Out came a (Thelma) Plum

Mandy Nolan

One of the very special artists at Boomerang Festival is the recently unearthed indie roots artist Thelma Plum. Dug out by Triple J, this woman, who cites Marianne Faithful as a major influence, has an effortlessly beautiful mind-blowing, ear-thrilling voice, and a presence that will transfix you. Seven spoke with Ms Plum on the eve of her Boomerang show.

What is the music that has most influenced you? My parents had amazing taste in music, still do. Paul Kelly was a major influence when I was growing up. He was always on the radio. Also Slim Dusty and lots of country, especially Australian country.

What was it like winning Triple J’s Unearthed? Everything started happening when I won the NIMA (National Indigenous Music Awards) competition so that was very exciting and I’m really grateful.

How have things changed for you since then? Twelve months ago I was nannying and dog-walking; I was playing gigs at anywhere I could get. When I won the Unearthed competition that was really unexpected; I didn’t even know about the competition!

thelma-plum-This year you’ve won a NIMA Award and a Deadly for Best New Talent. How important is the support of the Indigenous music community to you? It’s been really important to me. My Indigenous culture is very special to me and very much a big part of my music and my life. It’s an amazing thing that they’ve been so supportive and are continuing to be so supportive.

Do you ever feel any expectations as an Indigenous artist? Do people expect that because you’re Indigenous you should be writing about Indigenous themes? Sometimes people tend to put not just me, but a lot of other Indigenous artists, into a little box, as in ‘That’s Thelma Plum, she’s an Indigenous artist’ as opposed to ‘That’s Thelma Plum, she’s an artist’. I think that makes it a little bit difficult sometimes, but I don’t think there’s any difference between an Indigenous artist and a non-Indigenous artist.

What have been the highlights so far? When I was on tour [with Emma Louise] and we were in Adelaide the audience were singing along really loudly to Around Here. And then I started to mess myself up because I thought it was the reverb bounding on the back of the wall coming back at me and I was trying to sing quietly so I could figure out if it was just me being a crazy person or actually people were singing! And then I forgot the words because I was trying to focus… How do you forget la-di-da? I forgot the words and stuffed it up but then I heard that people were singing and it was awesome.

THELMA-PLUM_by_Carine-ThevenauWhat are you looking forward to at Boomerang Festival? I think it’s great that we have something [such as the Boomerang Festival] that can showcase so much Indigenous talent at one time, so I think it’s pretty special. It’s also a really great way to expose more Aboriginal and Torres Strait artists and bringing it more to mainstream attention, instead of just being in a separate Indigenous music world.

Thelma Plum, one of the many amazing artists playing this weekend at Boomerang Festival, celebrating the power and the majesty of indigenous art, music and culture.


Find this and many other great gigs in Echonetdaily’s North Coast Gig Guide.


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Some of The Echo’s editorial team: journalists Paul Bibby and Aslan Shand, editor Hans Lovejoy, photographer Jeff Dawson and Mandy Nolan

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