Folk singer Xavier Rudd returns to where his career took off

IN CONCERT

What: Xavier Rudd with Emmanuel Jal
Where: McPherson Playhouse
When: Friday, June 8, 7 p.m.
Tickets: Sold out

Singer-songwriter Xavier Rudd, who turned 40 last week, has been playing music professionally for more than half of his life. It is that wealth of experience — of knowing what it takes to succeed, and the drive to see that dream come to fruition — that has helped the Australian folk singer become a runaway success story.

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“Sometimes, I get tired and miss family, but I’m really lucky,” Rudd said from a tour stop in Salt Lake City, Utah. “There’s a lot of good musicians in the world who don’t have the opportunities that I have, and I respect that. I’ve been doing this long enough to realize that it’s not about me or my ego, it’s about the bigger picture. I have a role in that, and I respect it.”

Rudd kicks off a 16-date tour of Canada with a sold-out stop at the McPherson Playhouse on Friday, his first concert in years in what used to be his home away from home. He spent a fair bit of time on Vancouver Island during the late 1990s — some of it living in a van with his then-girlfriend, a Courtenay native he met in Australia. His first two recordings were live albums recorded in B.C. in 2001 and 2002, while some of his early concerts in Victoria drew the biggest crowds of his career to that point. For the early portion of his career, he was considered an unofficial B.C. boy, with Vancouver Island claiming him as our own.

“I have a soft spot in my heart for places like Victoria,” Rudd said. “The support I had there early was incredible, and it still means a lot to me. I’ve had success in lots of different countries now, but it feels really special to come to B.C. I don’t get to it as much anymore. I used to come to Canada all the time, but now it’s pretty rare. It’s exciting. It feels kind of like coming a home, a little bit. ”

Though his current tour through North America is with the backing of a full band, Rudd still takes a few solo turns during each concert. That’s how he started, playing all the instruments himself, and he never wants to lose touch with his humble beginnings. “I’m trying to get as wide a spread of all my stuff as I can. I feel like it’s pretty perfect at the moment, what we’re doing. The show is really well-rounded. It’s nice to do a bit of everything that I’ve covered over the years, and it makes for a nice set.”

To play some of his early material, Rudd is required to bring on the road his one-man-band rig, a chassis to which his didgeridoo and various percussion instruments are mounted. “I’ve got all that with me, man. I seem to be addicted to carrying too much stuff around.”

The multi-instrumentalist casts an international net these days — he no longer has landed immigrant status in Canada; that changed when he split from his wife — and has made up for lost time touring extensively in countries such as the U.S., which remained untapped for Rudd until 2004. Though he’s constantly in motion (his tour will take him to several countries before the year is out), he remains firmly attached to Australia. Recently re-married, Rudd lives on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane. He moved there to be closer to his two sons with his ex-wife from Courtenay, who lives in nearby Byron Bay. “I picked a place to start again and we’ve started on our journey,” he said.

Part of that journey includes Storm Boy, Rudd’s ninth release. It’s a typically optimistic outing from the Paul Simon-sounding performer, whose earnest but inspiring view of the world has drawn fans in from across the world who share his heartening view of humanity and the environment.

“We all know humans are not the greatest species on the Earth, in terms of how we operate — not only amongst each other, but also our footprint on the planet. We often focus on the negative, and there’s plenty of it, but I have definitely noticed a huge growth in the consciousness of people. There’s a conscious movement around our Earth that is growing quite rapidly, if you look at the history of evolution. And that’s exciting. Whether it be environmentally or for self-worth, it’s all important.”

Much of Rudd’s music is inspired by the outdoors. His 2012 album Spirit Bird was inspired by the Kimberley region of Australia, where he had “some pretty profound experiences,” and includes samples of 30 species of Australian birds. Storm Boy — which arrived on May 25 — makes mention of pelicans, the same birds that figure prominently in the movie Storm Boy, an obscure Australian film from 1976 on which the album is based.

“What I get off on is our natural earth. I’m always outside, and happy to be, and I feel like the spirit of the land plays a big part in what I write about, because I write about the things that I love.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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