Interview: Ziggy Alberts on Here Comes The Sun fest, green touring with Jack Johnson, new album, and more

Ziggy Alberts will hit the road to tour this week, following the release of his sixth studio album titled Dancing In The Dark earlier this month, which he says is all about everyone’s journey over the past few years.

The Sunshine Coast singer-songwriter will start this Saturday with a headline slot at Here Comes The Sun at 3 Oceans Winery in Margaret River in WA’s south-west region, playing alongside The Dreggs, Winston Surfshirt, DZ Deathrays, Babe Rainbow, Body Type, Kiera Jas, Livvy and Pricie.

After that, Ziggy also has a national tour alongside one of his heroes, Jack Johnson, including dates at the Sydney Opera House (December 5-6) and Melbourne’s Sidney Myer Music Bowl (December 8).

We sat down with Ziggy to talk about the new album, the upcoming shows, favourite surf spots, green touring, deserts, and much much more.

Gday Ziggy, how you doing?

Going well. I just got back from overseas just now. This is my first day back at the record label, back in the office. It can’t be all play, sometimes I’ve got to do some work!

Too true, well you’ve some big shows coming up, firstly heading west. I know you love beaches and the ocean, so any spots out in WA you’re keen to check out while over here?

I probably won’t have as much time as I would like, I’m flying in two days before the Margaret River show and I’ll get probably three or four days after which is enough. I’ve always loved my time over there. I was just over in West Australia in July and I did an awesome surfing and camping trip. Actually, we made the music video for a song called ‘Campfire’ on the new album and that was from the North West and for all intents and purposes I won’t give away more than that. That was a lot of fun.

There’s some great spots up in WA’s North West, but not many better than Gnaraloo for surfing. Is that where you were?

Yep and we made it as far as Exmouth as well actually, which was really fun. I just love it and I haven’t been to the South-West for a while so I’d love to get down to Denmark and visit some friends at home. But otherwise I’ll happily just hang out in Margs and Yallingup.

Let’s talk about the run of shows starting with Here Comes The Sun festival in Margaret River where you’ll be on the bill alongside The Dreggs, who you know well, as well as others such as Winston Surfshirt. Must be pumped for that?

Yeah, it’ll be nice. Actually I haven’t met Winston, I don’t know if that’s his name! But we actually just played a festival together in Pambula on the south coast, literally like last month. So it’s pretty funny to be playing another festival together. And I loved his set so I would love to say g’day to him.

And yeah, the Dreggs boys are local and they’ve been smashing it, so this is also going to be yet another. They did my support for a couple shows two months ago. It’ll be our second festival together in two months so it’ll be funny as well.

After this festival, you’re off touring around the country with Jack Johnson. I’ve read you’re a big admirer of Jack Johnson, so can you talk a bit about the opportunity to tour with him and what it means to you?

Jack is one of my earliest musical memories. I remember singing songs, literally 20 years ago, I remember because it was before I moved where I’m situated now. All those years ago, so I’ve been listening to him for 20 years, which is almost as long as I’ve been alive, so that’s cool.

I met him maybe five years ago and he had a little green touring conference. He had a couple young artists come in and see how they’re doing the green touring aspects of the tour. Frankly that was really inspiring to help set up how we were going to do green touring for our major tour. Prior to that in 2019 I did this tour that was massive, some of the same venues I’m doing the support tour with Jack on and it was all sold out and the green touring we managed to achieve on that I have to say was hugely inspired by Jack and his team, because they’re at the forefront of that. So to come full circle and to be playing the sharing stage with Jack is just going to be something I’ll look back on in the years to come and think ‘I toured with Jack Johnson, who would have thought?’.

Talk to me more about green touring and what that means logistically? What are the focuses?

I guess it should actually be called “greener” touring because no touring is really great. The amount of gear we’re shipping, the flights, etc. It’s the same as not using the word sustainable anymore, because there’s basically nothing that is sustainable, there’s only things that are more responsible, less responsible, because sustainable is like, it means that it’s equal to or better than, and there’s just literally not anything that is truly sustainable. So that’s why I like greener touring, or trying to do responsible merch, stuff like that, just trying to edge towards that, because it’s a big challenge.

Some of the ways might sound simple, stuff like having water fill stations, so you don’t have 12,000 water bottles that night being sold, which even though it’s a drop in the ocean of single use plastic, it is always nice to try and do as many plastic-free events as you can. These guys, they’re all over it and they’ve got a whole breakdown of how they try and make the touring greener. I mean, for us, one of the coolest things we did was we had all compostable cups and trays, so the whole venue and all the all the stallholders only use that and there was a commercial composting machine on site of the venue. In other words, all the combustibles actually got composted on site. And there was no single use vendor stuff, which was insane and awesome.

