Felipe Baldomir: Living The Vanlife

For indie-folk singer-songwriter Felipe Baldomir, taking his music ‘on the road’ is not just a touring flight of fancy but a lifestyle choice.

Having started out on his musical pathway back home in Uruguay as a young man, Felipe progressed to gigging around the South American continent, where his talents saw him support indie starlets Milky Chance, amongst other adventures. Having released his debut record, ‘Nature Speaks’ in late 2017, he took a leap of faith and arrived in Australia in 2018 on a musical and personal sojourn.

Felipe spends time traversing the continent in his trusty van which doubles as a mobile recording studio and playing to the people, wherever the road may take him. He’s currently based in Byron Bay, having immersed himself into the grass roots local busking scene there. Felipe certainly tells an interesting tale of how he ended up in this idyllic part of the world, how his travels have shaped his music and what we can expect from him on his upcoming national tour.

What was the catalyst for choosing to come to Australia and following a nomadic/busking type musical pathway – was this similar to how you lived and performed back home?

I first arrived in Sydney in June 2018 and my good friend Simon Ranguis picked me up from the airport and we went back to his place in Bondi. Simon is an Australian muso of Uruguayan descent who’d encouraged me to take the plunge and make the trip.

He said he had to fly to Byron Bay to get his van and drive it back to Sydney and he asked me if I wanted to come with him. I was so jet lagged and I had no idea where I was. I had nothing else to do so I booked my flight and we flew out the next morning.

We arrived in Byron Bay (I had never heard of if before this trip), picked up the van and drove down to the beach. I went for a walk to town to grab some food and while I was walking down Johnson Street I bumped into Tay Oskee and Ziggy Alberts busking! On my first day in Australia!

It was a pretty magical moment because I was already listening to their music and following their journeys through social media. I stayed for the whole show and got to meet them. I was stoked, I just couldn’t believe they were playing in the street! Busking is not a thing back home – you’ll probably get robbed if you try! I tagged them on some videos I put up on Instagram and Tay invited me busk with them on my return from my Indo Tour. This just blew my mind.

When I got back from touring Indonesia, Simon went back to teaching music in Sydney and I started busking in the city. After a couple months of busking in Sydney and playing at the Bondi markets and other small gigs I decided to buy a van and make my way back to Byron Bay.

Vanlife was totally new for me, it’s not a thing where I grew up. Maybe because Uruguay is a much smaller country and South America is not as ‘safe’. Having the van gave me so much freedom, and not having the cost of rent allowed me to spend more time pursuing music. Busking in Byron Bay I found my Aussie home and family. I was only coming to Australia for a few months but I ended up staying!

Congratulations on the recent release of your latest album, ‘Only Light’. I understand it was inspired by your vanlife travels around Australia. How did you go about writing and recording the tracks during that nomadic time – I hear you turned your van into a mobile recording studio!?

‘Only Light’ is about my journey in Australia. It’s about my travels around the country and the people I met along the way. Falling in love, falling out of love – and everything in between; including being a dishwasher, vanlifer, macadamia farmer and touring musician whilst surfing and exploring the coastline.

I converted my van into a rolling home-studio because I fell in love with living on the road, touring and exploring this beautiful country. I also think that at this stage, it’s the only way to do it. It’s on the road when I feel inspired the most. When you’re constantly traveling, you live so much and you meet so many people and learn all about their different life-stories/experiences.

What’s the most memorable show you’ve performed in Australia so far? 

Every show is special but I think a particularly memorable one was in the summer of 2020, when Jack Botts, Kyle Lionhart, Dusty Boots, Ben Camden, Billy Otto, Tay Oskee and myself got together to do a big ‘busk’ in Byron Bay for bushfire relief. We got a few thousand people coming to the busking session and we raised over $8000!

 Having recently released a great new single, ‘Astronaut’, lifted from the ‘Only Light’ album, Felipe Baldomir will be hitting the road again during April and May on a national tour, including a Gold Coast show at the Miami Marketta on 30 April. He’ll also be at The Northern in Byron Bay on 1 May.

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