Australian busker-turned-big-shot Ziggy Alberts chats growing up on the Sunshine Coast and his first gig in 15 months

Fresh off-stage after his first live performance in 15 months, Australian vocalist, guitarist, songwriter, and poet, Ziggy Alberts relives the once familiar experience. “The show was fantastic, it was about 300 – 400 people, and it was mainly around a livestream, so it was just kinda playing all these new songs for the first time. I still play solo but with all this new production, so it was daunting and a super kind of vulnerable situation but really, really good,” he reassures with a gorgeous grin. 

Throughout lockdown Alberts avoided live streams like the plague (read; virus) but reckoned that debuting and celebrating the launch of his latest album, searching for freedom, was motivation enough to dust off the cobwebs and hop back on stage. “This was an important one because I still wanted to be able to play the new album live to an international audience,” he reasons, “It’s obviously not the same, but I was lucky enough to have a crowd in there, a whole bunch of family and friends, like 100 of them, and our core group of people, our subscribers were the only ones who got tickets, so there was a really dedicated group of people there.” 

Alberts grew up on Australia’s Sunshine Coast — with a younger brother and older sister — an upbringing that nurtured a deep-rooted outside culture — surfing, hours on the beach, skating, tree-climbing. Homeschooled until the age of 13, he appreciates his parents’ tutelage. “I had a pretty crazy magical upbringing. Learned a lot in those early years, in real-life senses: if you climb and fall out of a tree, you get hurt. But my parents taught us understanding, as opposed to just copying, being able to take things on conceptually,” he explains. 

At 13 he attended the largest public school in the area — the polar opposite of his previous educational experience — and absolutely loved it, a self-confessed, proud nerd whose smarts got him bumped up a couple of years and saw him graduate early, at the age of 16. As a graduation present, his parents got him a guitar, ultimately redirecting the course of his life. 

Alberts was working at a live music venue at the time with a second hustle at a coffee shop. He found a third hustle in surf journalism (he still actively contributes to a couple of Australian surf magazines) while simultaneously pursuing a professional career as a free surfer (he still makes a point of keeping his sponsors happy and their relationship symbiotic). Picking up the guitar was the catalyst to detonate what he considers a creative explosion in his life, an explosion that turned journalism to songwriting, and guitar strumming to busking and touring the country. 

He relives his busking days with genuine fondness, painting the picture of him wearing one of probably three tees and two jeans singing his heart out by day, crashing in his van parked across from the beach by night. “I feel the thing that’s so fantastic about busking is that it’s such a raw experience. Your self-consciousness barrier has to completely go away, and you just have to be like, ‘This is me’ and then go out and give everything you’ve got. I love it,” he reminisces of the good old days. 

Alberts’ professional career really skyrocketed when he started reaching out to his followers on Instagram, many who he’d met busking and sold CDs to, which resulted in him touring the continent and eventually Europe by playing shows hosted in their homes all around the world, ultimately creating life-long connections and loyal fans. “Man, what a great excuse to connect with strangers,” he laughs. 

It got to the point where he was generating more work than he could handle so, coming to his rescue, his sister quit her job and took over as his manager. His success grew to the point when, in 2018, the Alberts family launched their own record label and publishing house, a now well-oiled 7-person machine, to manage Ziggy’s music and, his recently published book of poetry, brainwaves.

Such an honest lyricist, I wonder what he expresses in his poetry that he doesn’t already lay bare in his music. He pauses before sharing, “I’d say that the poetry comes more out of my meditation. It’s kind of like when I’m not actually contemplating something, it comes from this crazy, weird, nothingness, whereas the music comes from a similar place, but it’s more intentional contemplation.”

An hour into our conversation it feels like I’ve known him for years, like he’s trusted me with all of his secrets, and that’s when I realise that Ziggy Alberts’ superpower is that he is, at all times, 100% his most honest self. Since picking up the guitar and penning his first song about a decade ago, Alberts has been charming and singing his way into the hearts of millions of people across the world, and his most recent release, searching for freedom, sees him take a deep dive into an ice bath of his most honest musings about love, life, and the world around us.