The mainstream scene is yet to encounter the man himself, but self-acclaimed nomad Stu Larsen is a definite hidden gem. March 8th brought the musician’s fourth visit to The Brook, this time unaccompanied by the familiar face of Mike Rosenberg, aka the Passenger. Stu Larsen is a very humble and genuine individual with an equally humbling stage presence, which captured my attention particularly when I first saw him play. There are no gimmicks, no egotism and certainly no falsities in his vocal and musical talent; the guy deserves nothing more than to be recognised for the gift he has. Back stage, tucked into a battered chair and a simplistic room, the last flurries of support acts begin to disappear, and I had a chance to chat to the man himself…
“I love telling a story if I think people are up for it. It helps me connect personally with the song […]”
You are a self-branded musical nomad. What inspired you to take to the road?
Well, originally I was working in a bank back in Australia, where I grew up, and just had music on the side lines. But it just felt- I dunno- too comfortable. Everything was too smooth and I wanted to make music my priority. So I quit my job and travelled around for 2 years. But then I ended up back in a temporary job for 3 months and the contract kept on extending, and I just thought, ‘No, I’m not doing this again.’ So I quit again and I have been doing, well, this for 3 years now.
So of course, you must have a favourite way to travel…
Driving. Every time. Flying is hard on you, and its crazy how I hop from one place to another so quickly. Driving just gives me that freedom and flexibility.
Who would you describe as your influences?
Pretty much any artist in soul… Ray Charles is my favourite. But I guess what provoked me to get up and start travelling was the film Into the Wild. You ever seen that one?
[Beth: Only a small chunk]
Don’t. Don’t ever watch that film and not expect it to change the way you look at life [Laughs].
So quite a few people in the area haven’t actually heard much of you. What first brought you to Southampton?
Actually it was the first Passenger show in Eastney (Portsmouth) that brought me this way. I met Mike when he was touring in Australia and I volunteered to drive his van. We spent a month on the road and I became his tour manager and support act. It does involve long days. 8/9am starts and I could be doing things until 2am, but I enjoy it. So I went wherever he did, and got to play my own stuff along the way. I think this is my fourth time at The Brook.
And how does it feel headlining?
I’m not actually too comfortable with headlining. Mike is an entertainer, he can get up and can wow an audience, but I personally like taking a step back from that.
Stage or busk?
Stage. Definitely, busking is such hard work!
I’ve actually headed to nearly all of your shows here and its been really great to see you blossom in your stage presence. I guess for me, what captured my attention was how your songs actually mean something.
I love telling a story if I think people are up for it. It helps me connect personally with the song and I am pretty sure songs that mean something can have the same effect for everyone else too.
So, I’m dying to ask. What one of your songs do you favour yourself?
I connect most with The Mile. It just brings home to me the place I grew up. Every time I sing it I’m eight years old again, running down the drive to get the post, or rowing a boat. And now I live in a van. It’s just nice to connect with your roots from time to time.
Desert Island disc…?
Ouch, that’s a tough one! Ashes & Fire by Ryan Adams.
You are very interactive with your fan base – obviously since I am sitting here! What do your fans mean to you?
“It’s really important to connect with the people that support you.”
I am really thankful for you guys, and I have the means to be able to chat and meet, so I take advantage of this time. I know bigger artists can’t do that because it’s physically impossible in terms of crowd size and time, so I’m just enjoying the way things are at the moment.
And, finally, what’s on the horizon for you?
I have a hectic year ahead with my tour but Passenger’s one too. I am also doing a couple of tours with Natsuki [catch them on YouTube together performing This Train], which you will be able to keep an eye out for online. For me personally, the dream is not to be travelling alone. I love travelling, but it gets lonely if you don’t have someone to share it with. I guess a girl for the road is what would be ideal. But we’ll see, we’ll see.
Catch The Black Tree (2009) and Ryeford (2011) on sale online or on Spotify.
Hit him up on Facebook, YouTube, MySpace and tumblr: http://stularsen.tumblr.com/