VAIL — Mention multi-instrumentalist Xavier Rudd and people tend to think of a didgeridoo, a wind instrument invented by indigenous Australians somewhere around 1,500 years ago. Rudd is a one-man-band who sings and plays the guitar, harmonica, banjo, lapsteel, djembe drums and more, but it’s the three wooden instruments sitting on a stand in front of him as he performs on stage that often times draws attention.
“The didgeridoo is his main thing, but the harmonica and the drums he plays are awesome too,” said Keystone resident Jennifer Buchanan who is driving over the pass to attend Thursday night’s show in Vail. “I love how he can go from one instrument to another. There are songs when he’s doing all three and you’re like, ‘how is he doing that?’ He’s awesome, his eclectic repertoire is awesome, and he’s barefoot all the time, which I also love. He really pulls you in.”
The Australian musician returns to Vail for a show at Checkpoint Charlie at 7 p.m. Thursday. He performs at the GoPro Mountain Games, the same event he performed at in 2011.
Rudd produces songs that are musically-rich as well as globally-influenced. His sound is a blend of reggae, funk, blues, folk, African rhythms and more. Rudd has even included Aboriginal vocals in some of his songs.
“His music has a great mix of ocean and mountain spirit, bringing a worldly energy to every note and lyric,” said local musician Kevin Heinz who plans to attend tonight’s show. “His music is magic.”
Rudd released his most recent album, “Spirit Bird,” in 2012. The album yielded Rudd’s highest-selling single and most-played radio single to date with “Follow The Sun.” Many consider the album to be Rudd’s deepest and most explorative. The album saw the ever socially-conscious Rudd delve into his musical and spiritual ancestry and took him from the threatened landscape of Western Australia’s Kimberley region, to the hills and lakes of Canada.
As a cultural and environmental activist, it’s Rudd’s lyrics that really appeal to Buchanan and many of his fans.
“The main thing is he’s talking about things no one else is talking about,” Buchanan said. “He’s naming issues that are going on on this planet that are really important. He’s just socially tuned in; his music always has that edge of social consciousness. People respond to that. His lyrics have amazing depth.”
Not surprisingly, Rudd spends a lot of his life on the road, traveling around the world for shows. After his performance in Vail, he heads to Arkansas for Wakarusa Festival on Saturday, then plays a show in Santa Fe and one in Austin before returning to Colorado for a string of shows. He’ll be Crested Butte on June 12, in Boulder on June 13, Snowmass Village on June 14 and in Denver on June 15.
Sometimes Rudd travels for weeks and months on end. But that doesn’t seem to wear on the musician, who in an interview with the Vail Daily in 2011 sounded nothing but grateful.
“I’m giving thanks to the universe every day — for my journey, the places I’ve been, the hardships I’ve conquered and for my two beautiful boys,” Rudd said.
Playing music keeps him centered, he said, as do a few other key lifestyle choices.
“I do some yoga, and I’m very aware of energy and just sort of filtering good and bad energy,” he said. “It’s a bit of a balance you learn over time. I’ve been touring for about a dozen years now, so I’m pretty used to it.”
Depending on where Rudd is in the world, he sees cultural differences among the people splayed in the audience before him, but some things never change.
“I have good people come to my shows all over the world,” he said. “I have really, really good people who care about change, care about the greater good, and I find that everywhere I go.”
High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 and firstname.lastname@example.org.