We, like you, are also tired of pictures and captions on social media that tell you to “leave the comfort zone”, “seize the moment”, “pursue your dreams”, “carpe diem” and similar BS. Basically, random people telling you to quit your job and follow your dreams to end up living under a bridge.
That is why we immediately had sympathy for Stu Larsen when we talked to him and knew about his story. He did leave the comfort zone. He did pursue his dreams. He doesn´t live under a bridge but he does live in a car, traveling the world. And we admire him for that.
We talked to him in advance of his concert at Moby Dick.
Dust & Soul: You were introduced to music at a young age by your mum, who played a lot of instruments. What music did she listen to?
Stu Larsen: My parents didn’t listen to very cool music at all. I went through my Mum´s vinyl collection recently to see what she had, and there was nothing, nothing cool. I think the coolest thing she had was one Simon & Garfunkel album. But the rest was just not great. Very folky, but not cool folk (laughs). Very obscure folk music that no one has ever heard.
D&S: But don’t you have memories of listening to nice music in your youth? What were your first influences?
SL: I listened to a lot of blues music at first. I lived in a small town and there was one music store that sold cheap CDs at the front for 1$ or 2$, and it was always blues music. And because it was the cheapest, I thought “I´m gonna buy that and listen to it”. So I started to listen to blues because of that, and loved it.
D&S: Your story is pretty well known. You worked at a bank and decided to quit to start traveling and playing music. I´m sure you´ve had wonderful experiences, but have you ever regretted that decision?
SL: Never. It´s been hard sometimes, especially in the first two years. I would run out of money, wondering how I would afford to fill my car with petrol or to get food, but I had comfort even at those times that it would be ok. When I ran out of money for two days, I thought “I can play in the streets, or sell some CDs, so it will be OK”. So there were hard times but I never regretted them, it was always a constant moving forward feeling. And I always felt everything would be ok.
D&S: When you´re asked about the places you especially like out of the ones you have traveled around the world, you always say that one of them is Spain. What do you like about our country?
SL: It just feels right. When we drove from Portugal today across the border it felt so good to be back here again. I guess it´s a mixture of things: the relaxed people, the food is amazing, the lifestyle, it is a great way to live. The sun is always shinning! I´ve visited many places: Valencia, Barcelona, Madrid, Toledo, San Sebastian, Bilbao, Alicante, Mallorca, but nowhere in the South yet. I want to see more, there is so much to see in this country.
D&S: Your last album was released in July, named “Resolute”. What does Resolute mean?
SL: The word is from a line of a song called “Going back to Bowenville”, where I grew up, that says “When I was a little boy I was so shy and resolute”. When I was a kid I was very shy, I wouldn’t answer the phone and didn´t want to talk to anyone. I was very shy and not confident, but I felt like I knew what I wanted, like I knew who I was but I didn´t show it to other people if that makes sense, so I was resoluting myself but not confident. I think it´s a good word for this time in life for a lot of people. The world is a little crazy at the moment so we need to be resolute and firm about who we are and what we know and what we believe.
D&S: You named Chicago Song, of the songs of the album, after a guitar you bought. In what other places have you written the album? Was that casual or did you choose the cities?
SL: All around the world… In NZ I wrote some songs, England, Valencia… All the cities were random, I was on the way somewhere else and I would stop by in those places for a week to write. All of them except Valencia. I chose Valencia thinking that the old town of the city would be inspiring to write. It was, but it was so noisy that I couldn´t write. There were marching bands and weddings with fireworks. It was so noisy, I couldn’t write any songs, it was kind of silly. One time it got quiet, and I was playing guitar on a third level looking over the old town square. People from the streets would look at me and wave, but there was this old mad lady yelling at me in Spanish, I didn’t understand anything of what she was saying. The only time I could play she stopped me (laughs).
D&S: I saw “I´m not There” today, the movie inspired by Bob Dylan´s life. At some point in the movie, Bob Dylan says that he doesn’t like to call himself a folk singer, nor a protest singer. I don´t mean to put labels, but if you had to define your music, what would you say?
SL: I was actually talking to Tim, the supporter act tonight and my friend, today about that, about owning a genre or style. It´s too difficult to say what we are. I think it´s up to other people to say. Maybe I´m a folk singer, a little bit of pop, acoustic, I´ve no idea (laughs) but I really don´t mind.
D&S: Who are you touring with?
SL: I´m just traveling with Tim Hart. He is amazing; he plays drums at a very famous band in Australia called Boy & Bear, they play to 5,000 people there. They are massive.
D&S: I read somewhere that at some point in NZ you stayed at a cottage that you loved, with no phone, internet, not using the lights, a very peaceful place. This led to me think about the use of power and specifically phones, wifi and social media. Thoughts?
SL: I am obsessed with Instagram. I love Instagram. I love taking photos, so I love uploading and showing people where I am and what I´m doing. I just think it´s cooler than Twitter and Facebook and other things. It´s simple.
D&S: Did you feel anxiety when you were in your little cottage?
SL: The first 24 hours for sure because I was not used to it. The nearest town was 40 mins away from where I was, so if I needed to go to the town I needed to think “Do I really need to go that far just to use my phone? Do I need more food?”. The answer was no. In the two weeks I stayed there I just went to the little town one time. And then it felt so good, everyone should do it. The first day is hard but then you feel free: reading books and just observing the nature. It is amazing but I feel that not many people are prepared to do it.
D&S: Do you feel there is a city or country that especially likes the music you do, i.e. song writing mostly with an acoustic guitar?
SL: Germany, the Netherlands, the shows in Spain are always passionate, Montreal is a city that connects with the singer-song writing thing as well, Canada in general is good.
D&S: What is something from Australia to see that only the Aussies know?
SL: I recently went to a place called Kangaroo Island. It´s a bit difficult to get to, it´s in South Australia and you need to get a ferry across from the main land to the island. It´s paradise, so cool.
D&S: What is next?
SL: Touring Australia in December. Next year I´m gonna tour with my friend from Japan, an amazing harmonica player, a real genius, so we will back here in Spain and all around the world. Another year in the road, another year traveling. As normal.