Dan Sultan is one of the impressive acts playing Falls Festival this year.
After a stint solo, Dan is back in the tour bus this summer playing with his regular band. The tour is mounted in association with the GO! Foundation, for which Dan is an ambassador.
The foundation aims to assist Indigenous Australian youths achieve their goals through education scholarships; a portion of tour profits will be donated directly to the foundation, which was co-founded by Australian of the Year Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin.
The cause is one close to Sultan’s heart.
‘I could have had a lot more engagement in the education system but I was dyslexic and I was 17 when it finally got picked up. Up until then I didn’t know. I bullshitted my way through school. I didn’t have a Plan B so I am lucky that this has worked out so far! I can read and write but I can notice a difference.
‘These days I do what I can to raise awareness of the foundation so that Indigenous kids get to access the educational support that best suits them. You know not everyone will want to be a musician; some people may want to be accountants and lawyers… it’s about getting engagement.’
Sultan is in full support of Australian of the Year, Adam Goodes, who talked publicly recently about institutionalised racism, saying that ‘Australia was built on Lies’. Melbourne 3AW shock-jock Neil Mitchell was critical of Goodes, saying, ‘The sooner Adam Goodes finishes as Australian of the Year the better, as far as I’m concerned’.
‘I think it shows how scared bigots like Neil Mitchell are of the history of this country. They are part of it and they are defensive. Adam Goodes is a great Australian of the Year.’
Sultan grew up in Melbourne’s Fitzroy, a colourful place that perhaps provided a fertile backdrop for an emerging singer/songwriter.
‘It was progressive, but it was pretty dangerous as well. There was still plenty of action – it was very colourful, lots of artists, and a lot of things happening. It was pretty cool seeing bands playing out the front of cafes outside in Brunswick Street. I just thought that’s what you did when you grew up! You slick your hair back and you play electric guitar!’
Well, that’s just what Sultan did.
Most recently Sultan teamed up with legendary musicians Paul Kelly and Paul Dempsey to co-write tracks for his new album Dirty Ground, recorded in just one day with Jan Skubizewski of Way of the Eagle.
‘I’ve known Paul Kelly for a while and I don’t want to sound blasé about it because it’s intense, and we had a relaxing time. We sat at his place, we drank tea and played guitar for a while. It was pretty full on, but at the same time that’s his way, he’s not an intimidating person. I felt very comfortable. We had a couple of ideas we each brought to the session and we nutted it out together. There was a song we jammed on the spot, and he has a release coming out soon and a couple of those songs are on that release. It was supposed to be fun and we certainly treated it that way.
‘I have to let it happen organically or it’s never going to happen,’ says Sultan of his songwriting process. ‘I might be watching telly and think of something and work on it casually and then I’ll come back to it later.’
It seems Dan Sultan’s effortless approach is intrinsic to his magic. He is joined by his regular four-piece when he plays Falls Festival in Byron Bay.
Falls NYE-only tickets ($99) are still available for locals (Byron Shire and south Tweed Shire residents) from byron.fallsfestival.com.au/locals.