the AU interview: Xavier Rudd (VIC) chats about his new album, 'Nanna', and working with new band, the United Nations!

Xavier Rudd has just finished recording his eighth studio album, Nanna, with his new band United Nations. John Goodridge chats to Xavier about the spirituality behind the album and how it all came together.

Your previous album, Spirit Bird was very successful. How does it feel when you write a song like “Follow the Sun”; does it feel like it will be a success when you write it?

Not really. I guess I don’t think so much about that. “Follow the Sun” wasn’t actually even going to be part of the album. I recorded the album overseas and I recorded that song when I got home. It was kind of a homecoming song. I just went into 301 Studios in Byron Bay and recorded it live. It took us about an hour to do the whole thing and we put it on the record and it is funny it did really well. There’s a remix of it, which was done in Italy, which I hadn’t even remembered approving, but that’s just gone platinum over there in the last couple of months. So yeah, it’s funny when you hear these stories because at the time, it was almost this homecoming nursery rhyme.

Looking at photos that you post online, it seems that you do really follow the sun. There are so many pictures of you in tropical beautiful places.

Yeah, well I’m always outside. I’ve always been like that even as a kid and a lot of my musical inspiration comes from that. I’m always watching birds and whatever’s going on outside. All of the first music I wrote as a kid was all about that. I spent a lot of time on my own in the bush with a motorbike and a dog sort of thing. Now I’m still the same way wherever I am, even in the cities I’ll go for a run outside of the cities, just do whatever I’m interested in. I think my music has always been environment / earth / spirit based and it has supported a lot of environmental causes through that. In a lot of ways, it’s the country talking and I’m a vessel for it.

I think that spiritual energy that comes through your music is important now more than ever.

This new album, Nanna, is very much about that. I was up in the Kimberley near James Price Point and the Old Man was going to sing me through 220 kms run and I went up there to meet with him and he watched me run and he showed me where he used to hunt dugong and I was running along the beach after meeting the Old Man and the song on the record is the “Rainbow Serpent”.

The chant is basically, “We make the colours of the rainbow serpent, call us in to return to its line, break the mould of the religious conditioning, return to spirit one soul at a time.” I feel like that’s what happening in a bigger picture to my journey. It’s very slow and it would be nice to see things happening faster but there is so much suffering in every culture and so much domination and religious conditioning around the world. Humans are taking their time to find their way back because they’ve lost their way on this earth and I really feel that the rainbow serpent is calling us back.

I feel that there is a global grassroots movement back to nature and spirituality.

We’re of this earth; we’re not on this earth. We have a connection to this earth just like any flower does, but we’re taught not to believe that and that’s the way that we were dominated. So it’s in people’s ego to consider that and believe that, but if it happens on a large scale, the energetic blocks that come from the earth are powerful. I feel that She’s okay but in a lot of ways, it’s blocked us. The new record attracts that and over the last few years I’ve been catapulted around the globe and I’ve seen some heavy power plays. After Spirit Bird, it felt like a bigger picture journey that I was sent on and it’s very interesting with the people I’ve met and the different messages that have been coming from around the globe. It’s been pretty popular to talk about a shift in these last few years now and I never quite saw that but in the last two years now I’ll agree that there’s been a shift.

You have quite a collection of musicians on Nanna; how did you come to meet them?

Honestly bro, it’s real powerful. This whole journey has been fascinating. When I finally put this project out to the universe, everything just came to the table. All the ancestors answered my prayers. We all sat down at a council meeting and had a cup of tea and all these people just appeared that were so powerful and it was so easy how it all came together. Everyone on this record is amazing musically but also carry a huge story of spirit with them. I feel very blessed. It’s a fucking banging band.

Can you tell me about the recording process?

We recorded it in Byron Bay at 301 and mixed in Jamaica by Errol Brown at Tuff Gong Studios, which was a real honour as well.

How did that come about?

Well, I spoke to Stephen Marley in America last year and showed him some of the demos and asked his opinion and he said, “You should get Errol Brown to mix this, he did all my father’s stuff”. Errol’s pretty old now and doesn’t do much unless he likes it and he got right into it, which was a huge honour. His mother also passed during it and the connection with the grandmother spirit and the album being called Nanna and there’s a lot of content about the old woman, the old creation story in every culture. So he got right into it and he was really moved by that and it was a real personal one for him, so that was really powerful. Knowing that he mixed all those classic Bob Marley tracks that I love was such a huge honour, I spun out every time I spoke to him, even though I couldn’t understand a word he said, his accent was so thick.

Touring is obviously a big part of your life as well. You must really enjoy that side.

Yeah I do. I fell into that routine probably fifteen years ago now and when the offers came in I was so blown away that I could play my music to people, so of course I said yes. I guess I still feel that, but sometimes I feel a little burnt out and have to pull away. I understand my music is a powerful journey that I can’t really take responsibility for. It’s not me. Some of it is my emotion and personal experience that I’m writing about, but a lot of it is a bigger picture. I’ve always known since I was a little boy that I’ve had an older woman with me and quite often I’m just a vessel for that and I treat it like if you take your grandmother to church, you wouldn’t tell her what to wear, so I don’t tell my music what to do, I just let it come out. Sometimes on the journey I’m tired and I don’t want to go somewhere, but I realise that I have to because I don’t really understand. There are a lot of big connections that come out of that as well. So I stay fit and I stay healthy and I stay strong in order to be the best warrior that I can be for that journey.

You’re playing the Byron Bay Bluesfest this year; you seem to be a bit of a regular there.

Yeah, we haven’t done it for a little while, but we’re gonna hit it with the United Nations and that’s gonna be very powerful, I think. I’m sure that everyone’s gonna love the show and I’m just excited because it’s gonna be a big boogie. Every song is cruisy so it’s gonna be a big dance party. I think that’s what everyone needs and that was what was coming through me at the time too. It’s time to boogie!

When will we be able to get hold of Nanna?

It comes out in Australia in early March and I’m heading into Triple J today to play the first single “Come People” for the first time.