December 13, 2021

Tash Sultana: One of Australia’s ‘Hardest Working Music Exports’ Playing It All

Meghan Grech
Tash Sultana: One of Australia’s ‘Hardest Working Music Exports’ Playing It All
A soulful, layered style has led to this singer-songwriter’s quick rise from busking on the streets of Melbourne to selling out international venues.

At just twenty-six years of age, Australian Tash Sultana has recevied international acclaim for their all-around skills when it comes to making music. Sultana – who is gender fluid and uses they and them pronouns – plays over a dozen instruments, layering all their own tracks around their captivating voice to create songs that are a ‘multi-genre patchwork of psych-rock and lo-fi blues’.

Sultana got their first guitar from their grandfather at age three and spent a large part of their adolescence playing every open mic they could find (even if they had to use the occasional fake ID to get in the door). They started busking after high school, but it wasn’t until they introduced a looping pedal that they really started getting attention. Allowing Sultana to layer multiple tracks of themself playing multiple instruments live, the new approach was a ‘street stopper’ that allowed them to start supporting themself with their music. In 2016, they were playing around with tracks in their bedroom and filmed themself trying out a new song on their phone. The video for ‘Jungle’ reached one million views on YouTube in just five days and radio station Triple J received so many requests to play the song that it landed at number three in that year’s Hottest 100.

This acclaim and popularity went global, leading Sultana play Coachella and sell out three dates at London’s Brixton Academy before even releasing a debut album. Flow State was finally unveiled in August 2018, with Sultana not only playing all the instrument layers, but engineering, arranging, and producing the album themself. It debuted at number two on the Australian music charts and was called ‘excellently all-over-the-place’ by Rolling Stone for its impressive mix of styles and genres.

I am me and I would never live a life that I am truthfully, if I wasn’t fully and utterly, and unapologetically the person that I am … And I encourage everybody else to be that way. Because you’ll never ever live your fullest truth and desire and really achieve success unless you’re truthful with yourself.
TASH SULTANA, ARTIST BEHIND FLOW STATE AND TERRA FIRMA.

However, the COVID pandemic has been a major turning point for Sultana. With their growing international career roadblocked by closed venues and travel restrictions, they were initially worried that their audience would lose interest by the time concerts could come back. Instead, isolation gave them time to reflect who they wanted to be as an artist and the people they want to rely on. They’re starting to move away from their ‘one-person band’ approach to find a more sustainable balance – they still played the impressive majority of instruments for their 2021 album Terra Firma, but they also enlisted some friends as co-writers of a few tracks, and plan on touring with a band in 2022. This greater level of self-awareness is clear in Sultana’s new music, with this album making it to number one on the Australian charts and Clash Magazine’s Gemma Ross suggesting that ‘Terra Firma offers a much more nuanced and settled approach to Tash’s ridiculously enormous musical palette’.

Sultana’s incredible range of skills in both the performance and the production of their music is hugely impressive. Despite their original fears about the impact of COVID, their career continues to soar: they recently sold out a 10,000 capacity RED ROCKS show in just five minutes. Casper Magazine founder and EIC Maria looks forward to meeting Sultana next week at the launch of a new partnership between Sultana and sports shoe brand, New Balance.

If you liked this article, you might enjoy our profile of Melanie Perkins, the Aussie entrepreneur behind design software company Canva.


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