Xavier answers the call of Spirit Bird
LOCKED eye-to-eye with a red-tailed black cockatoo during a trip to Kimberley country, Xavier Rudd felt a powerful wave of imagery and emotions descend upon him.
"She didn't take her eyes off me and she began to creak and squawk and groan.
"I felt like I was being pushed through the earth.
"All these images and visions rushed through my head.
"They were like memories only they weren't my own," Rudd explained in his slow drawl.
"Blurred images of faces, waterfalls, sand and dust; all country stuff.
"It was a message of an ancient time and what's been going on in that country for so long, devastation included.
"That song was the one of the strongest to have ever come through me.
"That night the first part of that song just poured out of me, and I wrote the lyrics in the sand."
After that the song just sat, an unfinished fragment.
Rudd continued working on the rest of the tracks for his seventh album, Spirit Bird, until one night when he was finishing the record in Canada he started to play the song by the fire.
"The back half just poured out of me again and I ended up in tears.
"It was 10pm and I wrote it down and then the next morning I woke up and…had all these messages and realised that at about the same time I wrote that song, the police had moved in on James Price Point in Kimberley and started to drag Elders off their country and bring in the bulldozers and start the acquisition of land up there, and that song had come through me around the same time.
"It was a message from country. So I recorded it about two days later and that was Spirit Bird."
Throughout Rudd's career he has had many profound song experiences but none more so than this.
"I just felt spirit moving through me," he said in awe.
"I feel like I am a vehicle for spirit to tell things.
"It's a tough one to talk about. It sounds a bit kooky but since I was a kid I knew I didn't want to involve my mind in music and overthink things.
"That would just be ego. I need to feel it with my heart and soul and not try and change it.
"You need to treat the process like you would your grandma, you wouldn't try and change her or you wouldn't question what your grandma wore to church."
Full Circle was another track which Rudd can only attribute to spirit pouring through him.
He was sitting in a studio in Canada which had just been cleansed by two aboriginal aunties.
He was strumming away on a guitar without a clue of what he was playing and just looking at the two elders on the other side of the glass.
"I was just so moved by them and I started playing and I was feeling them really strongly.
"I closed my eyes and sang what came out of me and I when I was done I realised I had this song and I couldn't do it again."
Rudd's latest album Spirit Bird, his seventh within the span of a decade, continues the multi-skilled musician's musical exploration and examination of his natural surrounding and the various obstacles that disrupt the sacred connection to the earth.
"Country and culture has always been very strong in me and that is definitely reflected in my music," he explained.
Spirit Bird takes its name from the cockatoo-inspired track and carries a strong connection with nature with its use of more than 25 bird calls and cries as part of the percussion and harmonies.
The "old woman cockatoo" was the catalyst to push Rudd into finally achieving his goal of sampling native bird calls and setting them rhythmically to music.
"I thought it would involve a lot more editing than it did, but it just worked," he explained of the process.
"Now I notice birds everywhere."
As well as external observation, the album is one of internal exploration.
Last year Rudd was forced to undergo back surgery to repair three herniated disks, bone spurs and nerve damage, believed to have been cause by a hereditary condition.
A largely physical person, being forced into a state of restricted movement was a difficult and left Rudd with little to do but look inward and reflect.
This time of intense self-reflection gave birth to the track Comfortable In My Skin.
It is a touching tale full of heart and positivity.
"It kind of forced me to sort of look inward a bit and just take a good hard look at myself, and it (Comfortable In My Skin) sort of comes from that place," he said.
Catch Xavier Rudd on his Spirit Bird tour at Lake Kawana Community Centre on Friday August 31 from 7.30pm.
Tickets are $60 available from www.scvenuesandevents.com.au
Spirit Bird is out now.