Interview by Jade Hopley Reiche
Get the hammock ready, pour yourself a Pina Colada and get ready to get your groove on crew. The King of Chill Bobby Alu has released a new album and we are excited!
“Move and be moved. Find your flow and go about each day to the rhythm of your own making” is the theme for this latest release. We recently sat down to pen some questions for Bobby about the theme and inspiration for ‘Flow’ and his experiences touring with other Australian greats such as Busby Marou and Xavier Rudd.
The opening track on flow Afi (Samoan) translates in english to Fire which is the title of track 2. I’ve noticed a similar transition between certain tracks on other albums as well. The two tracks seamlessly blend together into one. I never realised this was deliberate until I curiously googled the translation today. Afi & Fire is a beautiful blend of your Samoan culture into the more pop driven sound of the preceding track. What came first in the writing process Afi or Fire and why did you choose these tracks to open the new album with?
Nice research! When it became clear that I was writing this album about flow or flow state I really wanted each song to literally flow into the next to help convey the message. The song Fire came first, and I thought it would be the perfect opener for the album. However it wasn’t quite right, too much of an abrupt start for my liking. Me and Paulie B came up with Afi as an album starter to ease the sound in and give Fire the best launching pad possible. There’s so much ‘set up’ within music – what lies before really makes a big difference about what’s about to happen and the effect it has on the listener.
For the readers out there, that are yet to hear your music, in 3 words how would you describe your sound?
Take. A. Breath.
You have been touring so much the last few years, supporting and playing with Xavier Rudd as well as Busby Marou. What was it like touring with those guys and bringing your sound to an international audience?
It’s been a real journey the past few years supporting so many different artists I respect. Having the opportunity to share my music with their audiences globally is a real gift – so many more different people have tuned into to my sound. Getting to spend time and build friendships with Xavier, John Butler, Trevor Hall, Mike Love, Tom & Jeremy (Busby Marou) has been an inspirational and beautiful experience – these fellas are making the world a better place.
How does the ‘king of chill’ cope with a busy touring schedule? What rituals if any do you have to stay grounded when travelling?
I like to catch up with old friends on the road. It reminds me of the journey that’s happened for not just me but also them. In an industry that is so focused on me me me, I’m finding peace and calmness in taking ‘me’ out of the picture. There’s already so much self judgement going on when you’re striving to be a better version of yourself – it’s good to take a break from that and just listen and be present to someone else’s situation or journey. Lighten up and have a laugh you know?
You actually inspired me to travel to Samoa a few years ago, after you posted a photo of this absolute paradise beach called Lalomanu. I fell in love with the island, the people, the food, the music, and that island life! I’ve travelled to many beautiful places, but Samoa is my number one. Firstly, thank you. Secondly, what do you think it is, that makes Samoa so special?
No way! Good for you. That’s a great question – I’ve thought about this a lot. I’m so grateful to have this heritage but it hasn’t always been the case. For a long time I felt neither Australian or Samoan. I was in some sort of no-mans land. It took a long time for me to accept that I am who I am and it’s what I make of it. Something I really love about Samoa and Samoans is that they are so good at just ‘being’. They can sit around all day and just chat and be present in the day. Not too stressed about yesterday or tomorrow, just right here and now. I think that’s a powerful situation and I’m glad to have that reminder with me always.
Your culture is an obvious influence in your sound, growing up away from the islands, how did your family keep the culture alive at home, who taught you how to play the traditional songs and instruments?
My mum showed me the ukulele and my uncles showed me the log drum (Pātē) when I was four. I learned these instruments from family gatherings passing around the guitar singing Samoan songs. My mum was in a Polynesian dance group so I watched her shows from a toddler until my early teens. There was really no formal lessons, it was all absorption and aural learning. I kinda feel like I didn’t have a choice, music was just always there and it’s so natural for me.
Did you write flow while you were touring?
Not that much. I usually need space to write so I save the writing for after tour. Sometimes I’ll stay on in a place that feels good in order to create space to write. For me, live shows take so much energy. I love performing so much and I put lots of energy toward every moment leaving me pretty cooked on travel days. Touring is also quite a loud environment – there’s people, cars, planes, cafes and bars and not much space for much else. After tour is a whole other space. I like to reflect on what just happened and usually that’s when I want to put it into a song.
Tell us about what Inspires and influences your song writing on the album?
This album is basically a reflection diary from four years of touring around the world. In that time I had lots of different feelings. I toured in every continent other than Antarctica, built a house, lost friendships, changed direction, got sick, got strong, laughed, cried, failed and won. My feeling now is that because it took so long to write, there was lots of searching for deeper meaning in situations. I had some great conversations about it all with friends, family and strangers around the world about their stories that were similar. I came out of it grateful for all the experiences and realised I needed all of it – that’s the album in a nutshell.
You’re about to kick off the ‘Flow Tour’ at some pretty amazing venues all over Australia, is there a venue that you always look forward to playing at and why?
Looking back, some of my favourite shows are all ages and in the afternoon. My goal for this tour was to make every show like that! You’d be surprised how hard it is. Lots of venues are focused on alcohol sales and have a culture which doesn’t support minors, but we found some places around Australia that were willing to adjust. So the whole tour is all ages and where possible I’ve made the shows as early as can be. I’m honestly so proud of that alone that I’m looking forward to every show. We’ve already played in Sydney, Gosford and Melbourne and the vibe has been so high it’s making me so excited for the rest of the tour.
What’s your recipe for the perfect chill day?
To wake up in my own time with some Ólafur Arnalds playing lightly in the living room. A cup of Australian Afternoon tea and a slice of toasted sourdough with avocado, lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper. A coffee and a chat with some friends. Play some music. A bushwalk. A body surf in the ocean. A bahn mi roll. An afternoon nap. Some gardening. A cold beer as the sun sets. Dinner with my soul mate and a movie.
Bobby Alu’s ‘Flow’ album is out now, You can purchase cd’s and limited edition vinyl from www.musicglue.com/bobbyalu/
Tour kicked of in January Australia Wide. He plays Mo’s Desert Clubhouse on the GC February 21 and The Loft, Brisbane February 22.
FRI 21 FEB | MO’S DESERT CLUBHOUSE | GOLD COAST, QLD
SAT 22 FEB | THE LOFT | BRISBANE, QLD
SUN 1 MAR | AUGUSTA RIVER FESTIVAL | AUGUSTA, WA
FRI 6 MAR – SAT 7 MAR | PORT FAIRY FOLK FESTIVAL, VIC
FRI 13 MAR | TANKS ARTS CENTRE | CAIRNS, QLD
SAT 14 MAR | NEIGHBOURHOOD SESSIONS (OLD COURTHOUSE) | TOWNSVILLE, QLD
SAT 4 APR | CLANCY’S | FREMANTLE, WA
SUN 5 APR | ALBANY FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL | ALBANY, WA (FREE ENTRY)