In 2006, he made his mark on the Aussie music scene with his debut album Homemade Biscuits. Since then, our nation has absolutely adored watching him grow as a musician and as an activist for the Indigenous people, with a couple of ARIA awards in his poolroom to certify his remarkable successes.
Having always wanted to perform for fans in remote parts of the country, Dan was inspired to tour Killer in an intimate setting. “It’s something that I’ve done a few times with a few different records. It’s a good way to get out to some more regional places and places that are a bit hard to take everybody to. As I travel with a few people when I’ve got the full band, it’s just not realistic for me to get to as many places as I’d like to; it’s sort of more central places and capital cities that I tend to perform in. With a solo tour, it’s just my production manager and I so we are able to get in a lot more shows. It’s also a good way to get the record ticking over, plus I get to travel and see the country,” he says excitedly.
Lovers of his craft were fortunate enough to have Dan publish a series of three videos in which he sings a few favourites from the album using a stripped back style, leaving listeners hungry to get their hands on tickets to the tour. Authentically performing in a raw and vulnerable way is a little daunting for Dan, however he remains excited to approach his scheduled shows in this manner. “It’s definitely more exposing but I feel the same amount of uncomfortably as I do anywhere. It’s scary stuff getting on stage but it’s exciting. It’s definitely different when it’s just you, there’s nowhere to hide but I have a really good time with it. It’s all positive,” he laughs.
The tour has already seen extraordinary sales, with shows in Upwey, Meeniyan and Milton reaching sell out point. With demands so high in Melbourne, a third and final St Kilda gig has been added to the tour. Dan couldn’t contain his eagerness about the travel element of his tour, reiterating that it’s important to him to get his music heard by fans from all over Australia. “There’s so many places I haven’t been to yet that I’m visiting on this tour. There are places that I’m really looking forward to seeing that haven’t actually been announced yet, so I have to be careful with that one. The central coast of NSW is really beautiful as well as regional Victoria, so I’m excited for that. I’ll tell you which was my favourite after the tour,” he says.
In his gospel infused record, Dan enriches his listeners through sentimental storytelling, incorporating earthy blues sounds with rock and neo-soul. An emotive exploration of the political struggles that still exist within the Indigenous community, Killer is an incredibly layered record that highlights Dan’s strong ability to communicate narratives through his songwriting. The leader of the record, Drover, is a historically significant track to Dan. “It’s a prequel song from Little Things Big Things Grow by Paul Kelly, which is about The Wave Hill Walk-Off; a big moment in civil rights history in this country and in the world. My grandfather’s country is where that song is written about, so it speaks to me both as an Aboriginal person and as an Australian. It’s important to me as someone who believes in civil rights and fighting a good fight. From a more personal level, it’s about my family as well; it’s a nice one,” he explains.
The record has received phenomenal praise, scoring a place in Rolling Stone Australia’s Top 50 Albums of 2017. “It felt good, it was affirming. We felt like we made a really good album and I was very proud of that – it’s the best album that I’ve made. It was nice to get that recognition,” he says.
Though some time has passed since Dan first entered the spotlight, his talent continues to radiate beyond the Australian music industry. Having recently signed a deal with American record label AntiFragile, Dan is gearing up to discover new things about his musical talents in a supportive learning environment. “I’ve wanted to work in as many places as possible for as long as I can remember. I think with Blackbird we had a lot of meetings with labels and I think I sort of took for granted the fact that we’d get a deal and but nothing came of it and that was a bit of a hit for me. You just have to get over it and get on with it. When I wrote Killer, it just sort of happened. It’s exciting, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens and where we can go with it. I just want to work and play in as many places as I can and perform to as many people as I can,” he says.
Dan’s work ethic is admirable, collaborating with friends Camp Cope, A.B. Original, Meg Mac and Dave Le’aupepe (Gang Of Youths) to rework a handful of songs from Killer. “We were just sitting around and we realised we had the opportunity to do something cool like this. It’s awesome to be giving these songs a new perspective. In some ways I’ve felt like as successful as Killer has been, you always want it to go further, so this has been a really nice way to be able to do that,” he says.
With a tour, EP and record deal on the go, it’s no wonder us Aussies can’t get enough of Dan Sultan.
When & Where: Theatre Royal, Castlemaine – April 12 & GPAC Drama Theatre, Geelong – May 11.
Tickets available via dansultan.com/.
Written by Hannah Kenny