Thando first shook the nation’s music scene in 2014, when she featured on Season Three of The Voice Australia. Almost five years later, this Melbournian master soulstress has adorned countless stages – blowing away audiences both locally, and on an international scale. Coming up hot on the music radar in 2018 following the release of her breakthrough single ‘Numb’ in January, Thando is completing her fourth tour of the year, with more music set to drop in a few short months.
Having also graced festivals such as BIGSOUND, Strawberry Fields, Jungle Love, and NYE on the Hill, Thando is no stranger to life on the go. Accompanied by her band, she has worked hard on ironing out the kinks often encountered by musicians on tour, all the while creating music and influencing many.
We had the pleasure of picking Thando’s brain this week, here’s what she had to say!
How would you describe your job role, and how did you get to where you are today?
I am a musician, so my job entails travelling around the country and playing live shows to promote my original music. I didn’t grow up in a super musical family but I’ve always been firm with my music and one of my older sisters and I used to put on little concerts in the lounge for our parents. We used to sell little handmade tickets and put on little shows. We’d do covers of TLC songs, so it just sort of started out as fun and then when I started going to school I decided I wanted to study music and it just kind of went from there. There hasn’t really been any other option for me, it’s always been a life-long love of mine so I thought I’d make a career out of it.
A week in the life of Thando, on the road:
On Friday I flew to Mullumbimby with my band because we were playing at the Mullum Music Festival and we did a set there that night.
On Saturday I flew back to Melbourne first thing in the morning for a corporate show, so as soon as I landed we did a sound check and put on a gig.
Then, on Sunday morning I went straight back to the airport to fly to Mullumbimby to do my second set at the festival.
On Monday, I was back at the airport again because I was flying to Canberra to go along as a special guest on the RocKwiz tour, and they had a show at Canberra theatre that night.
From Friday-Friday I was starting my day off in the airport, going to the next city, doing a soundcheck, doing the show and staying in a different hotel in a different city every night, until we got back to Melbourne on Saturday. Then I drove to Queenscliff with my band because we were doing a set at Queenscliff Music Festival – we partied a little bit too hard there. We then had a 6am flight on the Sunday to go to Hobart so I could play an acoustic set at the MONA exhibition. It was a hectic week, and I found myself in over 4 different cities in that week purely for the purpose of doing music and that’s a pretty typical week when I’m on the road. I find myself in a different city every night, and every day is different as far as what the structure is. Whenever I get to the place there’s the sound check, downtime and there’s the gig.
When I’m in each different city I’ll pop on social media and do a post about where I’m going to be and then I’ll pop on the website and ensure my details are up to date and link that on my post so that people can come and buy tickets and everything and that way when people don’t know who I am, particularly when I was doing the RocKwiz tour, a lot of the audience had never heard of me before, so knowing I could refer everybody to my Wix website when I was getting messages on Instagram saying ‘aw you’re so great, where can we get your music? Where can we see you play next?’ I’d just refer them to my website and everything is on there. I always make sure I have some time set aside to connect with my fans.
A structured time line is incredibly crucial, and being able to allow time for when things go wrong. Things don’t go to plan all the time, like one of my flights was super delayed and I found myself at the airport for two hours – which meant we almost missed our sound check for one of the other gigs and we couldn’t get to the hotel to chill out before the show, so that was a super stressful day – but knowing how to manage that time while you are delayed and knowing what to do with it instead of just sitting around getting anxious is important. Just finding something productive to do with it so it doesn’t feel like wasted time, and that way when things don’t go to plan you can still get other stuff done. I always do a lot of admin work while I’m waiting at the airport.
When things are super organised it’s not hard to keep up at all because I’ve got my itinerary in front of me, I know what time I’m supposed to be where and what I’m supposed to be doing. It only ever gets a bit stressful when things are up in the air. But this is the fourth tour I’ve done this year so we’ve got into the swing of things, we know what went wrong the last time and what to be prepared for this time around and it’s probably been the smoothest one we’ve done so far. Since it is the fourth time, it would be almost impossible to get it wrong cause we’ve had so many chances to iron out the kinks.
From the beginning, I wish I had known to allow enough time to take a break every now and then. It’s super important to be in the right state of mind, especially when you’re travelling from city to city. You don’t want to end up fatigued or feeling like you’re just going through the motions. The best piece of advice I have is just to allow time. If you have to catch a super early flight but it means you’re going to be in the city you need to be in 5 or 6 hours prior to you playing your show with nothing to do, allow for that time. So you can just go chill in your hotel or go in the pool or just do something leisurely so you can adjust to your surroundings and actually enjoy being in another place and actually get excited for the show you’re about to play. When you’re on the move you tend to neglect to do that, and then you end up just going through the motions and that’s something that’s happened to me quite a lot, so I always appreciate some chill time before a show.
What are the main challenges and highlights encountered throughout a week on tour?
The challenges definitely include keeping to schedule because there are things that are beyond my control – flights and bookings – that can go wrong. So just problem solving and remaining patient. A lot of the challenges come from really trivial things, when we get to a venue and they don’t have the right console, or the right backlight or something, but generally they sort themselves out as long as you allow that extra time that I was talking about. I would say time management is a challenge and something I struggle with, but that I am getting much better at.
The highlight is always the show. Once I’m up on stage doing what I’m doing I remember what all the hassle and the run around and the stress leading up to the show is for, and it’s well worth it when I get to see the looks on people’s faces when I’m putting on a show because that’s why I do it, to make people happy.
Thando’s words of wisdom for up and comers:
While you’re still figuring out what sort of artist you’re trying to be don’t be scared to try anything, and don’t think you’re too cool to try anything. It’s really important as an artist to allow yourself room for growth and be able to keep track of that as well – have a visual representation of what you do. An electronic press kit is definitely a necessity, so having a website is the best tool to sell yourself and pitch yourself to different festivals and promotors. Keep it linked to your demos so they can hear you, and your YouTube to show what you’re like live, and your contact details are all there so it’s a really streamlined way to make sure people know you’re there. It’s really important to create an online presence. Just try everything and anything, because you’re going to change and develop as an artist and it’s great to keep a track of it so you can go back and look at your development.
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