Bobby Alu, musician
You really can find clarity when you stop and slow down ...
Born-and-bred Gold Coaster, musician and multi-instrumentalist Bobby Alu is a back in action after spending much of the past few years travelling the world playing the drums for a fella called Xavier Rudd (you might have heard of him?), but despite an action-packed international schedule, home is (always) where the heart is. Bobby is in the midst of the Australian leg of his tour, bringing new sounds and a new show to the stage, which us Gold Coast folk will get to experience first-hand when he headlines the Gold Coast Music Awards on May 3, which will kick-start the Surfers Paradise LIVE multi-day free music series. We caught up for chat with Bobby about island vibes, inspirational humans and appreciating the magic around us.
You’re fresh off the back of playing some major local performances, with the GC2018 opening ceremony and Festival 2018. How does it feel to be kicking off the Australian leg of your tour in your hometown, let alone at one of the city’s biggest events?
It’s been a massive, massive, massive month. The opening ceremony performance certainly had a big build up – it was really special. Opportunities like that don’t come around often, and I think being born on the Gold Coast and going to school here, it just felt really nice. It’s moments that like that which you remember in the future when times get tough. I’m glad I have that in my back pocket now.
You’re headlining the Gold Coast Music Awards to kick off Surfers Paradise LIVE on May 3. What can we expect from you?
There’s been a lot going on in my world and I’ve been working on a lot of new music, which is shaping up to a new album. I’ll have a great band with me, with new songs, a new show and it’s really exciting to be able to play it on the Gold Coast on the big stage – I’m stoked.
Tell us about your single ‘Move’ – was that in the works for a while? How did it come to life?
For the past five years I have been touring around the world playing drums for Xavier Rudd and that’s definitely launched me into a whole new world of inspiration, from travelling through different continents and playing in different countries. I started writing this song in Bali when I had some time off, but it wasn’t quite finished. Then I was in Ghana in West Africa and spent a month playing drums, so I did a bit more work on it there. Next minute I found myself in the Swiss Alps – did more work on it there – and the next time I had off was in Sardinia off the coast of Italy, which is where I finished the song. I brought it home and recorded it. It’s got these different flavours of in the sound, and in a lyrical context it’s more about the flow and movement of life. For me, it’s been pretty turbulent of late, so trying to put all of that into a three-minute song was, ah, yeah pretty fun!
I kind of just needed to step back from everything and find time for me. You really can find clarity when you stop and slow down and take a took at what you’re doing. When I took the break, a lot of creative flow started to happen and I really looked toward this year – and the new phase is happening right now. Resting the body and the mind is really essential. I’m really pumped and feel grateful to be able to do what I do.
This exciting new material is the first we have heard from you since Bay Sessions in 2015 – what do you hope listeners take from it?
As an artist, I’m really trying to hone in on things that matter. To me, what matters is harmony and being comfortable in your own skin. It’s such an amazing thing to see someone else, be it music, dance, or someone just being themselves, is a really inspiring thing. So, I try and encourage that in my songs … and in my actions.
From where or whom do you draw most of your inspiration?
Right now, it’s people. We are always looking out there, like on our phones and Instagram, at these ‘amazing’ people, but for me – the amazing people are the ones around you, like your friends and family. There are so many people that we have everyday contact with, but we don’t give them enough credit because we know them so well, and we tend to just look for the things that annoy you. Recently, my parents adopted a rescue dog that was meant to be put down that same day, all on whim, and it brought them so much happiness. I kind of never really expected that of them, and it took me by surprise – it was a really, really good feeling, and it also put me in check that there are so many people close to us that do amazing things, but we don’t give them credit. That’s what inspires me – the people around me
Do you feel like your music and your approach has changed since your last release?
It has – there’s always something new with the different experiences you have in life. It’s definitely matured in that there are new sounds and feelings. There are new songwriting methods that I have learned, and new collaborations with artists and sharing the way we write songs. For example, one of the songs in the Commonwealth Games ceremony was written as a collaboration with myself, Jessica Mauboy and Katie Noonan – something I hadn’t really done before was sit on the couch with two strangers and write a song in half a day, and next minute it’s got 200 dancers learning it too. Moments like that definitely affect you and the way you do things.
Taking things back a bit – what’s your earliest memory of music?
Through my mother. When she moved to the Gold Coast in the 80s from Samoa, she was a Polynesian dancer and used to work on the Shangri La boats that used to leave from the Broadwater. To save on babysitting costs, she would take me with her and put me under the drums. So, my first memories were very much of island-style music, which is definitely evident in my music now. I’m very much Australian, I grew up here, but the island music remains really strong.
Finally, what’s your idea of happiness?
No fear, just being.