In the 2011 film, Midnight in Paris, Gertrude Steyne, played by Kathy Bates, states:
“The artist’s job is not to succumb to despair but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence.”
In his latest release, Brisbane’s Stu Larsen has done exactly this. ‘Whisky & Blankets’ is a track with a laid back glow that moves like a warm breeze on a sunny afternoon. It is a song of simplistic pleasures and considerations from an artist who writes music that reflects his own carefree personality.
The chorus lifts with just the right amount of warmth and connection as Larsen refrains – “Darling it’s alright.” A message of hope and companionship, meant for one but significant to all who listen.
The singer, known for his nomadic lifestyle in which he hits the road writing and performing music inspired by the eclectic places he finds himself, has released the plethora of tracks in the last few years and gained an international fan base.
Beginning his professional musical journey as the roadie for British folk act Passenger, Larsen soon found himself supporting the band on their international tour.
He is currently preparing to head off on a South American Tour with them once again in November.
In the wake of his release, ‘Whisky & Blankets’, we had a chat with Stu and got to know the personality behind the music and what leads him create the music he does.
Get To Know: Stu Larsen
How would you describe your music to your grandma?
I have this memory of my dad describing my music to my grandmother years ago and I think he said something like ‘it’s kind of like Peter, Paul & Mary.. but without Paul & Mary..’
I’m not sure I entirely agree with this, but I do like the simplicity of it.
There is nothing too complex about what I do, I sing simple words with simple chords and melodies about things that most people have been through, even grandmas.
Tell us about a few of your tracks; their titles and what they’re about?
‘Whisky & Blankets’ – probably the happiest song I have ever written, but it was actually written in one of the saddest times for me. I had gone through a weird breakup and was then killing time in Amsterdam for a week or two in the winter.
I spent the mornings staring out the window writing sad songs and in the afternoons, I would walk for hours in the cold. It got to a point where I was diving deep into this miserable and depressed state of mind (which you can definitely hear in certain tracks on the album).
So I decided that I should write a song that remembered all the good and positive things about the relationship and this song appeared.
‘Wide Awake & Dreaming’ – one of those sad and depressing songs. I actually wrote this song when I was getting to know the aforementioned, before we were together.
I didn’t know where this song came from. I wrote it in about ten minutes on a guitar that I picked up in a music store in Brighton (UK) and it somehow felt like I was predicting the future.
I even introduced the song this way the first few times I played it in Europe with Natsuki Kurai (harmonica player from Japan) and then, six months later, it did in fact come true.
‘The Loudest Voice’ – another song about the same person. Though this one is filled with a bit of hope and was written in a period where I thought that maybe there might be a chance of a future together.
I was at a point where I didn’t really have anything left to say and was tired of expressing my same thoughts and stating the obvious about the way I felt.
The chorus is essentially saying ‘hey, you know what I feel, I’ve said it a million times, I’m not going to keep saying it. I’m not going to shout about it, you have the information and it’s now really up to you. I’ve said all I need to say and now I will be quiet…’
Stream Stu Larsen’s ‘Whiskey & Blankets’ below:
What do you love about your hometown?
Bowenville QLD 4404. I love that place.
It’s tiny, with only a few houses, a pub and a school which serve the farming community in the surrounding area. I grew up on one of these farms and loved the space and freedom around me.
I think growing up in a place like this has made me constantly crave the open spaces as I travel around the world.
I stayed in Los Angeles for the last week since the Boy & Bear tour finished. But now I am typing these words from the deck of an airbnb in Topanga Canyon looking out through the hills with not another human or house in sight and it makes me very happy.
Career highlight so far?
Playing any show where everyone is singing along feels like a career highlight to me. The most memorable time this has happened was at a little show in Italy where I stepped off stage into the crowd and sang ‘Skin & Bone’ unplugged with the support acts and the entire crowd started singing along.
It was so unexpected and completely overwhelming. How do a bunch of people in Italy know all the words to one of my songs?
Another time was more recently in Uruguay where I sang a brand new song called ‘Whisky and Blankets’. It was the third show of tour and third time I had sung the song and the crowd of 1000 people joined in singing the chorus by the end of the song, it blew my mind.
Fave non-music hobby?
Over the years I’ve been slowly enjoying photography more and more and I think when the music slows down, I’ll spend more time with the camera.
I don’t really know what I’m doing with it but I do love the ability to capture little moments as I travel the world and meet wonderful people and see amazing places.
There is so much to learn but fortunately I have some very good friends that know much more about it than me who I can learn from.
Jarrad Seng is one of the most amazing digital photographers and also a pretty good human too. And Jon Hart (Boy & Bear) is an incredible analog photographer and also one of the best people I know.
What’s on your dream rider?
I am sooooo boring when it comes to riders. In fact, for my last tour, I think all that I requested was access to clean drinking water.
I have my trusty re-usable water bottle and as long as I can fill it up, I’m generally pretty happy. But, we’re talking about a dream rider here, so maybe I would ask for a bottle of 25yr Bunnahabhain Single Malt Scotch. Though not one bottle for every show… maybe just every fifth show, depending on who’s on the road with me.
Dream music collaboration?
This is an interesting question, because I don’t really want to collaborate with any of my favourite musicians. They’re too special and there is a certain mystery that I believe should remain.
Essentially I don’t want to be disappointed by the reality of someone I admire so much, should they not live up to my unattainable expectations. But, if I had to choose someone, it would be Damien Rice.
I drove from Switzerland down through the Italian mainland and across to Sicily to see him play a show a year or so back and it was everything I had hoped it would be, pure emotion and energy and he seems to crave real connection with those around him.
He’s not afraid to try things and he’s not afraid to bare his soul. I really admire this.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I’ve been constantly moving around for the last 12 years now with nowhere to go back to. So in ten years time I hope to be settled down somewhere in a little house with some land in a semi-remote part of the world with a little garden and two cats.
The hard part is working out where this will be.. .somewhere in Australia or New Zealand? or maybe in the French countryside or an island off the coast of Spain?
What’s your go-to karaoke song?
It’s not really my thing, I feel so awkward. Maybe it’s because I feel like I need to be holding a guitar for safety.
I’ve actually only done karaoke once in my life, in Vietnam a loooong time ago. I sang ‘Eternal Flame’ which had just been released as a cover by Atomic Kitten and was the song everyone was singing there at the time.
I definitely did not do the song justice, though I’m not sure Atomic Kitten did either.