ARTS: Thelma Plum has a voice as distinctive as her name. And once you’ve heard her, it’s unlikely you’d forget it.
The 17-year-old singer/songwriter won the Triple J and National Indigenous Music Award’s Unearthed competition for unsigned Indigenous artists and performed at the NIMA award ceremony in Darwin this month.
She is also a nominee for this year’s Deadly awards, in the emerging artist category.
Hailing from Brisbane and Moree, Plum has been singing since she was 7 and takes her inspiration from artists like Paul Kelly, Kev Carmody and Marianne Faithfull.
It shows. She is a storyteller through song.
Unearthed’s music director Dave Ruby was full of praise when awarding the rising star earlier this year.
“Thelma’s music hits on multiple fronts; her acoustic craft is well developed and manages to sound both hushed and warm at the same.
“Her songwriting too is impressive with a disarming charm to her lyrics. That she’s on the cusp of 18 makes us excited for what’s ahead of her.”
That’s pretty impressive for a girl who is mostly self-taught.
“I was really young (when I started singing),” Plum told Tracker.
“I’ve been singing my whole life, starting when I was 7. I just started teaching myself.
“… I still have my journal from year 3 and I was reading it not long ago. I had all these songs I had written in there. They were terrible but I loved writing.
“I loved listening to musicians and storytellers like Paul Kelly, I loved how they wrote stories.”
Plum says she’s excited about the opportunities now open to her after winning the Triple J contest.
She’s played gigs around Brisbane, but playing to an Indigenous audience in Darwin is a new experience.
But she is careful not to be pigeon holed into just playing Aboriginal music. She says the themes in her music apply to everyone.
“Indigenous culture is very rich and I think Indigenous music definitely has a family culture… It’s good that radio stations are there for Indigenous music and it would be good if mainstream stations started to play more of our music.
“… But although I don’t want to hold back how much I talk about my culture, sometimes it is really easy to be pigeon holed… There is Thelma who is an Indigenous artist, and then there’s just this girl and singer.”
“… I write all my music from personal experience. The stories I tell are the stories of my life.”
*You can find out more about Thelma at www.triplejunearthed.com/ThelmaPlum