When I speak to Tash Sultana, they have just played the iconic Red Rocks venue in Colorado the night before, to a sold-out audience. It was one show out of the 19 Sultana, whose pronouns are they and them, played across the United States in September.
They've come a long way since performing on Australian streets to passers-by - but Sultana's start has forged an audience of loyal and passionate fans.
In an Instagram post about the show, they wrote: "Last night was amazing…what I do is about bringing everyone all together of different shapes, sizes, quests, races, religions, ages, sexes or whatever you are."
For the unacquainted, Sultana's career began busking on the streets of Melbourne, building an organic audience through performances using multiple instruments and a loop pedal. It's not an unfamiliar narrative for a musician nowadays, and social media and viral video have helped propel their career to the global stage. A live recording of Sultana's single Jungle has racked up 57 million views, the NPR Tiny Desk concert 9.4 million. They have more than 500 million streams on Spotify.
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Last night was amazing. There is just something about Red Rocks and all the energy of the beautiful people combined all together. What I do is about bringing everyone all together of different shapes, sizes, quests, races, religions, ages, sexes or whatever you are. You can feel it and you can see it. Life is beautiful. Thank you everyone who’s come to a show and supported in anyway big or small and thank you to my team cause this is IMPOSSIBLE without you guys 📷 @daramunnis
A post shared by TASH SULTANA (@tashsultanaofficial) on
Speaking to TimeOut during their US tour, Sultana reveals a change of direction. Next year, the artist is enlisting a band for live shows.
"I said that I wanted to take being solo as far as I possibly could. I always used to say things like, I'm not going to get a band and all this but what I realised was I was making a cage and jailing myself into a certain way of thinking and approaching," they said.
The Murder to The Mind singer explained it was the use of a loop pedal that gained them attention, and that made them determined to stick out playing solo. In lieu of a band to back them up, some artists opt to use the loop pedal to playback backing vocals and instruments during live performances.
"I kind of thought that the only way to prove myself as an artist was to do a show where it's all looped where I do everything by myself on the spot in front of you, and I realised that you actually don't have to do that."
The Jungle singer is back in New Zealand on Friday for a show as part of their Flow State World Tour - Sultana was last here in January for a set at summer festival Bay Dreams. So what can fans expect from the show? Sultana wants fans to go in with an open mind.
"I don't really want to put like, an expectation on it," they explained. "I just like to get up and jam and I like them [the crowd] to be in that with me."
Sultana has fond memories of their Kiwi crowds, saying they're typically carefree, a bit more laid-back and usually "blazing the f*** up".
"I think I've been getting on stage in a more positive mindset than I have in the past. I feel like I'm doing this all for me now. Whereas before, I was kind of feeling a bit of pressure, like maybe I wasn't good enough before."
As Sultana's career has taken off, so has the size of the venues they've played. They say despite going from playing from small intimate venues to arenas with 12,000 people, they choose to approach each show in the same way.
When a show doesn't go perfectly, the musician says it can be "soul-crushingly brutal" but now Sultana can share the failure, and exist as a performer when the entire show doesn't just rest on their shoulders.
Sultana says there are downsides to touring and being on the road constantly, like missing family and friends a lot.
"Every time you come back after being on tour, everyone's a little different and a little bit older," the musician says. "You miss birthdays and you miss family events and you miss out on time with people."
"On the other side of things, I don't work a nine to five job and I'm doing exactly what I want to do."
Sultana compares the life of a musician to having a double life, one where they're on tour and constantly performing to returning home and not knowing what to do with the free time, "Like going from having a full-time job to being unemployed."
However, the special moments playing live to people make being away from home all worth it. A friend surprised the singer-songwriter at their hotel room at the Red Rocks show last night, in a moment that combined her two lives.
The next challenge for the artist is the release of a new album, which they are currently writing and recording. Just like the live shows, Sultana hints at a change of direction. They maintain they're going to write whatever the f*** they want.
"It will have more real acoustic instruments rather than sampling and that type of thing. I'm going on a little bit of a different soundscape journey with it."
Tash Sultana plays Spark Arena on Friday, November 22 with support from Tunes Of I.
Busking beginnings: more acts who got their start on the streets
Prior to making it big with sold-out stadium shows and multi-platinum records, the red-headed Brit got his start busking on streets in his early teens. Similar to Tash Sultana, Ed made a name for himself performing concerts with just himself, a guitar and a loop pedal.
The Woke Up Late hitmakers made a name for themselves busking on the streets of Wellington, with their catchy covers which included Macklemore's Thrift Shop. Like Sultana, videos of their on-street performances attracted thousands of hits on YouTube.
Armed with a guitar and a dream, the No Fixed Abode singer bought a one-way ticket to London and perfected his singer-songwriter craft busking in Europe. After sharing videos of his performance on social media, he landed himself a record deal. He even ended up opening for his inspiration Ed Sheeran for three Dunedin shows in 2018.