Tash Sultana Talks Songwriting, Disconnecting & The Weirdest Stage She’s Played On
Written by Zanda Wilson on 30th August, 2016
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2016 has been the year of Tash Sultana. You may know her from her live bedroom recordings, or from her many sold out shows that she’s already played this year. Although she’s been playing guitar since she was three, and writing music for many years, for some reason this year has undoubtedly been a breakthrough year for Sultana; and she’s once again preparing to get back on the road for a comprehensive national tour.
For those who are unfamiliar, Tash is the full package. She’s an insanely talented multi-instrumentalist, as well as being a hell of a singer, and she writes all of her own original music. She broke onto our airwaves earlier this year with singles like Higher and Notion, songs imbued with a heavy emotion and created with such incredible artistic purpose that we wondered why we hadn’t heard much of her sooner.
We caught up with Tash ahead of her upcoming tour to chat about why 2016 has been such a breakthrough year, how disconnecting overseas cured her writer’s block, and why she doesn’t road-test songs that aren’t already perfected.
Reflecting back on this year, can you pinpoint any key moments that have made 2016 different and why it’s really been a breakthrough year for you?
Tash Sultana: I would probably say word’s gotten around, and a lot of my videos have gone viral, which has reached a massive platform of people that have contributed to my live shows. I’ve sold out every single headline show that I’ve had this year. This tour hasn’t even started yet and there’s one show left that’s got tickets, it’s just insane. I can’t believe it, and I don’t really believe it until I’m there – and then you see all those people. I know that I did sell out the show, but I find it hard to imagine the volume of people. When I see it, it’s like “holy shit!”. That’s how I feel about it, holy shit.
Just on those videos, those live bedroom recordings. What were you trying to achieve with those?
TS: I didn’t really have anything online, and that’s a whole ‘nother entity for you to get on to. It’s a whole new virtual platform, and it’s just endless. Those videos will never decrease in views, they’ll only increase in views and shares. People just pass on your music, and it just keeps going.
Why were they recorded in your bedroom?
TS: It was because I didn’t have any other space to record in. It’s a live recording, showcasing what I’m actually doing live – so it’s what you can expect when you come to a live show. A lot of people hear me on the radio and don’t actually know how it’s put together. It’s bringing a live aspect to other people, bringing them into my performance space.
You’re a multi-instrumentalist as well as a singer. Is putting all that together just what comes naturally to you?
TS: Man, that’s the only thing I know how to do, seriously. Without the music aspect of my life I’d probably be doing some pretty fuckin’ weird things. It’s just the only thing that I understand, and that’s the only way to explain it.
What was your first instrument?
TS: Guitar, I started playing when I was three. It’s still my favourite thing. Being a musician I have to learn it myself, and learn other instruments myself. Once you pick up one instrument you get the ears for it, and for another. And you can keep going and the sound just becomes familiar. It’s never ending, you don’t have to stop anywhere. I’ll pick up an instrument and play it heaps for a couple of months, then pick up another instrument and play that heaps. I just rotate, but guitar is one that stays the same.
When you’re writing, does the guitar come first?
TS: It happens all differently, I can’t sit down and write a song – sometimes I’ll be sitting on a song for years before I actually understand how the song was meant to go. Yesterday I wrote a new song…It just happens. That’s what’s frustrating as well, I had writer’s block for so long, and then I went to south-east Asia and didn’t take anything. I just had a backpack and I completely disconnected from back home – for the purpose of coming back, being inspired and starting fresh. That was the best thing I’ve done. In the week that I’ve been home I’ve written a lot of quality songs. It really inspired me, and I heard how I wanted to write my songs – came back and they just happened.
Will you be road-testing some of that new material out on this upcoming tour? What do you think you’ll get out it?
TS: When I have time to perfect the songs that’s when I’ll put them out. I might play them here and there, but only when they’re ready. I don’t like playing stuff before it’s ready, it’s like giving someone a meal that’s not cooked properly. I’m hoping to get a lot of exposure as well, and hopefully at least a little bit of fun. It’s the biggest tour I’ve ever done and I probably won’t do another tour this big for a while. We didn’t think we were going to have to double and triple the dates in a lot of places, it just happened.
You played the dog-friendly festival Dogapalooza last year. Was that the weirdest thing you’ve played at?
TS: Nah I’ve played at some weird things. Dogapalooza was pretty chill actually, just ripping out to half people, half dogs. I didn’t bring my dog, he’s not a social dog. He loves my family but he thinks he’s a human.
So what was the weirdest gig you’ve played then?
TS: I actually played in the back of a truck. They hired a truck as a stage, that’s probably the weirdest one.
Heading out on tour now, is touring something you’ll prioritise over writing new music for the next little while at least?
TS: Yeah it is, it’s my priority. I separate touring and writing. I’m not one of those people that can write on the road. I jam on the road, but I like to focus on my live shows – and my health. You can become really unhealthy on tour, and I like to have my downtime and family time as my writing time when I’m at home.