Imagine Westley from The Princess Bride leaves Buttercup to find his fortune but instead of returning to Florin and battling Rodents of Unusual Size, he takes up busking, clocks up a pile of paid gigs, and keeps travelling the world. “Inconceivable!” I hear you say. Well, I chatted to Westley’s doppelganger, Ziggy Alberts, on the phone from Norway ahead of his appearance at Bluesfest 2018, and I can tell you that Westley / Ziggy has not only left busking behind, he’s been slaying it in front of sold out shows at venues like the Palais in Melbourne and Enmore Theatre in Sydney.
Ziggy Alberts last gig at Bluesfest was as a busker. This year he’s part of the official lineup. Not bad for the surfing singer / songwriter who has garnered a huge following without a record contract and little radio play. “I think I have been played on Triple J a couple of times,” he says. “I don’t think you have to have support of radio. I’m still entirely independent. I’m a big believer in doing what’s right for your career direction even though I’m financially backing myself. Being independent means I have a little more freedom.” Case in point? 50 million streams from his album ‘Land and Sea’ and EP ‘Four Feet in the Forest’ on Spotify.
Ziggy was 16 years old when he first picked up a guitar at his home in Warana, Sunshine Coast, but 7 years later still doesn’t think of himself as a professional guitarist. So when will that happen? “When I can play bar chords. And if I knew the keys my songs are played in. I play by ear, same with piano.” Lately he’s been experimenting with lap tapping, “I love it for the rhythm”, and cites a NSW musician as inspiration, “Dan Champagne is one of the world’s best guitarists.”
He weaves themes of relationships and love into most of his songs. “In ‘Land and Sea’ the songs were very literal. They were written about a particular person in my life. Now my writing is a good way to have people connect. I would love to try to create unity. I write a song then bring in other issues like the environment. A girl is a beautiful metaphor for other issues.” The environment is in fact an issue he is clearly passionate about. “During the Runaway tour in 2015/16 we pushed for no plastic. Next year we’ll be working with a couple of different companies to limit our impact. People I play my music to are already aware of my values. In future I would support social enterprises. I want to align with companies that have an intelligent approach to issues.”
His current partner is Norwegian and he’s taking some time off in Norway before Bluesfest to surf in the Lofoten Islands in the north. He’s been a nomad since quitting his last job at 18. “I moved to Byron because I was busking there so much with people like Luke Morris and Nick Cunningham. Then I lived in a van for a couple of years. My address is my parent’s house.” After Bluesfest, he plans to mix the album he recorded last year, go back to Norway, then rekit the van and get back on the road.