Stu Larsen: Vagabond

From the archives: This is from our original site, MyCityLife, posted back on 9 December 2014

It’s the way of the troubadour, roving wherever his journey takes him and not knowing where he’s going until he gets there. As a contemporary singer/songwriter, Stu Larsen upholds all the characteristics of the classic troubadour, weaving tales of touring the globe into his ballads, guitar always by his side. But yet, he remains a paradox. Certainly, Stu has redefined the boundaries of the modern musician, adjusting them to his own meters.

The singer/songwriting musician stays true to their roots of simple story telling over rich layers of chordal harmonies, live and loud. But for Stu, he discards material wants and belongings in favour of travelling the globe to relate his melodic stories through performances and EPs with youtube clips that resemble a dreamer’s travelogue. It’s not the jet-setter life he’s after. It’s a simple way of musically living, in spite of the international success he has managed to accumulate on the way. And it is this simple way of musically living perfectly captured in his latest EP Vagabond. 

As an EP steeped in the traditions of story-song music that manages to fall in between that enigmatic line of country and folk, Vagabond relates the gilded lifestyle of the travelling artist; the album serving as a heartfelt musical trek around the globe. With close friend and high profile singer Mike Rosenberg from Passenger onboard with producing duties, the mixing and construction of this EP is immaculate – something generally unexpected when folk traditions strive to retain organic rawness. And the anomaly of Stu Larsen of course extends into the EP, exploring his inner journey of balancing his wayfaring wants with the eternally ingrained human desire to find love and settle down. 

Perhaps it was growing up just outside of Toowoomba and Dalby that the first inklings of the wanderlust first settled into his veins. Certainly his time in a rural country town is richly reflected in the music he writes and performs today. But it was after years working in a bank that saw Stu shed his sensible suit and tie for a life on the road, touring to far-flung places throughout France, England, Holland, Germany and beyond. No doubt, his financial brain comes in handy in propelling his musical travels and career. Still, it is the manner of living artlessly that keeps Stu toeing the lines of ambiguity. 

If there’s one thing that tried and true however, home is where the heart is, and an Australia tour always makes it onto Stu’s calendar. And in the middle of his latest Australian tour leading up to his upcoming Brisbane performance at Black Bear Lodge, MyCityLife sits down with Stu Larsen to chat cool stories, non-stop touring and slowing down.

How has your latest Australian tour been so far?
It’s good to be back home. I have loved playing to Aussie crowds again. I’ve played in Australia more than anywhere else in the world so I just feel comfortable here. It feels right to be playing shows back here again. 

Just like your album, you live the life very much of The Vagabond and travelling the world with your singer songwriter skills. How do you add to your skills with your travels? 
I just keep doing what I’m doing. I keep playing shows as much as I can and keep taking photos along the way, and hopefully getting better, bit by little bit, along the way.

Travelling as you do, what do you learn about the world?
The biggest thing I learnt is that everyone has a story, and it’s just the matter of taking the time to listen to people sometimes. I think we all are quick to judge people but I’ve discovered in travelling solo situations to get to know them. The biggest thing about the world is that everyone knows different things and has cool stories.

As we come to the close of the year, let’s reminisce: what did Stu learn about 2014 and Stu Larsen?
I’ve learnt that I want to slow down a bit next year. It’s been a massive year just following every opportunity that’s come along, and the last few years have been the same. I’m looking forward to changing it up a bit and taking more time out here and there to slow down and enjoy life. I’m constantly thinking about that next place. It doesn’t really give you time to settle into it or let everything that’s happening really sink in. So it’s important to slow it down a bit, let all these amazing experiences sink, and take that time to enjoy it.

You have so many tales within your tunes. But what message do you bring to music?
I hope the message that I’m bringing is to live simply, follow what you want to be doing and avoiding getting caught in things that you don’t want. Find something that you love to do and just go do it and make it happen. It’s not impossible. I think we like to plan our lives a bit too much sometimes and before we take a step to make sure that everything will be okay. We don’t really need to. There’s so much opportunity out there to do what we want to be doing. Sometimes all it needs is that first step.

Vagabond certainly captures the essence of your life as an EP, but what did you want to achieve with it?
I don’t usually have plan. I just record a collection of songs that are floating around at the time, then release it and tour it and hope that people like it. There’s no grand plan or huge goal. It’s just a matter of continuing doing what I’m doing. It was about 3 years since I released my last EP and these 11 songs were ready to go.

If you’re hoping to slow down in 2015, do you think there will be another EP on the horizon?
Yes definitely, though I don’t know when. I need to again take some time off to write some songs. I’ve got all these little ideas I have been recording as I’ve been travelling but I need a solid month to sit in one place and get all these ideas out and finish writing them. Then another month at some stage to record it. It’s just a matter of taking that time. So hopefully at the end of the year I will have another album in the works. I think maybe we will scale it back a bit though. For me, recording for is a bit like a pendulum. I’ll record a really raw EP just on my own, and then a full band and then went back a bit more on the raw side. I think on the next one, it will swing back to more organic, raw style of things.

What can we expect to hear when you perform this Thursday night?
A few new songs and a few old ones. Obviously the album’s been out since July, so I’ve been singing a lot from the new album, which I’ve been enjoying. A bit of this, and a bit of that.

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