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AM’s Greg Phillips chats to Xavier Rudd about supporting Rodriguez on the legendary musician’s upcoming A Day On The Green 2019 dates

The musical journey of Sixto Rodriguez is one of contemporary music’s greatest tales. The Detroit-raised musician’s two classic 70s folk albums were largely ignored in America, despite being hits in Australia. Disheartened, Rodriguez quit music and spent several decades performing manual labor. Meanwhile on the other side of the world in apartheid South Africa and unbeknownst to Rodriguez, his music had become a soundtrack of sorts to their revolution. In yet another twist of fate, the South Africans thought he was dead, later found out he was alive and eventually brought him to South Africa for a triumphant tour. The movie Searching for Sugar Man documented his life story and the man has enjoyed a successful touring career ever since. In February next year, Rodriguez will be touring Australia again, with three of his shows being A Day On The Green events. On these shows Rodriguez will be joined by Xavier Rudd, Busby Marou, Pierce Brothers and Alice Skye.

Australia’s own acclaimed, international troubadour, Xavier Rudd knows the Rodriguez story well and has been a fan since his late teens. “Yeah I am a fan,” Xavier tells me. “I listened to that Sugar Man record a lot when I was about 19. I don’t remember dad ever playing him and he had eclectic tastes. He played a lot of Hendrix and Kottke, Marianne Faithfull, a lot of cool stuff but yeah I think I discovered Rodriguez on my own and I loved that album, so it is an honour to play with him.”

Rudd is also pleased to be sharing the A Day On The Green stage and touring three states with fellow Australian artists Busby Marou, Pierce Brothers and Alice Skye. “I do like these kind of tours,” he says. “It is a great part of what we do. As musicians you get to see and hear some amazing artists. I have come across some great music as a musician travelling around the world. Coming home to Australia, it’s a smaller scene and everybody knows each other and it’s nice to connect with people back home, so it will be good to do these shows on home soil. It’s really special to be home, we are so lucky here. There’s always a part of me which stays here when I do go away. I’m blessed that I get to share a view of my homeland around the world and reflect on how special home is. A lot of people take our country for granted. When you get the opportunity to travel you really respect and cherish that we come from such a lucky country.”

Xavier Rudd has just come off his own successful world tour promoting his Storm Boy album to attentive crowds, particularly in cities such as Brussels and Amsterdam, where they go a little nuts for Rudd’s soulful brand of Australian folk rock. Rudd is also no stranger to gigs in exotic locations and is looking forward to playing the scenic wine region venues which are an integral part of the A Day On The Green shows.
“I have played in many lovely places, I’m very lucky,” he says. “I just played at Red Rocks in Colorado, which is one of the most beautiful amphitheatres in the world. I have played lots of amazing outdoors shows. Barcelona was great. I played with Joan Baez in Venice, where our gear was taken in by boats. The Botanical Gardens in Cape Town in South Africa was special. Kuranda Amphitheatre here in Australia is special and one of the most beautiful places I have played.”

Equally as exotic as the places Xavier plays are the instruments he uses, consisting of handmade guitars and didgeridoos. To date he’s been lucky and had no issue with damage as he travels the world, just the regular maintenance from his tech and a decent service at the end of a tour. “When they get home I always need a bit of a tune up but my tech looks after them on the road. There’s always a few cracks and there’s the humidity, there are things that we do have to address. In saying that I have never had any major disasters with my gear.”

His most treasured instruments however are the didges. I wondered if like a fine guitar, the tone of the digeridoos change with age as well …
“They do change more than any instrument I reckon,” he states. “The sprit too! All of mine come from Arnhem Land and there’s something about those instruments from up there. They travel with a sprit and all sorts of weird and wonderful things. They bring weather. Sometimes in the cold they don’t want to play. In the heat they can be out of tune, they are interesting. You just have to go with it, you can’t change them … you have to play to them … they make the rules.”

With the Storm Boy tour coming to an end, Rudd is in no hurry to deliver a follow up to his 2018 #1 Australian ARIA Album charting release. “I’m not anywhere with it yet,” he says. “I’ve got some ideas and it’s going to take a while to pull them together. I’ve never actually tried to write a song, they just come to me and when they do, they come pretty fast.
I’m always writing music … to be continued I guess.”

When Rudd does get around to writing his next batch of songs, you can bet the lyrics will be tackling the issues closest to his heart such as the environment and social justice. For a guy who is so passionate about these issues, it must be incredibly frustrating watching many of the world’s politicians making backward steps in regard to climate change and mining decisions. I asked Xavier if he thought that music can still make a difference in this day and age.
“It’s a hard one to answer,” he says after taking a moment to think. “Do I notice music having an effect on change? Yes I do but like you say, you see politicians going backwards so how far are you reaching? Are you preaching to the converted? All these questions can be daunting. I believe in change and seeing change in my time. On a street level there are a lot of passionate people who have shut things down, I have seen that a number of times. Politics is a whole lot of wrong isn’t it. They can be a flash in the pan, they have their fingers in different pies and have different agendas. They are in politics for a certain number of years and out again. It doesn’t make any sense to me. I have faith in the people on the street.”

Rodriguez, Xavier Rudd, Busby Marou, Pierce Brothers, Alice Skye

Sat February 9
Sirromet Wines, Mt Cotton, QLD
Sat February 16
Rochford Wines, Yarra Valley, VIC
Sat February 23
Peter Lehmann Wines, Barossa Valley, SA
Tickets on sale from | Ph: 136 100

All event information

INDOOR SHOWS: (Frontier Touring)
Rodriguez plus special guest Sarah Blasko

Tues February 5
ICC Sydney Theatre, Sydney, NSW
Tues February 12
Royal Theatre, Canberra, ACT
Fri February 15
Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne, VIC
Tickets on sale from | 132 849

Tues February 19
Entertainment Centre, Darwin, NT SOLD OUT
Wed February 20
Entertainment Centre, Darwin, NT NEW SHOW
Tickets on sale from | Ph: 08 89 803 333

Tues February 26
Derwent Entertainment Centre, Hobart, TAS
Tues March 1
Kings Park and Botanical Garden, Perth, WA
Tickets on sale from | 136 100

All event information

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