Xavier Rudd (born 29 May 1978) is an Australian singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Several of Rudd's songs incorporate socially conscious themes, such as spirituality, humanity, environmentalism and the rights of Indigenous Australians.
Background and early life
Rudd was born in Torquay, Victoria and grew up in nearby Jan Juc. He attended St Joseph's College, Geelong. His maternal grandfather was Dutch, born in Tilburg, a town in the Netherlands, before migrating to Australia. One of his grandmothers was from an Irish potato-growing family and grew up in Colac, Victoria. His father was born with Aboriginal, Irish and Scottish heritage, and Rudd has Wurundjeri background, one of his great grandmothers was an Aboriginal Australian, and her child (Rudd's paternal grandmother) was taken away from her.
Rudd showed a keen interest in music growing up in a family of seven children. While primary school-aged, Rudd used his mother's vacuum cleaner as a makeshift didgeridoo and he began playing his brother's guitar. He also played saxophone and clarinet as a child. Rudd's brother can still play guitar, but went on to become an accountant in Orlando, Florida.
As a child, Xavier Rudd sold recycled wood through his own furniture business. Immediately after finishing school, Rudd traveled to Fiji. He lived in villages around the country for nine months, returning to Australia at age 19.
1998–2002: Early career to debut studio album
Before launching his solo career Rudd began playing music as part of the band 'Xavier and the Hum'. He drew inspiration from artists such as Leo Kottke, Ben Harper, Natalie Merchant and multi-instrumentalist David Lindley, as well as music from diverse sources, such as Hawaiian and Native American music. His music first took him overseas when he traveled to Whistler, British Columbia—Rudd was in a band and would play each night after a day of snowboarding.
Rudd was in Canada when the September 11 attacks happened. Rudd felt "spun out" watching the American media coverage, including graphic imagery of the destruction of the World Trade Center. Rudd wrote the song The 12th of September, which would feature on his first studio album To Let, about the day after the attacks. In 2006, discussing the song, Rudd said:
That's what the song's about, the world waiting. All of a sudden there was an attack and there was these people who were equally as toxic that were going to retaliate. No one could really do anything about it. It's about the next day and that's why I called it the 12th of September.
2003–05: Solace to Food in the Belly
In 2004, Rudd released Solace, his first album to be distributed by a major label—Universal Music Australia. Rather than inviting guest artists to join him on the record, Rudd performed all the instrumentation for the album alone with only a few overdubs. Instruments included didgeridoos, slide guitars, stomp boxes, djembe drums, slit drums, and the harmonica. In his live-show, Rudd came to be renowned for his 'one man band' performance.
Rudd recorded Food in the Belly in mid-2004 whilst on break from an extensive North American tour. The recording was made in May 2004 at Bowen Island, part of the Greater Vancouver Regional District.
2007: White Moth
The song White Moth was written about a moth that followed Rudd's son Joaquin for several hours on his mother's 30th birthday. Rudd thought it was the spirit of his then wife's grandmother. Rudd and his family were holidaying to celebrate the occasion on an island off Sri Lanka.
In 2007, Rudd partnered with Clif Bar's GreenNotes program to create the "Better People Campaign". The campaign was about expressing gratitude to the people in the world taking steps to make positive change.
2008–11: From Dark Shades of Blue to collaboration with Izintaba
Black Water the first track on Rudd's 2008 album Dark Shades of Blue was named after one of Lutken-Rudd's paintings. The album saw Rudd introduce a heavier sound, using electric guitars in place of acoustic guitars and creating darker more somber tones. He recorded with Dave Tolley, a percussionist drummer, who he had previously collaborated with for White Moth and Food in the Belly.
Reflecting on Dark Shades of Blue, Rudd told media he felt the heavier sound was a "precursor for things that might come... I feel like my music is ahead of me all the time. Rudd was referring to his and Lutken's divorce, which was finalised in 2009.
After the failure of his marriage, Rudd was supported in his grief and recovery by new South African bandmates, bassist Tio Moloantoa and percussionist Andile Nqubezelo. Rudd had met Moloantoa and Nqubezelo performing at the 2008 Wiesen Nuke Festival. Rudd described his connection with Moloantoa and Nqubezelo as musical, spiritual and emotional—"I feel like they were sent to me," he said.
In 2010 Rudd bought 20 hectares of property at Koonyum Range, Mullumbimby, the location was the inspiration for the name of the album Rudd would release with Moloantoa and Nqubezelo, Koonyum Sun. The album moved away from the heavier sound of Dark Shades of Blue to a more up-beat style.
2012: Spirit Bird
In 2011, Rudd underwent emergency back surgery, to repair three herniated disks, bone spurs and nerve damage. Rudd wrote the track Comfortable In My Skin, on his 2012 album Spirit Bird, when he was suffering from major nerve pain before his surgery. In its entirety, the album sampled 30 species of Australian birds.
The song Spirit Bird came about after an encounter Rudd had with a red-tailed black cockatoo in the Kimberley. The encounter coincided with Rudd experiencing a powerful rush of imagery and emotion.
A lot of that [album] grew out of me giving myself to that country up in the Kimberley and that country gave it back to me... I'd been on a bit of a journey and Spirit Bird represents that.
2015: Rudd joins with the United Nations
Nanna, the 2015 album Rudd released in collaboration with the United Nations, champions cultural understanding and condemns racism and intolerance. To record the album, Rudd and the United Nations worked with producer Errol Brown. In an interview published in The Aspen Times, Rudd shared that Nanna had given him a chance to focus on his vocal performance. He said that he had never really liked his voice before and vocals were often little more than an afterthought, but by 2016 was embracing it.
