Stu Larsen is an Australian folk singer-songwriter, currently of no fixed abode, he's not homeless, he just currently has nowhere to call home as he's always on the road, playing here, exploring there, just getting around and using his huge network of friends all over the world to stay a few days before moving on.
We caught up with Stu after his show at the Exeter Phoenix Arts Centre where he supported the superb Paper Aeroplanes, we chatted about travelling, relaxing and how he came to play on a certain track that went on to become 'the' anthem from 2013, here's how we got on....
You’re from Australia, where do you live now?
I’m always on the road! I don’t really live anywhere, there’s nowhere that I go back to that I call home when I have time off. If I have a week off, I spend it between where I was last and the next destination or head to the next destination a bit earlier and go check it out, that way I can see a bit more of the world!
Do you envisage ever ‘settling down’?
One day! I have recently started to think when that day may come, I’m not planning anything but I’ve done what I do for 4 years now on a pretty intense basis and I think ‘how long can I actually go on like this’? So one day I ‘ll settle down, I look forward to having a routine and eventually getting all the things I’ve been collecting on my travels out in one location….
I was going to ask, what do you do with your belongings?
When I left my hometown originally, I gave away a lot of my possessions so I didn’t have anything physically tying me back to that place, it was so freeing! But as I’ve been travelling, I see little ornaments and knick knacks and other interesting things and I make up a shoe box sized parcel and post to back to my mum who looks after them for me until I finally get home and start unpacking! Saying that, I recently sent back a giant sized suitcase so yes, I think I’m going to have to start paying for a storage unit before long!
You worked in a bank, why did you decide to give it up?
I was already playing music and I loved the job in the bank, it was a really cool company called ‘Heritage’, they were a Building Society but later transformed into a bank, I was doing music on the side, working a full time job and playing 3-4 nights a week started to take its toll so I made a decision to get out and concentrate more on my music.
Who would you say are your influences?
I don’t know, I listen to a lot of acts and artists who I sound nothing like, I listen to a lot of Ray Charles’ material, I listen to a lot of my friends, other singer songwriters who release their own albums, when I drive I probably listen to friends music most of the time, I don’t listen to the radio that much. I am loving Paolo Nutini’s new album, I think it’s a phenomenal piece of work, I love Damien Rice, The Bros. Landreth from Winnipeg in Canada, I discovered them in Chicago a while back, they are absolutely phenomenal, I’ve had that CD on for a long time now. I think the album will be just available in Canada at the moment, it’s not out until January but they sneaked me a preview copy, they are certainly one of the best bands that I have seen live and the album is one of the best I have ever heard, go check them out!
Which social media channels have assisted you the most in getting your music out there?
I guess all of them have a hand in assisting me these days, when I started music, it was all about MySpace and that was a phenomenal platform as it just opened the world right up, especially as a musician, prior to that, nobody in the UK would have ever had the chance to hear my music or anywhere else in the world come to think about it, you saw a fan connect from somewhere completely random and you’d be thinking ‘where did they hear me’? and it was all thanks to Myspace! I guess Facebook is the best these days for communicating with the fans but best of all, I like Instagram, it’s not musical at all but I love taking photos when I travel and I can upload a pic that I took during the day and it also acts like a diary of what I’ve done and where I’ve been, that is my favourite by far.
How does Stu Larsen relax?
Go to Spain, do nothing, that's what I did last time! I don't often have time off to relax, a day off is usually a travel day for me, I love sitting down and listening to music over a good coffee, I love coffee and that is my mission, everywhere I go, I have to seek out the best coffeeshop, it’s not easy to do with so many big brand coffee shops on the high street these days!
Are you a solo performer or do you also have a band?
Just solo, I’d love to get a band together one day, it;s just so much easier and cheaper to travel solo, if I could afford it one day, I’d take a few guys on the road with me. I sometime tour with a Japanese friend of mine, he’s from Yokohama and plays harmonica and we toured Australia and Japan a while back and I brought him to Europe with me last year and we’re trying to get it sorted for America next year.
Does he get the harmonica stuck in his beard like you do?
Ha Ha, he doesn’t have a beard so he’s fine, he is however the BEST harmonica player I have ever heard, I tell people that and when they see him they come up to me afterwards and say that he was the best harmonica player they’ve ever seen! You just cannot comprehend some of the sounds that he makes with that thing! He does everything!
How did you come to feature on the world famous ‘Let Her Go’ track by Passenger?
Well, we met 4 years ago in Australia, I had quit my job in the bank by then and was travelling around, I had a lot of spare time on my hands and it was at the time when some friends were forming a band called ‘Boy and Bear’, I volunteered to drive the tour bus, sell CD’s and generally just help them out, they were just starting out, nobody had any money and I had the time to do it. I spent the best part of a year driving around Australia, Passenger was a support act on one of their tours and we got on really well, at the end of the tour, he asked if I would drive his tour bus and sell his CD’s and also be his tour manager, I did have to think as it wasn’t really what I wanted to do but I agreed to do it for a month and see how it went. We got on really well on the tour and he asked me to carry on helping him out, I said that I really wanted to play music, thanks but no thanks. He then suggested that I become his support act AND tour manager, that worked pretty well. I did exactly that for about 2 years and the ‘Let it Go’ track came around that time. I used to look like this (pointed to long hair and beard) and literally, a week before the video was shot for the song, I decided to shave my beard and cut my hair so in the video I look completely different to what I do now, it was a cunning disguise as nobody recognises me!
Where did you record your album ‘Vagabond’?
In Sydney, in a studio called Linear Studios, the same place that Passenger recorded his last two albums, it’s an amazing studio and Mike (Rosenburg aka Passenger) actually produced it, it was a brilliant to be in the studio with him, we had just finished his album the day before and then started straight away on mine, we just switched hats and cracked on. I was amazed as he is so involved in his own music, in what he wants, the sound and the final product, to be able to simply switch to my style and requirements so quickly, I mean he was 100% engaged on my album, such a talented guy. He really helped to make it how it is and without his assistance, I fear it wouldn’t have turned out half as well as it has.
You said that you saw snow for the first time when you were in the States a while back, did you have a snowball fight or make a snowman?
Yep, sure did! I was touring with Boy and Bear and I tagged along for a couple of weeks and we were driving from Belfast to Dublin and it was snowing the whole way there. We arrived at the apartment in Dublin and we all bundled out of the van, nobody spoke, I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who had never seen snow before and we all had one thing on our minds, we spent about an hour just having this huge snow fight, it was as if we were 5 years old again! It was great fun!
Are you planning any UK festivals for 2015?
I hope so, I’ll be over this way and I’d love to play some festivals, unsure if we’re going to be able to but we’ll see. I’m going to be in America before the summer but will be in the UK for festival season so keep your eyes on the site for more information.
A couple of your songs are influenced by driving, how does driving in Australia compare to the UK?
Driving in Australia is probably THE best place to drive, I have a few places in the world that are great to do but driving in Australia is just so easy, there aren’t as many cars on the roads out there and you can easily end up in the middle of nowhere, you can kind of take it all in, driving in the UK, you just end up watching the bumper of the car in front of you, it;s a constant stop-start thing and you tend to miss where you are and focus too much on how long it’s taking you to reach your destination! In Australia you can just chock up the stereo, dump in your road trip mix CD, arm out of the window and……drive! It;s a huge country, everyday there is something different to see, the scenery is mind blowing in some areas of the country. You should definitely get over there when you can, make sure it's at least 6 weeks, a month just isn’t enough!
I'd like to thank Stu for sparing his time to chat to me after the gig, I wish him every success for future live dates and hope that his guitar starts to behave itself from now on....