Relix 44: Tash Sultana
photo by Alec Gowan
Welcome to the Relix 44. To commemorate the past 44 years of our existence, we’ve created a list of people, places and things that inspire us today, appearing in our September 2018 issue and rolling out on Relix.com throughout this fall. See all the articles posted so far here.
All for One: Tash Sultana
Although Tash Sultana is only 23 years old, her debut album has been a long time coming. She was just three years old when her grandfather first gave her a guitar and, by the time she was in high school, she was deploying fake IDs in order to get through doors and appear at open mic nights in Melbourne, Australia. She also began busking on the streets of the city, testing out her original songs. Sultana later took to YouTube, recording a series of her compositions at home in her bedroom, with her 2016 performance of “Jungle” receiving over 20 million views.
Sultana is an explosive guitar player, who not only identifies Jimi Hendrix as an inspiration but also names Fleetwood Mac and Erykah Badu as part of her pantheon. She’s a true solo act who makes prodigious use of looping technology to build her sound, with well over a dozen pedals at her command in the live setting. She explains, “I started getting RSI (Repetitive strain injury) in my wrists and my elbow from playing really hard, so I started looping. I feel like looping is such a massive part of my music and live show experience right now. It’s something that isn’t always going to define my live set, I’m open to doing something different but for now it’s just me.”
Her fan base is particularly fervid. In 2017, Sultana sold out every date on her first U.S. tour, despite never previously having visited the country. She credits her supporters for this achievement, describing them as “crazy (in a good way),” and adds, “I think they’re a massive part of my music reaching so many different parts of the world. That tour was insane, I couldn’t believe all these people loved my music and knew all the words when I’d never been there before.” She will return to North America in November to build on the new audience she amassed through her dynamic sets at Bonnaroo, Coachella and Governors Ball.
As for her studio record for Mom + Pop Music, Flow State, Sultana discloses, that in listening back to her debut, Notion EP, she now recognizes that “Big Smoke (Live)” “wasn’t really a song, it was just something I used to jam when I was busking. Flow State is all proper songs, some that I’ve been working on for years and it’s taken all that time to get them right and make them real songs. Others I wrote while in the studio. If you asked me a year ago I would have told you I thought I knew my sound, but now I’m realizing that I don’t know everything about it and there’s still heaps for me to learn and that’s influenced how I write songs in the studio now. I’m just trying to learn as much as I can off others and hone my craft.”
This article originally appears in the September 2018 issue of Relix. For more features, interviews, album reviews and more, subscribe here.