The song Shame on Nanna was inspired by conversations about racism surrounding AFL player Adam Goodes, an Aboriginal football player who was repeatedly booed at matches. Rudd had previously declared his support for Goodes addressing the AFL Players' Association 2014 Season Launch. At the time of writing the song Creancient for the album, Rudd was working with a Shaman in Peru. He participated in several ceremonies, including one that involved vomiting and experiencing hallucinations and another involving mud bathing. Rudd described the song as something that flowed out of him over a week while he felt like he was outside of himself, looking at his ego from a distance.
In late 2015, Rudd was forced to cut his North American tour for Nanna short to have disc replacement and fusion surgery in his lower back, having experienced chronic pain over several months.
In November 2015, Rudd's song "Let Me Be" featured in an Australian TV commercial promoting KFC, a large fast food restaurant chain specialising in fried chicken. Many fans used social media to complain about the inclusion of the song on the commercial. PETA responded that they hoped that Rudd had not approved the use of his music for the advertising.
Leisure and inspiration
Rudd likes to spend time in the Australian bush often, and champions the traditional Aboriginal way of life. His songs include stories of the mistreatment of the indigenous people of his homeland. Rudd has taken part in several Aboriginal ceremonies. In 2003, he was adopted into the Dhuwa mob in north east Arnhem land. He has also spent time with people from several North American indigenous groups—the Cree, Mohawk and Iroquois.
Rudd is a keen surfer, having started when he was five or six years old, and says at times surfing inspires his music. He also enjoys snowboarding, one of the few activities he wears shoes for.
Rudd met Marci Lutken, an artist from Canada, when she was backpacking in Fitzroy in 1999. The two married soon after, and had two sons, Joaquin and Finojet. Rudd obtained Canadian dual citizenship. Lutken-Rudd ended her and Rudd's relationship in 2009, and the pair listed their off-grid, solar powered home in Jan Juc for sale.
As at June 2015, Rudd was building a house near Byron Bay, which will include a music studio. This house is currently for sale.
Shortly before Christmas in 2016, Rudd had his second marriage in a Byron Bay Australian Aboriginal Ceremony to Ashley Freeman, an Australian holistic wellness trainer.
Rudd became a vegetarian after passing Harris Ranch, California's largest factory farm, during a United States tour. Rudd described in an interview with PETA how the experience made him change his diet, saying:
[The animals] stood crammed together on this piece of land. They could hardly move as the area was too small for all those animals. Plus, they'd already eaten or trampled down the grass and all the feces were just left there. They were standing in their own waste and—what I found worse—even had to eat it because the workers didn't offer them anything else. I asked the driver about it and he said, "Well, that's California's biggest beef producer." I could still smell it after we had driven for another 30 kilometers. That was when I knew it was the right choice to go vegetarian.
Rudd was nominated for PETA's annual "World's Sexiest Vegetarian Celebrity" award in 2007. In 2008, PETA named him sexiest Australian male vegetarian.
Activism and causes
In February 2009, Rudd performed at a public rally in opposition to residential development in Torquay.
Rudd received the 'Rock the Boat Award' in 2009 for his support of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Rudd is friends with Canadian environmentalist Paul Watson, who founded Sea Shepherd. In January 2010, Rudd was one of the last passengers aboard Sea Shepherd ship Ady Gil, days before it sunk after a collision with the MV Shōnan Maru 2 Japanese whaling security vessel.
In 2012, Rudd was outspoken against Colin Barnett's plan to open up the Kimberley to mining operations. He joined the Save the Kimberley movement to save James Price Point.
Working with volunteer organisations Surf for Life and Waves of Hope, Rudd worked alongside other volunteers to build a high school in northern Nicaragua in late 2013.
In 2014, Rudd performed at the Bentley anti-gas blockade campsite, in support of the Lock the Gate Alliance. He had previously travelled to the Doubtful Creek coal-seam gas test drilling site in February 2013 to voice his concerns about the gas drilling, saying "our government is hopeless ruthless and toxic in terms of protecting our land." The protestor's actions at the Bentley Blockade, where they blocked the delivery of oil and gas drilling equipment for weeks, led the New South Wales Government to suspend Metgasco’s drilling licence.
However, despite this activism, in 2015 Rudd had been widely criticised for allowing the multi-national company KFC, a seller of factory farmed chicken, of using his song 'Let Me Be' in a television advertisement. The summer advertising campaign aligned with the Australian cricket season has served to undermine previous Rudd's activism, and many fans have questioned his integrity as a former world's sexiest vegetarian.
Rudd has become a known name at music festivals worldwide including the Bonnaroo Music Festival, the High Sierra (2004 & 2007) and Wakarusa (2005), moe.down (2003), Summer Sonic, Lowlands, Rock Werchter among others. He has toured with artists including Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews, Ben Harper, Good Old War, G. Love & Special Sauce, and Rodrigo y Gabriela.
|Title||Details||Peak chart positions||Certifications|
|Food in the Belly||
|Dark Shades of Blue||
|Title||Details||Peak chart positions||Certifications|
|Live in Canada||
|Live at the Grid||
|Live Bonnaroo June 11, 2005||
|Live Bonnaroo June 16, 2007||
|Live in Brussels||
|Live at the Melbourne Zoo||
|Live in the Netherlands||