Thelma Plum is an Indigenous Australian singer and songwriter from Delungra in northern New South Wales. She’s also the face of our new TV campaign, produced in partnership with Apple.
After cutting her teeth busking and performing in high school, Thelma hit the mainstream when Triple J Unearthed featured her music and she won the chance to perform at the National Indigenous Music Awards in 2012. Since then, she’s been nominated for a Deadly and an Unearthed J Award, and has toured around Australia.
Thelma released her first EP Rosie in 2013 and her second Monster in 2014; her new album is due out soon. Ahead of the launch of her new album, we caught up with Thelma to find out more about her history and the inspiration behind her music.
Thelma, hi, thanks for joining us. Let’s go all the way back to the start – where do you think your love of music came from?
I can’t really remember a time when I wasn’t singing, or wasn’t writing or playing music. My mum is just an avid music lover, so I was exposed to really great records and great music when I was younger. Watching Slim Dusty, Paul Kelly, Kasey Chambers, and artists like that… I feel like that had a huge impact on me wanting to be a songwriter, and wanting to do the music that I do. I don’t know what else I’d do (laughs).
It sounds like your love of music is really influenced by your family; when did it become a career, when did it become more than a hobby?
I really have always been like, “I’m gonna do music”. When I was in high school I was playing gigs a lot, as much as I could – coffee shops, and bars, and busking. Then I was luckily unearthed to play at the Indigenous Music Awards, just after I’d turned 17. That was really incredible, it opened a lot of doors for me; now I get to do what I do.
What inspires you – is it other artists, or is it something else in your life?
It’s just so many different things, y’know, I try to take inspiration from wherever I can. Especially being a songwriter, you’re always trying in every situation – “how can I make this about me, how can I take this and make it a song.
What would you say has been your biggest break-through moment in your career so far?
Look, I’m going to say writing with some of my favourite artists; I wrote a song with Paul Kelly on my upcoming album. That was something that was really special for me, I think it was a bit of a break-through moment. I was pinching myself after that happened.
How’s the new album going?
It’s going really well! It was a bit of a process, it took a little bit longer than I thought it would – but it’s something that I’m really happy with and I’m really proud of.
What do you think about music streaming, like Apple Music? How do you like to share your music with your fans?
I really like streaming, I’m a streamer myself. I love, obviously, when people buy a physical copy of my music – I’m a sucker for that – but it’s very accessible and it’s just so easy.
How did you come to be involved in our latest campaign?
Telstra asked me to be a part of this; I’ve never been a part of something like this before, so I thought it would be something really cool to do and it has been. I’m really glad that I’ve been able to do it.
What was it like crafting the Flight Facilities cover that you put together?
It was very fun, it was a very interesting process – the Flight Facilities boys sent over the track, and I got in the studio with a friend of mine, a producer called Ross James. We reworked it in a day; it was really fun to do, it’s a beautiful song.
How did you make it your own, what was the process of putting the song together?
I think I have a pretty, like, very Australian accent when I sing; that was actually something that I was very mindful of. Y’know, I think that I kind of made it my own in a lot of that, Thelma, ocker, accent. I feel like that’s made it quite ‘me’.
What do you think of the actual finished piece that you’ve produced?
I’m really happy with it! It’s beautiful, it was easy to do because it’s a beautiful piece of work.