She’s rocked festivals like BIGSOUND, Strawberry Fields and NYE On The Hill. She’s released a breakthrough single (‘Numb') and opened for Leon Bridges and RnB master, Maxwell. She’s even collab’d with REMI (on ‘My People') and Sampa the Great. And now she’s on her way to America. Hard to believe Thando is still only 25 years old.
Born in Zimbabwe but raised here in Aus, Thando just took out a global competition (powered by Wix and Live Nation) that’ll see her jetting to the States to work with some of RnBs hottest talent. It follows the release of a new kind of track: ‘Happy’. A soulful, piano-laced analysis of mental health.
We caught Thando (in an airport lounge, no less) to chat about her latest tracks, her inspiration, and why she’s tackling depression from the stage.
On getting her start in music
When I was a little girl, my sisters and I made a girl group, kind of like TLC. We did little concerts in the lounge for our parents, and my dad would film us and watch the footage back. I think those tapes are still floating around. That was really the beginning of it for me.
My first proper singing experience...I was 10 or 11 years old, and singing in the church band. It’s a cliché, but it grew from there, but that was the only thing I knew I wanted to do.
On the upcoming US trip
I’m super, super excited. For the longest time since I started my brand, I knew I wanted to bring my music overseas. It always felt really far out of reach. But now it’s really happening. I don’t know who I’m meeting with yet, I’m trying to suss out some good jams.
On singing for mental health
It hasn’t always been a part of my music. When I first started out, it was more about just having a good time and paying tribute to people that made a difference in my life.
But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realised that a huge part of that self-acceptance is realising things that could be flaws, that’s part of who we are. I’ve come to accept the fact that I battle with anxiety and depression.
When I was growing up mental illness was so stigmatised. It wasn’t spoken about. Coming to Australia, growing up and knowing what resources were available to me, knowing how openly everything was spoken about, I’ve put my pride away over the years.
On writing ‘Happy’
The song sort of wrote itself, really. It wasn’t actually hard to write. I just put pen to paper and within 20 minutes the song was there. I knew straight away this could be a powerful statement.
A week and a half later, it was release, and the response has been really positive. And it’s important as an artist and a musician—so much of our lifestyle comes across as glamour, shows and interviews and everyone loves you, but it’s important that the general public gets to know us as people. And it’s incredibly important to have that transparency and not be this mysterious enigma. Everyone’s going through this sort of thing.
On what she’s listening to right now
Definitely Nai Palm. She’s an absolute queen. I’ve been getting into new music like Ngaiire, and also Daniel Caesar. They’ve all spoken so frankly about their emotions and their feelings. It’s always just ‘This is what it is’. They can weave their emotions into their music so seamlessly. It’s the perfect inspiration for being introspective. There’s nothing worse than blocking out the things you don’t want to say.
On her favourite foodie spot
I still really like Chin Chin in Melbourne. Massive fan of them. I play a lot of gigs at Cherry Bar, so you can eat a dinner at Chin Chin and be on stage in an hour or so. It’s really good for working off those calories.
Image credit: Thando