Xavier Rudd's voice crackles over his cell from Chicago. Xav---as his press people know him---sounds slightly bored, monotone, not entirely unexpected now that he's in the midst of a nine-week world tour. His schedule will take him on an erratic zig-zag through developed nations in this order: the US, Atlantic Canada (including Halifax), Australia, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, back to Switzerland, then to the Netherlands, Germany, France, back to Germany, then Belgium, France, Ireland, the UK, and finally home to Australia.
"I don't justify them," says the environmental activist of his fossil-fuel flights. "They're toxic.
"They're a contradiction to the way I am," he pouts. "But it is what it is, you know? A lot of activists I talk to say: 'We need you to be doing what we do,' you know? To help connect and spread the word and blah blah blah, but it's a tough one for me. It's definitely a toxic existence and it's out of my control most of the time."
At least he records at his house, which is off the Australian power grid. Rudd is as well known for his activism as he is for his music, making him a staple at music festivals such as Bonnaroo and Evolve. In 2007, PETA crowned him "World's Sexiest Vegetarian Celebrity." His fave veggie snack is tamari almonds. But any hint of environmentalism or social justice in his music, Rudd says, is unconsciously included and up to the individual judge: "I don't really dissect it that way---the music is just the music. It's more spirit. It's in my blood.
"It began as a young boy. It started coming through me. It sorta comes from that place. It's sort of a natural extension of that, you know? It'll just come and go and bring wisdom and bring spirit and it finds its way through my music."
Most recently aboriginal land issues in the Kimberley region of Australia have spiked the artist's adrenaline. He says the Aussie government has been working overtime to drain the natural gas, zinc, copper and uranium resources on sacred land until last week when the premier of the region, Colin Barnett, declared compulsory acquisition: "They're actually going to steal the land like they did back in the days of colonization," Rudd declares, anger replacing his uncharacteristic drone. "There is no environmental infrastructure to balance out the power that our greedy government has and it needs to be exposed," he says. "The Australian government gets away with practices from the dark ages, you know. I guess my stance is: pissed off."
Though he's often confronted with greed and inequality, negativity has no place in Rudd's music---he'd rather celebrate the rad things in life:
"Our world, our environment, our beautiful planet that we still get to enjoy, and all the people who are doing things to preserve this place."
It's a sentiment mirrored in the name of his latest album, Koonyum Sun---the one that's sending him all around the blue marble. He recorded it near the mountain range of the same name, Koonyum, which translates to "place of thunder and lightning."
Rudd says, "I was living up there and spending my time sitting by the fire and looking at that range, the sun rising up in the morning and sinking behind in the evening."