TO SAY Tash Sultana has had a busy few months would be an understatement. The 24-year-old former busker turned one-person powerhouse has spent 2019 criss-crossing the globe, playing live shows in more countries than they can remember, jumping between time-zones along the way.
‘I’m tired as f**k at the moment,’ they admit. It’s easy to see why. Tash — who is gender non-binary — constantly switches between instruments, picking up guitars, pan pipes, trumpet and keyboards, sampling and looping live while singing and dancing. Just one show would exhaust most people, but this is a tour taking in dozens of shows, each as demanding as the last. This time next week, they finally land in Britain, heading to both London’s Alexandra Palace and Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom.
Is there a secret to keeping going on a marathon world tour? ‘I don’t drink any alcohol or do any drugs or anything,’ says Tash, who grew up in Melbourne. ‘I get a vitamin IV as often as I can. A litre of vitamin C stops me getting sick. I’m more careful now than I was, more protective of my sleep and my wellbeing. I have my own room on the bus, with a shower and a toilet, so I get a bit of privacy.’
How does the pre-show routine work? ‘It’s a long ritual,’ Tash explains. ‘I have to start early, soundcheck for an hour and a half, then I burn essential oils, and I have 15 minutes on the drum-pad, 15 minutes on the trumpet, 15 minutes on the 12-string, and the same for each instrument.’
With a dozen of them to work through, that’s a fair old chunk of the day gone. ‘You never stop practising, trying to get better,’ explains Tash. ‘I’d like to get better at the saxophone. I’m still learning now. I listen to everything. I know everyone says that, but I really do. I like soul, reggae. I get inspiration from so many places.’
Tash has been selling out shows across the globe — how do audiences differ? ‘I see every type of person. That’s what I love about it, because I can’t say I have a typical fan. They’re just people who like music.’
So is Tash looking forward to the UK gigs? ‘I googled Alexandra Palace and it looks big,’ they laugh. ‘It’s going to be pretty exciting. I never used to get nervous, but now I’m playing not to hundreds of people, but thousands, and sometimes that can scare me.
‘It’s hard when you look out and all you can see is phones. I hate the phone thing. I get it, but really, you want everyone to be in the moment.’
It’s a long way from early days playing open mic nights and busking on the streets of Melbourne. ‘I had a plan when I was a kid and I worked my a**e off to make it happen,’ says Tash. ‘There’s still a lot of work to be done.’
How far does the plan go? ‘I can’t see my life past 30,’ says Tash. ‘I can see the next six years, and there’s a lot of touring, maybe working with other people, doing film scores, making more music, and then when I get to 30, who knows?’ For now, it seems the busker-turned-YouTube star and international musician is headed in the right direction.
‘My parents are really great and I have a good partner. If you have love in your life, you’re lucky. A lot of people dream of this. It’s easy to wear yourself out and throw it all away. Yes, it’s hard, but it has got better. Now I have somewhere comfortable to sleep, I have a decent dressing room in the venue, there’s support that wasn’t there when I was busking. This is already the dream, and I know how lucky I am.’
■ Tash is at Alexandra Palace in London on Friday June 28 and Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom on Sunday June 30, tashsultana.com