has never affected me because I’ve always independently owned my recordings. So I’ve just put them out… whenever. In saying that, I’ve always been an artist who writes a lot of music. I don’t plan it, but it’s always spilt out of me since I was a little kid. So I don’t have any trouble writing music, it sort of works in a way that music has poured out of me over the years also like a journal of life. All sorts of storytelling that I store in my head and when it gets sort of full I just dump it down. It seems to be every four or five years that I’ll make an album but none of that was really planned."
While it’s been six years since his last LP, Spirit Bird, Rudd did in fact release a reggae album with a multi-musician side-project, United Nations, in 2015. With Storm Boy it’s all back to the one-man-band, however, with some songs going back a decade.
“There were songs I wasn’t ready to bring to the world yet,” he notes. “So there’s some that I always knew that were special ones, but the songs decide when they take shape completely. Like I may have an outline of a song that I won’t finish lyrically until it presents itself.
“I won’t force lyrics. If there’s a story or mood that suits the music then I’ll write the lyrics. So sometimes I might have an idea for something that I won’t force; I’ll wait until something happens in my life that affects me emotionally or comes through me spiritually, where that piece is perfect, and I’ll turn it into a song.”
A case in point from the new album is the song True Love, a song that fermented both spirituality and in reality over the course of 10 years. In tough times Rudd would return to an unformed song that he would play on his chatarungui, a 20-stringed Indian slide guitar an “emotional, eerie and beautiful instrument.”
It became a personal mantra, a song with which he would soothe himself by. “It was a nice, reflective piece of music that I would play. I always knew that it was beautiful and powerful in some way, but it wasn’t time to develop it. That was probably 10 years ago and I went through a lot of shit and a lot of change within myself at that time.”
A few years ago Rudd went to Peru with the environment editor of The Australian, who was doing research on local shamen. “We worked with this really old shaman,” he recalls, “drank the medicine and the whole thing. Part of what I went through was seeing this woman who ended up being my wife a few years later.
“On a personal level she was this blessing that came along from the universe and there were so many questions answered and so many… she filled my heart up, basically. That song became the song that I finished and wrote about her and sang at our wedding. So it was my gift to her at our wedding. I know that sounds pretty cliché and simple, but it me it’s really deep.
“So I actually saw her face in a vision, two years before I actually met her, which was pretty far out. I remember that song was with me in the jungle and I didn’t know what the connection was then. It’s funny how as time goes on things become real and questions get answered. Suddenly there I was getting married and all of a sudden that song is a symbol of something I’d never thought it would be. From 10 years of being just a personal mantra it becomes that, and then it gets recorded on an album and heaps of people are gonna listen to that song.”
For Rudd, it seems, all songs are relationships, so they’re not given to the world until they’re ready to exist in it.
“To just have a catchy idea and just write any kind of lyrics would be weird,” he says. “Songs to me are stories and art and to capture a moment in time, I guess. They’ve all got meanings; they’ve always been that way.”
Storm Boy is out now through Warner Music. Xavier Rudd perfroms at Fremantle Arts Centre on November 23, supported by The Teskey Brothers. Tickets via www.facebook.com/events/1915511118499826/