In Conversation with Thelma Plum

Ahead of her performance at Brisbane Festival’s Spiegeltent this Friday 29th September, Hot Chicks with Big Brains caught up with Thelma Plum to chat career progress, Brisbane Festival, and her much anticipated new album.

Image by Cole Bennetts

Emma Kate Lewis: Hey Thelma! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me—I know how busy everything must be this week. How’s it all going so far?

Thelma Plum: It is! I’m actually on my way to the studio right now.

EKL: And you were working late last night?

TP: Yes, I was working with Serina Pech, a beautiful, beautiful songwriter from the Northern Territory.

EKL: How’s the preparation for Brisbane Festival going?

TP: Good! I’m very excited about it because I grew up in Brisbane, so it’ll be great to be back there. And also, I’m playing in The Spiegeltent, which is incredible! I’ve never played it before, but I’ve been to shows there and they’ve all been amazing, so I’m pretty excited. And yeah, I’ve been doing a few rehearsals because I’ll be playing most of my new album.

EKL: I definitely want to know more about the album, but first can you tell me how you got started within the music industry?

TP: Sure! Well, before I could talk I sang, and I’ve always wanted to play music. In high school I just wanted to be a musician. I wanted to finish school and play as many gigs as I could, and just do music.

So when I did finish school I started playing lots of shows, and I put a song on Triple J Unearthed in a competition to play at the National Indigenous Music Awards. When I won, things started happening from there.

I was playing more shows, bigger shows, and I signed with a label.

Image by Ellis Parrinder

EKL: Can you tell me how things have changed since then? You released Rosie and Monsters [EPs] in 2013 and 2014 respectively, if I’m right?

TP: Yes, I did. It’s been quite a long time—well, a long time for me—since I’ve released any music. A lot has changed since those EPs. I’ve gone through some things, and learned a lot. I dunno, it sounds silly to say, but I’m growing up and I’m hoping that’ll translate in the new album.

EKL: That sounds honest to me. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced and how have you overcome them?

TP: There are quite a few that have come my way, particularly in the last year.

Each time something happens, I’m learning coping mechanisms that help me filter that negative energy out.

I’m a lot better at doing that now than I was even 6 months ago. But yeah, it can get quite difficult.

EKL: Have you always been encouraged to pursue music?

TP: Always! I was very encouraged as a child. Maybe a little bit too encouraged!

[Laughter]

TP: My parents are both avid music lovers. They don’t play music themselves, but they were always taking me to amazing concerts and festivals when I was really little, so that was awesome.

EKL: What would say has given you your greatest sense of achievement to date?

TP: The fact I get to do what I love and what I have always loved as a job.

It’s a pretty cool feeling thinking back to little young me and how this was all I ever wanted—to live and breathe music all the time—and now I get to do that.

EKL: Who are some of your favourite artists at the moment?

TP: Do you know who I’m obsessed with at the moment? Jack River from Sydney. She’s amazing, I can’t get enough of her. I’ve been listening to her last EP, and she has this song called Talk Like That, which is on repeat every single day. It’s a very good song. So I’ve been listening to a lot of her, and a lot of Alex the Astronaut as well, another Aussie gal. They’re my two faves at the moment.

Image by Cole Bennetts

EKL: What advice do you have for women in the process of building their careers at the moment?

TP: I would just say to back yourself.

It’s the biggest thing: backing yourself, not doubting yourself. And not letting other people’s doubts in your cloud your own view of yourself. Sometimes, as a woman, you have to work extra hard to get your work recognised. And that fucking sucks.

[Laughter]

TP: It’s important to have a strong network of strong females around you to actually be successful. I definitely think that’s one of the keys.

EKL: What have you got planned for after Brisbane Festival?

TP: My best friend’s getting married just a couple of days after the festival, and I’m the maid of honour! So that’ll be really fun, and I’ll be hanging out in Bris.

EKL: That sounds brilliant. And work wise I assume you’re focusing entirely on the album?

TP: Yep, it’s album time. I’m nearly finished, so I’ll get a single out and then, once everything comes into place, I can get back on the road.

See Thelma Plum at Brisbane Festival this Friday 29th September!


Images as individually credited

Compiled and Edited by Emma Kate Lewis

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