There’s something about being a traversing songwriter that sounds deliciously appealing for souls who want to experience the ultimate creative journey. Not too long ago, Two Story Melody interviewed Jacksonport about his songwriting trials on the road. (Last we heard, he was on the hunt for a pickup truck to use as a touring vehicle.) The star of this article, Stu Larsen, is cut from a similar stone – a songwriter without a home.
After he got a taste for traveling the world, Larsen left his homestead in Australia. As you can imagine, the familiar lifestyle he grew up with was left behind, too, as he began traveling and using music to share pieces of his story. The resulting experiences would form the foundation of his critically-acclaimed first album, Vagabond. Six years and another album later, he’s still traveling (as his Twitter profile notes, he’s tied to “no fixed address”).
Enter Marigold, his 11-track album set for April 3 this year.
Marigold touches on Larsen’s life from a purely emotional angle while chronicling his struggle with lost love. Larsen says, “Marigold is a definite heartbreak album. There is no point in hiding this.” He’s right – the emotion pushes at the seams of the album, welling up in tender tracks like “Phone Call from My Lover” and driving the energy of tunes like “Hurricane.” It’s obvious that there’s a consistent aching here, and it’s easy to enter into.
Marigold is the third album in his discography, answering 2017’s Resolute with more questions about how love can last over distance. While Larsen’s known for his vulnerable storytelling, this might be his most intimate album yet.
We got in touch with Stu Larsen to have him tell us about his perspective on songwriting and his life on the road. Follow Larsen around the internet (and the world) at the links below, then come back and dig into the delicate beauty of Marigold.
Hey Stu! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions. First, a little background: how’d you get into music and songwriting?
My mother really wanted my sister, my brother and I to learn how to play an instrument and to sing. If it weren’t for her, I’m not sure I would have found my musical way. I fought against the idea for a while due to my shyness and not really wanting to do anything where I felt socially uncomfortable, but after a while I agreed to take some guitar lessons and eventually started to write songs for myself. It took a lot of courage to begin to play these songs for other people, but now it feels that I was always meant to do this.
What’s the hardest thing for you about writing a song?
I never force it, which maybe isn’t a good thing. I find it difficult to make a song happen so I am forever waiting for the song to ‘appear’. I’ve always tried to keep this approach and so far it’s worked out, almost every song I write ends up on the next album.
What makes a song good?
It has to connect, and that can happen in different ways. For me, it has to be genuine. I always want to feel it and it also has to have a strong melody and shape. But at the end of the day, sometimes these things don’t seem to matter and a song can just connect for other reasons.
I know you’re constantly traveling, and from what I’ve heard you’re not much for material possessions. How would you describe the path you’re on?
At the moment I feel a little torn. I have been living this way for thirteen years now and it’s been amazing to feel so free to just move to the next place all the time. I really feel that this chapter will come to an end in the next year or three and that I’ll finally find a home where I can enjoy some ‘normality’ and have a space to call my own. But every time I start to think about this, part of me wants to just run the other way and give away more of the things I have and live even more simply. Time will tell.
How does your lifestyle impact your music? (And how hard is it to write a song when you don’t have a dedicated place to go to write?)
I think it’s pretty evident from my first two albums that the travel has impacted my writing in a big way, with a lot of city names getting mentions throughout many of my songs. There is inspiration to be found all along the way. I’m intrigued to see if having a home one day will be positive or negative for my songwriting. I know it will change the way I feel and write, I’m just hoping it will move in a positive direction.
Let’s talk about Marigold, your new LP that’s due out April 3rd. What would you say are the album’s biggest themes?
Marigold is a definite heartbreak album. There is no point in hiding this. I met the most amazing human a couple of years ago and as we slowly got to know each other, it became a very intense rollercoaster of a time. Eventually, she left and it broke my heart. The album is that story, following it from the uncertain beginning to the dreaming of the future to the depression of heartache to trying to move on in a hopeful way.
How would you say the album relates to the previous two? Is it a new path or a continuation?
I think Vagabond was a very nomadic album, written in the earlier stages of living this way. It felt like I was exploring the unknown parts of my life a little. Then Resolute was a more firm collection of songs where I knew myself a little better. And now Marigold is written from a place where I am clearly searching for true love and genuine happiness. So while they are written from different places in my life, I do feel like there is a continuation and natural progression throughout these albums.
What was the most unexpected part of making Marigold?
It was the most enjoyable studio experience that I have ever had. My father had passed away during the process of recording Vagabond which obviously affected the situation. Then my appendix burst in Indonesia the week before recording Resolute which had a huge impact. We were all kind of waiting for some major thing to happen before and during the recording of Marigold, but it never came. It was such a breeze recording with Tim Hart (Boy & Bear) producing and Simon Berckelman engineering at Golden Retriever Studios in Sydney and we just embraced every moment throughout the 15 days we had together. We really thought we’d need an extra week or two but somehow we managed to track everything and finish mixing within these 15 days.
You’re going on a crazy tour in March, right – 11 shows in 31 days. What are you hoping for from that month?
I don’t even know… it’s a crazy idea that has been slowly coming to the surface over the last four or five years. I had initially thought about doing around the world in a week which is actually insane (but logistically possible). When I really started to plan, I realised that if we miss a flight, the whole thing is finished. So now, we have a travel day, a promo day (and back up travel day) and a show day for each city. We’ll potentially be a little tired along the way but the idea is to connect with people in each place and experience as much as we can along the way while filming some things and playing a show on the final night in each location. Some shows will be a few hundred people and others will be maybe twenty people, so I think the whole month will provide us with plenty of variety. It is crazy but it also feels like the right time in my life to attempt a crazy little adventure like this.
Last question: what’s the best advice you’d give to other songwriters?
Be genuine in everything that you do. I think people really feel connection to genuine things. For me, this is what I am attracted to, things that are real. I find it so hard to connect with things that feel fake or people who are trying to be something that they are not. This is across the board and not just with music.