It's been over a decade since earthy folk singer and multi-instrumentalist Xavier Rudd released his debut record, To Let. Since the 2002 debut, he's gained a reputation as a captivating performer — wailing on a range of traditional and indigenous instruments — and activist in both his native Australia and in Canada, where his latest record Spirit Bird, was released in June via EMI.
His seventh album, to which he says he is most connected, is rich with textures and curious sounds — even opening with ominous caws of a bird — and wanders from dark moods to lighter messages of hope. It's punctuated throughout by calls to action, particularly on the title track, which contains the refrain, "Soldier on my good countrymen, keep fighting for your culture now, keep fighting for your land."
In lesser hands such lyrics might feel contrived, but coupled with an earnest delivery and Rudd's impressive activist CV, its sincerity is clear. Rudd spoke to the Pique, en route to Chicago, ahead of his Whistler date Nov. 15, about the issues that irk him, recording the new album and finding avian inspiration.
Pique: It's been 10 years since you released your debut. Does it feel that long?
Xavier Rudd: It feels longer. A lot has happened.
Pique: What have been some of the major lessons, music-wise?
XR: Learning to read what's going on and follow your instincts. I come from a small town in Australia and when I got out into the big wide world there was everyone involved, such a big team. When you keep it in your own control, the only way to really learn is to trip up and fall, and work out why you tripped. It's been a bit of a journey like that.
Pique: I wanted to talk about the new record too. It came out in June. Does it still feel new to you?
XR: Yeah it does. A lot of the times the music is ahead of me by six months. I feel very much in it now. I feel closer to it than my other records. I feel very connected to this record.
Pique: What do you mean it's ahead of you?
XR: Generally, I've found my music will come through and it's like the spirit moving through bringing my dreaming ahead of time. At the time when it's coming through I won't understand it. Then later on, it starts to unfold in my life and I start to see and hear it play out in real time. That's quite often what I've noticed, but this record Spirit Bird, I feel very close to it. I don't know how to explain it.