Currently, Stu Larsen is splitting his time between continents, whether it be his native Australia, Europe, Asia or North America.
The Toowomba-born nomad may not be selling out arenas in his home country, but that’s because most of his fans are in London. In fact, looking at his Spotify data, none of the Top 5 cities where his listeners reside are in Australia.
With over 430,000 monthly Spotify listeners, 30,000 Spotify followers and inclusions on playlists like Roots Revival and New Music Friday UK, one would think Larsen must have an exacting digital strategy for the release of his music.
According to Larsen though, his international success comes down to one thing: touring.
In the Q&A below, Larsen offers his advice to musicians with international aspirations.
What advice would you give musicians who are starting out?
I think it’s so important to get in front of people, go and play wherever you can. Whether it’s a cafe down the street, a mid-week open mic night or opening for a band coming through town, the more you play, the more you’ll experience, it’s that simple.
In Australia specifically, how viable is touring regionally?
Honestly, I think touring regionally within Australia can sometimes go either way. Occasionally, I have turned up in a small town and played for very few people, who seem confused as to why there is a musician strumming away in the corner, ruining their otherwise normally peaceful evening down at their local. But more often, I have found amazing regional communities willing to take a risk on a singer or band they may not know too much about, ready to embrace whatever the night may hold. I think more artists/bands should tour regionally, it’s amazing what you can find when you venture out of the major cities.
How did you know when you were ready to jump into non-stop touring life?
Funnily enough, it was the last thing on my mind when I was starting out. I knew I loved creating and playing music, but I was happy to play the weekly open mic night and the odd weekend cafe/bar while working a full-time job. I just kept saying yes to every little musical opportunity that came my way and eventually thought that maybe it was time to quit the job and give music my full attention.
It felt like the right decision at the time, but my first day as a self-employed musician had me wondering if it was a mistake to leave behind such comfort and security. Thankfully, I had given away 90% of my possessions, leaving me with only my guitar, camera and a carry-on suitcase full of clothes, with a plan to stick at it for 2 years before even contemplating shifting to another form of employment. This, in hindsight, was the best decision I ever made, forcing me to accept whatever came my way, pushing me to find a way to make it through every single day as I attempted to survive off music alone. After the initial two years, I worked a job for a few months before realising that I just wanted to be back on the road, and I’ve been on the road ever since.
What sort of team or support do you need to tour or is it about learning yourself?
For me, doing it solo at first was amazing, I learnt so much along the way. I was constantly meeting people, picking up bits and pieces of advice and knowledge. It’s definitely not impossible to make it work on your own in Australia, but having a network or community around you, helping and supporting, definitely makes a world of difference. Although I now have a manager, label and agent making sure everything is sorted, I still tour solo, driving myself through Europe and North America, flying around Australia, sometimes with a support act along for the ride. I love the logistical side of touring to the point where I’m probably a bit OCD about things sometimes. Ideally though, I think my ideal tour team would be a sound guy/girl as well as someone to help out with selling CDs and share the driving etc. It doesn’t take much to look after a solo singer/songwriter.
Are there moments of doubt and homesickness? How did you deal with those?
I don’t think I have ever felt homesick. Over the last seven years or so, I have been lucky enough to keep moving across the globe, visiting new and old friends in countries all around the world and returning home to Australia at least once a year to tour and see friends and family. If I was living in the same place for months/years, then I have no doubt I would feel some sort of homesickness for many places and people. For me though, the best way to combat the feeling of homesickness, is to stay on the move, spending time with friends I love in cities I love on a regular basis.
When it comes to doubt though, is there anyone who doesn’t have days where they ask some big questions? I often have times where I’ll ask myself if I’m really doing what I’m supposed to be doing, if I’m wasting my time as well as everyone else’s. Thankfully, I’ve had enough of those moments to understand that they are exactly that, a moment. They pass soon enough and then you get back to it.