For most musicians, when a full band is added into the mix, a song becomes larger, has more depth and becomes a complete song. Notice that I said, "most." Xavier Rudd went through the opposite — he added band members and his songs became more stripped down. For his current tour, the Australian singer-songwriter is getting back to his roots and hitting the road on his own.
Usually surrounded by an array of instruments, Rudd is able to layer sound by the way he plays. His laid-back style enhanced by the fact that he's also a surfer in his spare time, the early-30s singer is also recovering from recent back surgery. While he says he is sore, he says the healing process is going well. For now, he's more focused on trying to sink back into his solo style after touring the majority of last year with a band.
"I always make a pretty thick sound when I play solo," Rudd says by phone from a recent tour stop in San Francisco. "I play bass lines with my thumbs, but with a band I have to free that real estate up and do less. I also change rhythms to songs, but it's good to collaborate. Doing it on my own though is pretty natural — it's not forced, it's just how it happened."
Incorporating the didgeridoo into his music came naturally for him, as a part of his heritage and culture and also because of the spiritual aspect. "I always played it since I was little and it's part of my culture," he says. "When I started to blend it with guitar, I thought it would sound nice. People are intrigued by it and it's received well. It carries a powerful vibe that resonates everywhere I go. It's become more of a spirit — it's different than the rest of the instruments and it's nice to know I'm traveling with that spirit because it's a pretty heavy part of my world."
Rudd's music has an organic, roots-folk sound to it that's evident on his six studio albums, including his most recent release, 2010's Koonyum Sun. There are also elements of funk and blues that work their way in through the various instruments he plays on stage.
Rudd, a vegetarian, has always been open about his connection to the spirit world and says he has found a good bit of that while traveling throughout the United States — meeting with Native American tribal elders, for example.
He also becomes more aware of environmental issues that are happening around the world as he travels. One organization he has close ties with is the Sea Shepherd, which fights against whaling in the Southern Antarctic Ocean and who recognized him with their Rock the Boat Award.
"It's special to be connected to them and be a small branch in that tree — it's a very powerful and important organization," Rudd says. "My music is just a reflection of how I feel on my journey and the strong connections that I have. If it influences someone else's journey, that's huge. I try to keep my ego out of the whole thing. I've been giving this path of music and connection and I respect it, but I'm just as equal for it."
A lot of those environmental and spiritual aspects of his life often come through in his music without being preachy. He says he doesn't worry about the message that's coming across to listeners, as he just lets the music happen in a more natural and organic way.
Rudd says he currently has about a "dozen broken pieces" of songs in his head and plans to start recording his next album for a possible release later this year. He says the new songs sound a bit more like his older music than recent efforts and that he will be showcasing a bit of the new material on his current tour.
"They come through when they're ready — I don't sit down and try to write a song. It's been like that since I was a kid," Rudd says. "I respect that process. It's a bit more like my older stuff. It's pretty rootsy — earthy and raw. It's a little more dirty and folk-y than the last stuff."