Australian singer and songwriter Xavier Rudd first got our attention with his addictive blend of socially charged lyrics and reggae, acoustic, and folk-infused sound. Then we saw him on stage. And anyone who has ever seen this didgeridoo-playing dude perform at a music festival or a concert knows that he is one of the most exciting live performers to come out of Australia since … well, forever! Then we found out that this platinum-selling environmentalist and bare-footer was also a vegetarian! First-rate music and a love for animals is a match made in PETA heaven (if we do say so ourselves).
Luckily for us, PETA got to interview Xavier to ask him how he got to be so darn cool. Not only did we get insider info on his latest record, White Moth, we also found out what made him realize that going vegetarian was the right thing to do.
Xavier, how are you?
Great, thanks! Right now, I'm watching the sunset in Australia—so I guess everything is great.
You've been a vegetarian for quite a while; how's that going? What motivated you not to eat meat anymore?
When I realized how animals have to suffer in the meat industry, I decided never to eat meat again. The industry's anonymity and the treatment of animals as worthless beings used only for production really annoyed me. That's why I turned vegetarian.
Was there one specific event or a story that you can remember?
Yes—due to my life on tour, I've been to a lot of places and I've experienced different situations. Anyway, there was one specific journey that I remember very well. It really was an experience that made me change my diet. We drove from Los Angeles to San Francisco and passed a huge piece of land where cattle were kept. But the animals didn't walk around freely on large pasture lands. Far from it! They 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.
Do you think that people generally don't know enough about those details of factory farming?
Definitely. Nowadays most people don't even know where their food comes from. They don't consider food that important. There's so much stress and busyness in the Western World that people don't think about where their food comes from and how it was produced. To me, it's very important to know where it comes from and which way it took to finally reach my plate. Many people just don't have this awareness and therefore don't think about all the animals suffering to get them their steak. That's what makes such disrespectful treatment of animals on factory farms possible in the first place. I respect all beings, and that's the reason why I turned away from a diet that includes meat.
Do you think that, as a musician, it's your duty to tell your fans about topics like vegetarianism or being active in organizations like Sea Shepherd?
It would be a shame not to do it. You have the possibility to turn to a lot of people and tell them about grievances as well as make them think critically. Therefore, I'd say yes, I see it as my duty to tell my fans about that as well as about other topics like climate protection.
Are you of the opinion that climate protection has always been a critical topic but is now being turned into a topic of mainstream politics?
Yes, I think that's the case. Numerous scientists have been warning us for years about the negative results of global warming—they just haven't received as much public attention as they should have from the beginning. On the other hand, I don't want to underestimate the enormous amount of attention that they are getting now. Finally, the world starts to care about climate change and that even the most influential politicians talk about it is a positive thing, although it comes a bit too late. Better late than never, I'd say. Humanity has left a big footprint on Earth and now we finally think about how our lifestyle influences nature and what we can change so that our behavior will be less influential in the future. And to be vegetarian is a great thing for a start.
Now let's talk a little bit about your latest record, White Moth. What was your approach for that record? Do you write your songs very deliberately and with set standards? Or do they just appear somehow?
My songs come very natural to me .... I hardly ever think about how I wanna write a song or what it should sound like. I just let my emotions guide me and therefore try to make every song a little snapshot of my emotions and how I feel. That's exactly how I've always written my songs, from the very beginning in my childhood, and now I would have no idea as to how I could express my feelings differently. That would just leave out the feelings that I had when I started writing the song.
But you don't have logjams where you find it impossible to express a feeling in a song?
Oh, sure! It's not that I can always write songs. Sometimes it just doesn't work at all—I can sit there for hours on end not being able to come up with a melody. And then there are days where it just flows. So I really can't plan when to write songs—it appears whenever it's ready.
That sounds almost spiritual.
It really is. I'm a spiritual person, and I'm inspired by a lot of things. And I really don't want to restrict that inspiration but rather be led by it when writing a song. Therefore there are just a few songs that tell you something about me, but there are a lot of songs that tell about my inspiration. And because I'm inspired by a lot of different things, all my songs are very different.
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