• Interviews

Russell Crowe on a Concert Tour in Italy

What actor Russell Crowe – Golden Globe winner for A Beautiful Mind ( 2002) and Oscar winner for Gladiator (2001) – really wants to be is a rock star. And the 59-year-old New Zealand-born Australian is proving it by touring Italy with his band, Indoor Garden Party, at times with his acoustic guitar strapped to his shoulder. Rock music is an old passion for Crowe: he actually started his career as a musician, a passion he has cultivated for decades and one which he still pursues through the various incarnations of his bands.

Crowe and the 10 person band – including his singer/composer son Charlie Crowe – started the Italian tour, after a concert in Malta, in the city of Catanzaro, in the southern Italy region of Calabria,  to help kick start the 20th anniversary of the Magna Graecia Film Festival;  he subsequently performed in Taranto, Puglia, and Rome, where he played at the Teatro Romano inside the Cinecittà Studios. He is wrapping up his Italian musical tour by going north for a concert in Bologna – the revenues of the show will be donated to the victims of the catastrophic flood which devastated the region back in May. The tour will have its final concert in Karlovy Vary, in the Czech Republic, for the opening night of the International Film Festival, on June 30th. Crowe has been accompanied by an Australian film crew throughout the entire tour, with the idea of eventually making a documentary about it.


We sat with Crowe at the beginning of his Italian tour to talk about his love for music, Italy, and the difference between acting and playing music (he plays guitar and sings).

Russell, why this rock tour here and now?

The timing depends on my own availability and schedule. When I’m not filming, I like to play music. We just finished a 17-day tour in Australia, and now we’re playing shows in Italy and Karlovy Vary. The idea was to have venues full of people and have some fun, because that is really what it’s all about for me, making music and connecting with people that come to see it. It’s about the energy that’s created in the room when doing the concerts.


How did music enter your life?

I came out of music; I came to theater through rock ‘n’ roll. I actually got my first film as an actor because a director saw me in a stage musical. For 30 years I made movies, and I had to put music on the side. Then I started having babies. There just wasn’t enough time in the calendar year to make movies and go touring with the band. But my children are grown up now. They’re large hairy men! [laughs] So, I’ve got a little bit more time in my life to think about music.  I can definitely see myself spending more time on music, because it brings me joy and brings me to a lot of places. I know well that this is a younger man’s game, and that’s why I want to maximize the enjoyment I get.

When you think of music, which is more important to you, the sound or the lyrics?

I definitely lean towards lyrics. The words are very important to me, in the same way they are in my acting work. So, my musical influences came to be songwriters that use words very well, like Nick Cave. With this particular band we have a wide range of genres that we go through. We play R&B, some blues, we play some gospel music, we play dirty country songs about murder. Some are covers of songs by Johnny Cash or Leonard Coen, others are original songs I wrote and are on our new album coming out later this year called Prose and Cons, like “Let Your Light Shine.” There is a little bit of funk as well. It’s a very accomplished band, and we tend to mix a lot of our material that we mix with songs that people love. 

What’s the difference for you between acting and singing?

The energy source is the same. It takes a lot of thought and consideration when you’re doing a feature film and same thing when you’re writing a song. The big difference is that when you’re on a feature film, it’s going to be a year or so before people see the fruit of your labor. And then you may or may not be sitting in a room full of people watching the film with them and get some response. You work in a void. You have a fair idea how people will respond, but you don’t really know until you witness it. Rock ’n’ roll is completely different; the response is immediate, and that’s probably why I stay connected to it. A lot of actors go back to theater between film jobs, and do a season of Shakespeare somewhere; my theater is rock ’n’ roll.

What is worth fighting for in your life today? We know you’re committed to the environment…

As I was driving through Calabria, I looked up in the hills and saw the big wind turbines, and on the other side I looked at the mountains, and I was actually sort of struck by the beauty I was surrounded by. While I was looking at those wind turbines I thought, “Why people don’t appreciate those structures?” Because I find them beautiful, and I know it’s a fundamental attempt to use an energy source that is clean, and there is nothing more beautiful in our world right now than clean energy sources.

When I made my first real money I bought a farm in Australia in 1996, when land was very cheap and I knew already much about myself: I knew that I prefer the bush, staying out of the city. I like to spend time in contemplation of nature.