The story of Tash Sultana is one of triumph in the face of adversity, a staggering work ethic, loop pedals, busking, open mic nights and gorgeous song writing. With the amount she performs and records, it’s hard to believe that the rising star even finds the time to sleep. In the last week alone she performed at The Age Victoria Music Awards, won the Unearthed Artist of the Year prize at The J Awards, got a brand new Strat from Fender, appeared in a segment on the new TV channel Viceland, and found herself trending on iTunes. Now, you might think That’s an awful lot for a 21 year old to handle – but she does it like a pro, and has the wisdom of someone many years her senior. When you talk to Tash, you really get the sense that she has an old soul.*Tash Sultana with Matt and Alex at The J Awards.
We were lucky enough to be at Howler in Brunswick last Thursday where The J Awards took place which was packed with some of the hottest acts in the country right now, drinks flowing and the sun beating down on the gorgeous beer garden flooded with plant life. Tash accepted her award graciously, and seemed so genuinely stoked and surprised. “I’ve never won an award before.” She tells us outside the venue after the ceremony, with a smile on her lips. Her eyes are shielded by dark sunglasses, but the excitement on her face is rather apparent. She tells us “It feels pretty cool. I’ll give it to my mum, she can put it on the mantle piece and that’ll be it really.” As humble as she is, Tash Sultana still wants her mum to be proud, which is just delightful.
With all of the accolades, recognition and support she’s received recently, Tash’s humility is rather impressive, especially with the dust just settling on her J Award win – after all, winners of these awards tend to go on to big things. “For me, everything has changed within the space of a year, and it’s really unbelievable. I mean, I didn’t think I was going to win this, honestly, I really didn’t. I thought Julia Jacklin was going to win it – I love Julia Jacklin.” She smiles, a warm honest smile, with a playful air that perfectly reflects her character – “It’s cool. I was a little bit shocked, but I’m stoked.”
Perhaps the most striking element of Tash’s work at this early stage in her career is the sheer variety of stylistic approaches she takes in her music. She’s in the process of working on a new record, and though she couldn’t tell us too much about it at the time, when we asked her if the new music would be continuing in a similar vein to what she’s already produced, she quickly reminded us “I’m not a genre based artist.” Her cadence offers resonance to a phrase that could have felt contrived coming from someone else. Delving a little bit more into her new music, she says that “some of it is a little bit acoustic, but still rhythmic, and there’s a lot of rootsy vibes.” She pauses reflectively, seemingly analysing her own creative process in her mind. “The way I approach music, it’s kind of an open field to do whatever I want.”
There are artists who work their fingers to the bone for their craft, and artists who teach themselves over a dozen instruments – Tash Sultana is both of those. As well as being a regular busker around Melbourne, she told hosts Matt & Alex after receiving her award on stage at Howler, that she used to dart around the state of Victoria, playing a different open mic every night of the week for years. This evidence of her work ethic proves how committed this young artist is to her craft, even before the national attention. During our chat, she tells us “I’d been doing quite a lot of stuff before JJJ put me on their bandwagon. But it’s nice to be a part of that family, it’s comfortable and nurturing. I didn’t honestly think that I’d ever get picked up by Triple J, and it’s awesome. It really is like a family.” It’s obvious that she appreciates the support offered by an institution like Triple J, but she’s entirely self made – the recognition from the station is complimentary to all of the work and effort she already put in to get to this point. And getting there hasn’t been easy. In a segment on Viceland which has now accumulated over a million views on Facebook, she told the interviewer that up until recently she was in the throes of addiction. “I was a complete drug addict” she says in the clip, “I was doing pretty much every drug apart from heroin.” Under the circumstances of the events she relays in the video, the direction of her life could have been a whole lot different, and far more tragic. Yet somehow she came out the other end of seeming insurmountable odds, and seems to be on the brink of inevitable global success. She’s almost sold out a show in Amsterdam next year, and has scheduled performances all over Europe.
When we ask Tash what’s next for her, she’s quick to respond with her signature air of collected calm – “Living in a plane, man. Off into the sky.” She looks up into the clear blue Melbourne heavens, and the action is somewhat metaphorically apt – for this breakout performer, the sky truly is the limit. In a moment of poetic symmetry, an aircraft soars over our heads while her eyes are averted skyward – “Oh look, there’s a plane right there!” She exclaims, looking gleeful at the coincidental nature of the occurrence.
A young, vibrant and striking talent, Tash Sultana is well deserving of her J Awards win, and the future is overwhelmingly bright for her.