They’re honestly small steps but you’ve got to try and crack them. It’s not easy. The single use plastic thing through the last couple of years exploded back into massive use, because for a lot of reasons, but you weren’t even allowed to bring your own water bottle, you couldn’t use your keep cup and all that kind of crap. In other words, I’m looking forward to hopefully, as things settle, that we can incorporate more greener touring again, because it’s a part and parcel with my message and with Jack’s message. You are catching that flight and doing that travel across the ocean, and so you’ve just got to try and do the best that you can to balance out the two.

We could go on about that topic but this 15-minute window won’t allow it, so I’ll move on to your shows alongside Jack Johnson and some of the venues must be super exciting, playing at Sydney Opera House and Melbourne’s Music Bowl. Have you played at either before?

No, I have not.

So that adds a whole new dynamic – does that render itself to a different kind of live show that you’ve got to cater for?

Oh, for sure. I think that also this is my first support tour since I supported my friend eight years ago, doing tiny venues. I’ve got a 45-minute set, so that’s already a huge shift for me to figure out how to cut my set time in half and playing the big venues to hopefully new people. I’d like to think that there would be at least half the people who are coming who haven’t seen my show before. And so then you want to try and figure out how to play a blend of old and new. It’s gonna be very interesting. It’s a very unique experience to play such a short set at such big venues. That’s going to be probably the most unique tour in that way that I’ve probably ever done.

And with your new album coming out as well, obviously you want to put a bit of that stuff out there, but when you’re not the headline act, you’ve got to balance it out?

Yeah, with the new album, I feel like with live shows, I feel my duty to the people is to try and play the songs that they can sing to and that they want to sing to. Where it makes sense, I’ll put in a couple of new songs. Probably a blend. With this being my sixth studio album, if you play only two songs off each album, you’re already going over your time limit, so it’s going to be interesting. I’m just going to try and play the songs that people will have best time singing together, you know.

Nice, that’s a good formula. So just on the new album, and this is the most skin-deep question, but I often find it helps to offer an insight into the themes of an album, can you explain the title Dancing In The Dark and then also the album artwork, which looks like a bit of sand with a bit of vegetation and maybe some tyre tracks?

Yeah, so Dancing In The Dark, it’s this active title and it’s a follow up to Searching For Freedom. I love that when you get to have active titles. It just signifies everyone’s journey these last couple of years, trying to keep your head up, even when the times are pretty hard.

The sand dune shot for the cover, I just love the expansiveness. There’s these epic kind of production elements we’ve put in behind songs that do sound like wind across the desert. It speaks to, deserts in some way to me make you think of utopia and dystopia. They’re just like, full of mystery. Weren’t deserts at one point cities or something crazy like that? You can tell me, that’s a Jack fact, because I’m not sure if it’s true.

They are these endless spaces. And I guess the sparseness of the cover also reflects the way we tried to be pretty minimalistic with our recordings. The recordings themselves aren’t dense. I guess Searching For Freedom was very detailed and very dense sonically, whereas this is minimalist and spacious. And I guess that’s kind of why we chose that title on that.

I just want to touch on your songwriting. I know it’s your sixth studio album so that’s quite prolific in the period of time you’ve been working. What’s your process for songwriting, is it quite organic where songs just come to you or is it disciplined and structured where you force yourself to sit down and squeeze out ideas, or even a mix of both?

That’s a good question. I think that to me, it’s quite a natural thing to try and be led by when there is the idea there. I haven’t yet sat down to record and write an album. I try and just put a bunch of songs in my song bank, and I pick up the songs that sit together as albums with themes. But probably the disciplined part is getting the demo recorded so you don’t lose them. That’s probably the part that is where you have to go ‘right, okay, today I am going to get that down and I’m going to file it otherwise I’m going to forget it’.

But that can be quite cathartic as well, when you do sit down. Yes, songwriting and getting them into your song bank is a great cathartic experience, because then they’re not kind of lost on you. There’s definitely times lately where the amount of songs it’s like, I don’t even know how to play that song anymore, so it’s good to keep them somewhere safe.

I totally get that. Thanks so much for your time, Ziggy. I know the West Aussie peeps and everyone checking out your shows alongside Jack Johnson are pumped, so I wish you good luck on the tour.

Thanks man. I appreciate it. And I’m super psyched to come and do that headline show next week and to come back to the South West, I’m looking forward to that immensely.

Good, man. I’m sure everyone’s pumped to have you join. Thanks again, bye bye!

Stream Dancing in the Dark HERE.
Here Comes the Sun comes to 3 Oceans Winery on November 19th – Grab your tickets HERE.
For Ziggy’s other tour dates, check out his website HERE.

Ben Somerford

Aussie freelance journalist, sports, music, entertainment, top 10 lists. Take beach pics too.