Tash Sultana on Performing MTV ‘Unplugged’ — “It’s a New Chapter of My Life”

“I’m excited for the world to catch up to where I am now,” Tash Sultana told The Latch. “The album’s come out, which is really cool, but your audience takes a long time to catch up with you as an artist, as you change and grow and develop and whatnot.

“When you physically put that on stage. I think that determines, really, how good you are.”

Luckily for Sultana, the multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter who is undeniably one of Australia’s greatest talents, the opportunity to get on stage and show their fans what they’ve been up to is finally almost here.

On Sunday, May 23 2021, Sultana will perform on the critically acclaimed MTV Unplugged Melbourne series, bringing the sounds of their sophomore album — Terra Firma — to life after a year of ongoing disruptions brought on by the pandemic.

“I’ve been waiting to get to this point for ages. Because every time I go to play a show, as we all do, during COVID — something COVID happens,” Sultana joked during their interview with The Latch.

“But I think I might be able to get through this one a little bit unscathed, in the way that I’ve been designing to for the last maybe, like, 18 months. This has been up my sleeve — so maybe this might actually be it?”.

To play MTV Unplugged is a big deal for the artist, not only because it marks the return of live music after a year in which the music industry suffered unimaginably, but because it marks the start of something new.

“For me, MTV Unplugged, is the beginning of a new chapter of my life. So it’s a f—king big, big moment,” they said.

“I hope that they (the audience) can see me in the light that I feel the best in. I hope that they can see me in the light that I’ve been trying to project for a really long time because I’ve been, you know, in the shadows, writing this album in the shadows, putting the show together. And this is the first time that anyone will see where I’m going.”

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It’s not lost on Sultana that by stepping onto the iconic Unplugged stage, they are joining the ranks of some of the worlds most recognisable names, another factor that adds to the already weighty significance of the gig.

“Sometimes, you know acts better for being on Unplugged. Everybody knows Nirvana did Unplugged — the reach of that was f—king crazy,” they said.

“I had a little Google, when I was thinking about how to put my show together, I had a look at how a lot of other people had done theirs and everybody’s on there. So many people have done that thing going on since the very late 80s to early 90s, to now. And not a lot of Australians have done it.”

That may be so, but then again, not a lot of Australians can boast half of the achievements Sultana can. The Melbourne born artist began playing the guitar given them by their grandfather at the age of three which, years later, led to generating masses of attention busking in Melbourne’s Bourke Street Mall. When the talented singer and songwriter released a video in 2016 of them performing their track Jungle — a rollicking reggae flavoured journey that taps into something deliciously primal and raw — it racked up a million YouTube views in five days and has since been streamed over 151,000,000 times on Spotify. 

While it may seem that Sultana’s ascent to recognition was a speedy one, it has actually been a slow and steady trajectory and one which they have taken in their diminutive stride.

“I think as soon as you start trying to compete against the success of other people, you’re not satisfied with the timeline [in which] you achieve things yourself, because you can’t be somebody else,” they said.

“I just believe that my time is my time, when it’s my time. And I always say that to myself and to other people. You just can’t rush the process. I think for me, I’ve kind of had a slower acknowledgement, I’ve been doing gigs for the last 13 years. And I had a song that blew up. And that’s kind of how people knew me first.”

While the 25-year-old musician won’t give too much away as to what we can expect from their Unplugged performance, they did reveal that it will be a curation of the way they want to play, a mix of old hits and new tracks and, of course, the instrumental looping Sultana has become synonymous with.

“It’s what I’ve had in my back pocket for such a long time that I’ve had kept to myself, that I’ve been waiting for so long to be able to do these new songs in a new light and in a new way,” Sultana said.

“And I cannot wait to get on that stage and f—king love every second of it.”

MTV Unplugged will air Sunday, May 23 on MTV at 10 am.

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