Credit: James Looker
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There are several things close to this singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist’s heart. And while peppering his music with eco-messages wasn’t his intention, the native bird calls, whale song and indigenous beats sampled through his new record give a clue about the activist in Xavier Rudd.
“A lot of Spirit Bird came from my time in the Kimberley and being involved in the James Price Point campaign… there were a lot of powerful trips up there,” he reflects on the inspiration behind his latest album.
Rudd’s made multiple visits to the region in north Western Australia, lending his voice to oppose the plans to build a gas processing precinct in James Price Point, with particular interest in the rightful land ownership and heritage of the Indigenous community.
Rudd recounts one memorable visit to the Kimberley, where the song “Spirit Bird” was born of an ethereal encounter with a flock of red-tailed black cockatoos, revealing the depth of his connection to the region.
“This one bird… she was just looking through me with these ancient eyes and she was squeaking and talking to me about country and what she’d seen and what was happening now… I had all these images rush just through my mind like memories that weren’t mine but I found them. It was this crazy experience and I felt like I was syncing with the earth.”
Rudd wrote the start to “Spirit Bird” that night but the rest wouldn’t come to him until two years later, when he was recording his current album of the same name.
“The back half of the song, it just called out to me again… I was sitting by a fire in Canada at about ten o’clock at night, and I realised the next morning that that was about the same time the police moved in on James Price Point and started to drag hold of [Hands] Off Country and bulldozers moved in.”
While the album squawks and twitters of the imminent development in the Kimberley, the sampling of whale sounds seems to call out to someone who Rudd considers “one of the most important human beings that ever walked this earth”.
Rudd’s support of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society earned him the ‘Rock the Boat Award’ back in 2009, but he now reflects bitterly on the predicament of its captain, Paul Watson, who was last month imprisoned in Germany for a violation of ships traffic in Guatemalan waters in 2002.
“It’s just a damn shame he’s been mistreated the way he has by people who have no other agenda than wealth and the devastating destruction of our oceans. Without Paul, and what he’s dedicated his life to, I think we’d be in a far worse position.”
Rudd’s now keeping busy preparing for his mammoth upcoming tour, which will see 28 shows across Australian cities and regional towns.
“I’m really looking forward to getting into all the quirky little places in Australia… I just want to get into all the nooks and crannies.”