Wielding an arsenal of instruments—from guitars to stomp boxes to didgeridoos—and with a talented, diverse band, United Nations, standing behind him—Xavier Rudd will bring his down-under style of music to the Brooklyn Arts Center for the first time, thanks to 98.3 The Penguin and Huka Entertainment. However, Rudd’s music doesn’t only represent his Australian influences; he merges sounds from across the globe to provide a musical experience like none other.
Xavier Rudd and the United Nations joined forces a year ago. Rudd held a deep-seated interest in music as a child. After graduating from St. Joseph’s College in Torquay, Victoria (Australia), he fronted Xavier and the Hum. Influences came from the likes of Leo Kottke, Ben Harper, Natalie Merchant, and multi-instrumentalist David Lindley. Eventually, the band broke up, which led Rudd to embark on a solo career. His single-man show melded modern sounds with music inspired by his ancestors.
With nine albums to date, Rudd wows audiences with his ability to weave together genres like reggae and tribal jam. The barriers that hold down most musicians don’t seem to apply to Rudd. Whether it is purity of his vocal range or the talent that seems to seep from his fingertips, he tops musical charts everywhere, reaching gold and platinum releases since “To Let” came out on Salt Records in 2002. As well, he’s well-known on the festival circuit, having performed large-scale concerts throughout the world, including the South’s very own Bonaroo Music Festival.
“I can’t complain,” Rudd says. “I’ve been very fortunate to get where I am today. It’s a struggle being away from home and missing my family sometimes. But I get to see the world and perform and be a part of so much.”
Now that he’s teamed up with United Nations, their sound crosses cultures from Australia to South Africa, Samoa to Germany, Papua New Guinea and beyond. Their international love of music features guitar, bass, drums, percussion, keys, horns, flute, and vocals in a powerful blast of music that takes audiences for a wild, groovy ride.
“I’ve wanted to [create a multicultural band] for a while, mate,” Rudd explains. “But I didn’t want to rush things. I had to be patient, you know? I wanted things to be organic, and it’s led to some spiritually powerful music.”
Their music serves as a way to respect the essence of creation and ancient ways of life, while returning to spirituality—something that drives Rudd. Australia and his connection to the land hugely impacts his art. Xaviar Rudd and United Nations released “Nanna” in March (Salt Records), which was mixed by Errol Brown at Tuff Gong Studios.
“I want my music to be what it is,” Rudd says. “I don’t try and shape it. Different people get different things, and if it impacts someone emotionally, that’s the best compliment I can get. Hopefully, what I do will inspire someone to move forward in a strong way, and this new album will, too.”
The track “Come People” perfectly engages reggae overtones, augmented by overlaying horns that add a jazz flair to the track. Rudd doesn’t lack boundaries or inhibitions. Just listen to “Follow the Sun,” from his 2012 album, “Spirit Bird” (Universal Music Australia). Twangy, folk vibrate with the harmonica, backed by a pulsating beat.
Rudd is not just a multi-instrumentalist looking to move people via music. He is an avid animal rights’ activist and nature conservationist. Animal sanctuaries, renewable energy, and protection for the Great Barrier Reef are just a few of the issues to which he lends his time and passion.
Recently, Rudd has focused on the decline of the renewable energy industry in Australia, which has hit some snags and suffered many unfortunate setbacks. He even scored a nod from PETA for “World’s Sexiest Vegetarian Celebrity” in 2007, and he received the Paul Watson Sea Shepherds Rock the Boat Award. The accolade recognizes musicians who contribute to Sea Shepherd campaigns that defend and protect ocean wildlife, in 2009.
“It makes me sad that things like this are allowed to happen,” Rudd says. “But we just have to keep fighting and make sure it’s not allowed to stay this way.”
While his music serves as a perfect vehicle to explore social and environmmental issues, for Rudd it is about pouring out his heart onstage. His tackles topics like spirituality, humanity, environmentalism, and the rights of aboriginal people. He paints a breathtaking picture for audiences with his vivid tones and hypnotic ceremonial rhythms that revel in gritty guitar blues and didgeridoo sounds.
Xaviar Rudd and the United Nations will play Brooklyn Arts Center Tuesday, May 12. Hawaii native Mike Love will open the show.
“We’ve got a lot of new stuff,” Rudd says. “Touring with the United Nations has been really special and inspired a lot of new music. Anyone at my shows can expect a wild dance party. It’s going to be groovy for sure.”